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Broch Of Lingro

Broch (Iron Age)(Possible), Coin(S) (Roman)

Site Name Broch Of Lingro

Classification Broch (Iron Age)(Possible), Coin(S) (Roman)

Alternative Name(s) Scapa; Lingrow

Canmore ID 2348

Site Number HY40NW 1

NGR HY 4345 0878

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Kirkwall And St Ola
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY40NW 1 4345 0878.

(HY 4345 0878) Brough (OE)

OS 6" map, Orkney, 2nd ed., (1903).

"Broch of Lingro ... the remains of a broch remarkable for the extent and complex character of the outbuildings on the S, SE & SW They were excavated in 1879 by Petrie, when the ground plan here reproduced was made in collaboration with Dryden (Portfolio I A 41 in National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS) [Dryden]), but, owing to Petrie's death, no detailed account of the excavation was prepared. At that time but little of the wall of the broch remained, and, as the ruins have since become completely covered with grass, nothing but the outline of the main structure can now be traced. .... The position of the extensive buildings can still be determined at various points by a number of isolated stones set on edge, usually in pairs, that are apparently in situ, but the eleborate details shown in the plan cannot now be identified with any confidence .... The relics included a large number of querns and quartz pebbles indented on their flat sides by use as Strike-a-lights, a stone lamp, many implements of red-deer horn, bone pins, needles and long- handled combs, spindle-whorls of stone and steatite, some fragments of bronze, a clay mould for casting bronze pins with open circular heads, playing dice of bone, forty-six fragments of unglazed pottery .... and charred barley. In various parts of the outbuildings several Roman coins were recovered including denarii of Vespasian (AD 69-79), Hadrian (AD 117-138), Antonius Pius (AD 138-161)", two of Antonius Pius (J Anderson 1883) and two coins of Crispina (AD 180-83) (PSAS 1873 Donations).

RCAHMS 1946.

Several bone implements, including a broch comb, long-handled, made from the stump of a deer's horn, ornamented with design of St. Andrew's Cross and having 9 teeth, found in the out-buildings were exhibited 9th March 1855 at the NMAS.

Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1885 (Exhibits).

Although the remains of this broch are mutilated and covered with rough grass, the entrance, in the south, and the chamber on each side of the entrance can still be determined. The outbuildings are only visible as rough, grass-covered, low banks and mounds.

Re-surveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS(RD) 9 April 1964.

Bulldozed by farmer, February 1981.

Rescue News 1981; The Orcadian 26 February 1981.

Bone dice found; now lost. Apparently associated with two coins of Crispina.

D V Clarke 1970; E J Mackie 1971.

'The Saturday Herald and Shetland Gazette' in 1871 briefly mentions the broch and that Roman coins had been donated to the S A S Museum.

M Howe 2006


Antiquarian Observation (1862 - 1870)

Drawings by George Petrie of sites in Orkney and Shetland in sketchbook MS 28/487/7 in the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Collection.

Publication Account (2002)

HY40 2 LINGRO ('Lingrow')


This is the site of a probable broch, of the solid-based type at first glance but which may in fact have been a ground-galleried example. It stood on flat ground in Kirkwall and St. Olla, near the sea shore.

The site, which included a complex of outbuildings, was being extensively excavated in 1870 and probably in 1871 by George Petrie who, after observing Farrer’s many clumsy broch explorations, decided that it was time that an Orkney broch was systematically explored. Several reports of the work appeared in the press. The ground plan was made at the time in collaboration with Sir H. Dryden; however Petrie's death prevented detailed publication, although a full report is apparently pending [6].

Little of the wall was standing at the time of excavation and nothing was visible in 1963 except a grass-grown ring with hummocks round about; the position of the entrance and the two guard chambers could just be made out [1]. The site was bulldozed by the farmer in 1981 [1] and nothing can now be seen.

Judging from Dryden's plan the building seems to have been the stump of a solid-based broch, though a curious and unexplained dotted line running round inside the wall in the Commission's plan [4, fig. 230] suggests the presence of some intra-mural feature like a basal gallery (as at Midhowe and Gurness). It is possible that such a thing would not have been recognised at the time. It is interesting the version of the same plan reproduced by Anderson shows no dotted line but a very distinct intra-mural wall face at 2-3 o'clock, very like the inside edge of such a basal gallery [3].

The main entrance was on the SE with a door-check about 2.9 m (7.5 ft.) down on the right side; it was apparently made of built masonry, and the left check seems to have been formed by the outer face of the doorway to the oval guard cell on that side. The door to the right hand cell, a little more elongated than the other, is a little further back. Further dimensions of passage and cells are available [6, 81].

There were several radial rows of apparently upright stone slabs in the interior, as well as a clear suggestion of a wedge-shaped block of secondary masonry at 7.30 o'clock, between one of the rows and the primary broch wall. The arrangement of these interior features differs slightly at one point in the two plans referred to. Presumably any upper intra-mural gallery and stairway were at a higher level than the wall head as found in 1870 and had been destroyed long before. A cooking trough or hearth in the left hand apartment was recorded by Petrie but not by Dryden [6, 82].

A warren of stone chambers partly surrounds the broch, but the area of these on the north was either left open or not excavated. At one point on the plan [4, fig. 230] they are shown as overriding some earlier masonry labelled “foundations” and which looks like a fragment of an outer wall for the broch. The chambers are circular, oval and polygonal rooms, rarely measuring more than 6.1 m (20 ft.) internally and apparently built simultaneously with an outer retaining wall; they are also arranged so as to leave a path round the foot of the broch wall into which several doorways open.

Immediately outside the entrance passage two small chambers like extra guard cells have been added against the outer wall, a phenomenon noted at other sites; these appear to be contemporary with the other outbuildings.

