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Dunnet, Kirkstyle, Brotchie's Steading

Cruck Framed Cottage, Animal Remains (Antler)

Site Name Dunnet, Kirkstyle, Brotchie's Steading

Classification Cruck Framed Cottage, Animal Remains (Antler)

Canmore ID 241635

Site Number ND27SW 85

NGR ND 21904 71084

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2016.

Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Dunnet
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Caithness
  • Former County Caithness


Excavation (September 2001)

ND27SW 85 219 711

ND 219 711 Excavations were undertaken at Brotchie's Steading in September 2001 to elucidate its structure and history. Two whale jawbones, stored in Dunnet Visitor Centre, were known to have been used as the blades of a cruck truss in one of its rooms. These, together with the pieces recovered from the excavation, enabled the reconstruction of the original truss.

The building itself was cleared of overburden down to the first-floor surface, but five phases of development have potentially been identified from the excavation and an exposed section downslope from the main structure. The floors exposed by the excavation are all probably of late 19th- or early 20th-century date, but archaeological deposits over 1.5m deep were recorded in a test pit excavated at the building's southern end.

From an early phase the building takes on the typical form of a linear crofthouse (longhouse) running down the slope, presumably to improve drainage at the byre end. During later phases the steading was significantly modified by the addition of extra rooms and internal partitions. In its final form this would have incorporated a comfortable kitchen and bedroom, each with its own fireplace.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsors: HS, Russell Trust.

T Holden 2002.

Excavation (September 2003)

ND 219 711 The second season of work in September 2003 saw further excavation within this ruinous building (DES 2002, 67). It was most recently used by the Brotchie family, first as a dwelling then as a byre/storehouse, before being abandoned in the mid-20th century. The finds and stratigraphy confirm the map evidence that the steading and the associated archaeological layers exposed across the site are all essentially 18th-19th century in origin. Floor surfaces and occupation layers were, as far as could be ascertained, accumulated within the shell of the building.

A series of trenches were excavated through these later layers to clarify the extent and depth of earlier deposits identified the previous year. Directly below the walls of the steading, massive stone walls were identified which appeared to form the footings of two small buildings. Beneath these, laminated humic sediments to a depth of over 1.5m indicated a long sequence of occupation at the site. Identified structures included numerous well-stratified hearths, a possible kiln and a stone-lined tank. Soil samples revealed occasional shell concentrations, and concentrations of cereal grain, charcoal and animal bone. The finds comprise a good assemblage of medieval redware and grass-tempered coarseware. The coarseware was found throughout the sequence but was the only fabric that was encountered at depth. Although it could potentially be as late as the medieval period, the presence of two worked red deer antler picks in the same layers suggests a date in the Iron Age.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsor: HS

T Holden 2003.


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