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Castle Howe

Castle (Medieval), Structure (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Castle Howe

Classification Castle (Medieval), Structure (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 3044

Site Number HY50SW 13

NGR HY 5138 0030

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Holm
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY50SW 13 5138 0030.

(HY 51380030) Castle Howe Brough (NR)

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

Castle Howe (NR)

OS 25"map, Orkney, 1st ed.,(1881).

Castle Howe: This early domestic Structure was excavated a few years before 1933 and revealed dry built walls enclosing two chambers, one above theother, and of distinct periods. The lower chamber appears to be prehistoric, its walls survive to a height of 5ft. 3 ins; the stairs may be original, the quern shown on the plan has been set to form an upright, and the opening in the east has been filled in.

The upper building is of quite uncertain date and incorporates the lower; the walls are 6-7ft thick and the inside of the east wall has been recessed to a depth of 4ft towards its south end.

RCAHMS 1946, visited 12 July 1933.

This domestic structure, situated on top of a grass covered mound known as Castle Howe was excavated between 1929 and 1931 by the Rev P B Clayton,who erected a protective wall around it (Information from Mr Tait, Lower Breckquoy, Holm, Orkney). The floor of the lower D-shaped chamber is 2.6m below ground level and is entered by a flight of stone steps, apparently contemporary from the west. The walls survive to a maximum height of 2.0m but no trace could be found of the upright quern mentioned by RCAHMS 1946. Above this chamber and incorporating it there is a rectangular dry stone construction maximum height of 1.0m of a later date whose entrance is at the same point as the original.

Although situated on a typical broch site there is no evidence of any circular construction on this mound.

Visited by OS(NKB) 28 August 1964.


Orkney Smr Note (May 1979)

Recently discovered castle-square keep, its masonry showing traces of lime mortar, on a stone motte the nucleus of which is an earlier building. [R1]

Perhaps built by Hakon the Elder. [R2]

Recent excavations exposed two chambers, superimposed lower and earlier is prehistoric, irregular, walls of which only inner faces visible, are 5ft 3in high and have pronounced batter. Six steps down in SE corner. Opening at E end, blocked, presumably during building of upper structure which is rectangular, 32 x

26ft ext., wall thickness 6-7ft. Entrance in W wall. Inside of E wall recessed near S end. Age uncertain. [R3]

Domestic structure on top of mound excavated 1929-31 by Rev P B Clayton who erected a protective wall around it.

Generally as described but not all features mentioned by RCAMS now visible. No trace of any circular construction which might be a broch.

OS visit Aug 1964.

Field Visit (May 1979)

Badly deteriorated since OS visit; steps not visible, centre largely rubble-filled, curved wall of lower structure visible only in NW corner. Seems to be interior scarcement on S wall of upper structure. W wall broken down, entrance unclear. Traces of cement repairs to outer wall-face. - Indubitably a Norse castle, possibly related to bu of Papuli. Cf OR 82

Information from Orkney SMR (RGL) May 79.


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