The sequence of events at Lingrow may well have been similar to that inferred at Gurness and Midhowe; if so the original structure would have been a broch, probably with an outer defensive wall which at some stage was partly pulled down (probably because of dilapidation or perhaps because of a systematic change in the life style of the occupants). The demolition evidently meant that the original doorway could no longer be used effectively so an external defended doorway was added; presumably this happened when the surrounding village was put up and the modifications were carried out to the central court. As is the case with the Ayre broch the pottery shows remarkably close links with Hebridean Vaul ware.

Dimensions (taken from Dryden's plan). External diameter 18.0 m - 18.3 m (59-60 ft.): internal diameter c. 9.2 m (30 ft.): wall proportion c. 49.5%. Hedges gives figures of c. 18.11 m and c. 8.97 m respectively [6].

Finds: many interesting artefacts were recovered though few of them can be given exact provenances. A collection was given to the then National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh in 1885 [2], and a small number of the finds came into the possession of A.H. Bishop (who obtained them from J.W. Cursiter after the Glasgow exhibition of 1911) and were ultimately given to the Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow (B.1914.667-685). . This suggests that Petrie gave only part of the collection of finds to the Rhind Committee of the Society of Antiquaries, which sponsored the excavations.

Pottery: 46 sherds of pottery were found including some with fine incised decoration on them; they are similar in some ways to that from the Ayre broch above and the comments on those sherds should be referred to. The same close resemblances to Hebridean incised Vaul ware can be seen for example at Dun Mor Vaul, NM04 3), although the vessel shapes are more local. It is not always realised how rare this incised ware is among the Orkney brochs, being more or less confined to Lingrow and Ayre, and also to The Howe (HY00 0).

Of particular interest is the large pot (GE 56) which appears to combine several ceramic traditions. It seems to be an Everted Rim jar with the characteristic fluting on the inside of the rim; however the vast majority of such jars are otherwise plain or, in the Hebrides, ornamented with a waist cordon and also sometimes with concentric, curvilinear channelled arches above these (the Clettraval sub-style). In the area of its greatest concentration, in the west, incised decoration is hardly ever found on Everted Rim jars. Here however it is and the series of running triangles is typical of Hebridean Vaul ware. However the row of knobs below these recalls the waist cordons of the Clettraval jars. Another trait from the jars is the cordon tucked under the Everted Rim on the outside; though this is more common in Shetland it is found in the west. Lastly the impressions of the head of a bronze ring-headed pin of twisted ware are also found in the west, but usually on Vaul ware urns and vases.

Bronze and bronze-casting: The more important of the other relics included a clay mould for casting an ornamented, single piece, bronze ring-headed pin (like that found at Bowermadden in Caithness -- ND26 4), and several other fragments, possible the parts of "rings or pins" (presumably ring-headed pins).

Bone: 2 long-handled combs, 1 of whale-bone with 8 teeth (all broken off) and 1 with 9 teeth and a diagonal cross incised on it (found in the outbuildings), bone dice (one found with 2 Roman coins, below), a handle made of deer antler and with a peg or had bone inserted in one sawn end [2, fig. on 358: 3, fig. 222], 1 hollowed antler fragment, probable a handle, several awls or borers (17.8 cm or 7 in. long) and several pieces of cut and sawn antler.

Stone: many querns (presumably rotary), 1 stone lamp, 1 strike-a-light pebble with grooves on its flat faces [2, fig. on 358: 3, fig. 221] and 4 stone whorls (1 of steatite and 3 of sandstone).

Organic materials: some charred barley was found.

Roman coins: several were found in the outbuildings [3, 244-5: 8] the identifications of which were originally given in The Orcadian in November and December 1870. They were a denarius of Antoninus Pius (AD 138-161), a denarius of Vespasian (AD 69-79), another of Antoninus, and one of Hadrian (AD 117-138) with Clementina on the reverse. In addition a jotting by Petrie on the rough plan of the site indicated that "two coins of Crispina and a bone dice found here" [3, 244, footnote]. Crispina's coins were minted from AD 180-183. The coins have been referred to and discussed a number of times [8, 235: 9, 134: 10, 387, Table 3 and 409: 11, 204: 12, Table 3: 13 and 14].

Sources: 1. OS card HY 40 NW 1 (with ills.): 2. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 9 (1870-72), 357-60 (finds) and Proc Soc Antiq Scot 19 (1884-1985), 139 (comb): 3. Anderson 1883, 243: 4. RCAHMS 1946, 2, no. 406, 152-3 and fig. 230: 5. MacKie 1983: 6. Hedges et al. 1987, 81-3 and pls. 3.9 and 3.10 (ms general plan of broch and outbuildings and elevations across the site, by Dryden and Petrie): 7. Clarke 1970, 231: 8. MacDonald 1918: 9. Robertson 1971: 10. Robertson 1975: 11. Robertson 1978: 12. Robertson 1983; 13. The Orcadian 26th Feb. 1981: 14. Rescue News no. 25 (March 1981), 5.

E W MacKie 2002

Field Visit (9 May 2013)

What remains of this broch and its later external settlement is situated on a well-formed natural terrace above the sea cliffs on the N side of Scapa Bay, immediately SW of the mouth of the Lingo Burn. There is a fine outlook S over Scapa Bay, but the site, which is marked by a distinct swelling 0.3m high in the E corner of a field of improved pasture, is overlooked by sharply rising ground to the W. No trace of structures can be detected on the ground surface and no stonework is visible.

The broch (or ‘Brough’) is shown on the 1st and 2nd edition of the OS 6-inch map (Orkney 1882 and 1903, Sheet CVIII).

Visited by RCAHMS (ATW) 9 May 2013.


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