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Sanday, Backaskaill

Broch (Iron Age)(Possible)

Site Name Sanday, Backaskaill

Classification Broch (Iron Age)(Possible)

Canmore ID 3414

Site Number HY63NW 1

NGR HY 6417 3919

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Cross And Burness
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY63NW 1 6417 3919.

(Area: HY 642 392) A structure, which has been classed as a broch (J Cursiter 1923), a probable broch (RCAHMS 1946), and a uncertain broch (J R C Hamilton 1968), has obviously existed on top of a rocky outcrop immediately west of and adjoining the farm-yard at Backaskaill. The remains are too fragmentary to admit positive identification. RCAHMS at the time of visit, picked a hammer stone from among the debris. Petrie records that the wall had a considerable batter and that the main structure was surrounded by a ring of large stones. (Information from G Petrie notebook No.9). It is said locally that at the base of the outcrop there was a circular chamber with almost vertical walls, but this was removed by the farmer some time before 1928. Its removal left exposed, above ground level, the opening of a small but carefully constructed drain, which could still be seen in 1928 extending for a distance of over 15' into the bank, apparently associated with the structure which formerly existed on the rock.

RCAHMS 1946, visited 1928.

At HY 6417 3919, S of Backaskail, is a disturbed area of ground obviously covering a structure or strucutres of considerable extent. In the adjacent shore line are traces of dry stone structures and kitchen midden refuse of shells and animal bones, amongst which a piece of iron slag was found during field investigation. It is impossible, without excavation, to say whether or not there has been a broch here.

Visited by OS (RL) 7 July 1970.


Field Visit (1999)

The site of a large structure of apparent prehistoric date, most likely a broch, lies on a rocky outcrop beside the coast edge. Petrie investigated the remains in 1867 and noted that the main structure was surrounded by a ring of large stones and that the walls had a considerable batter. The site has been badly damaged in the past by deliberate leveling and what remains is now subject to destruction by sea erosion and through small-scale sand extraction. In the coastal section, erosion has exposed midden and fragmentary structural deposits over a distance of some 20m; deep anthropogenic soils extend to the west of this for almost 100m. The structural remains include a 3m thick wall, double faced with a soil and rubble core and fragmentary floor surfaces. The midden deposits contain inclusions of bone, peatash, burnt clay and shell. Traces of an OGS are intermittently visible beneath the structural remains. To the rear of the coast, a grassy mound measuring 20m in diameter and standing up to 1.75m high may mark the presence of further buried deposits. Ref.: Petrie, G, (1859-73) Note book 9, 35; RCAHMS (1946) #159; RCAHMS (1980), #58.

Coastal Zone Assessment Survey, 1999

Publication Account (2002)



Probable broch in Cross and Burness on Sanday I., situated on a rocky outcrop close to the shore. Part of the outer wall face was seen by Petrie who noted that it had a considerable batter [3]. A drain apparently led down from the building on the outcrop into a corbelled chamber at its base, now destroyed. The site is defended by a flat-bottomed ditch and in the late 1970s a sea-eroded long section in the cliff face showed walls and floors comprising a deposit up to 3 m thick [3].

Sources: 1. OS card HY 63 NW 1: 2. Proc Ork Antiq Soc 1, 52: 3. RCAHMS 1946, 2, no. 159, 40 and fig. 87: 3. Lamb 1980, 15.

E W MacKie 2002

Field Visit (February 2015)

No significant changes.

Visited by Scotland's Coastal Heritage at Risk (SCHARP) February 2015


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