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Lewis, Dun Carloway

Broch (Iron Age)

Site Name Lewis, Dun Carloway

Classification Broch (Iron Age)

Alternative Name(s) Doune Carloway; Dun Carloway Broch; Charlabhaigh

Canmore ID 4121

Site Number NB14SE 1

NGR NB 19002 41230

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Digital Images

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Western Isles
  • Parish Uig
  • Former Region Western Isles Islands Area
  • Former District Western Isles
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Recording Your Heritage Online

Doune Carloway (Dun Charlabhagh), first millennium bc Broch with two concentric drystone walls, after Mousa in Shetland one of the best preserved examples of its type. It was built in the same manner as the Glenelg brochs, although here there is an oval guard chamber on the south side of the entrance, and close examination of the masonry suggests that the internal skin dates from at least four different periods. The south side, furling up from a brackeny knoll, stands almost intact to the original height of 9 m; people alive in the 1830s remembered seeing it in a near-complete state, roofed over with a large flat stone.

Doune Broch Centre, Michael Leybourne for Western Isles Council Technical Services Consultancy, 1997. Pleasingly contextual visitors' centre, fitting snugly into the hillside, its curving, turf-topped drystone walls expressing the robustness of the broch.

Taken from "Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Mary Miers, 2008. Published by the Rutland Press

Archaeology Notes

NB14SE 1 19002 41230

(NB 1899 4122) Dun Carloway: Broch (NR)

OS 6" map, (1965)

A broch, which, though broken and incomplete, is one of the best preserved in the Western Isles, part of the old walling on the east still attaining a height of about 30'. It has an average external diameter of 47', the walls varying from 10 to 12' overall. Repairs have been carried out on the upper parts of the east wall where it is single, the inner wall having disappeared.

Finds from the broch are in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS).

RCAHMS 1928; Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1909; (Broch visible on St Joseph air photograph RD3, 9)

Dun Carloway, a broch, as described and planned.

Resurveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (R L) 25 June 1969.


Field Visit (4 June 1921)

Dun Carloway.

From the crest of a steep and rocky hill slope 150 feet above sea level, and to the immediate north of the straggling village of Dun Carloway, the broch of that name towers up as the predominating feature of the landscape. Broken and incomplete though it is, the broch is one of the best preserved in the Western Isles, and a part of the old walling on the east still attains a height of about 30 feet. It is constructed of two concentric drystone walls, roughly built to courses with stones averaging only 1 ½ feet by 6 inches. The outer wall has a batter of about 2 ¾ feet in a height of 10 feet, and it is bonded to the inner wall by the slab floorings of galleries, which are contained in the hollow between. (Figs. 54, 55, 57.)

The broch is circular on plan, with an average external diameter of 47 feet, and walls varying from 10 to 12 feet in thickness over all. Access to the court is gained on the north-west by a doorway 2 feet 11 inches wide by 3 ½ feet high outside, broadened by checks to 5 feet, and contracting to 3 ½ feet inside, the outer lintel -the largest stone in the structure - remaining in situ. In the southern jamb a low door, 1 foot 11 inches wide, enters on the end of a roughly oval cell, measuring 8 feet by 4 ¾ feet, which has been connected from its inmost end to another cell by a low passage 5 feet in length; the opening to this passage is now blocked up, and traces of lime are discernible at the jambs. This other cell, also of oval shape, about 9 ½ by 5 ½ feet, with an entrance from the court 2 ¼ feet wide, has been prolonged some 15 feet eastwards in the southern walling as a tail terminating beneath the stair. In the northern arc there are two doorways from the court, very likely leading into cells, at present blocked up with debris.

Almost opposite the main entrance and in the south-east, an opening 3 ¾ feet high by 2 feet 8 inches wide enters a corridor or lobby, which extends some 6 feet on the left, and from which on the right rises a stair to the galleries. Over this door lintel is an aperture, a feature also observed at the second cell, and there are two apertures, one above the other, over the lintel of the blocked-up door on the north-east. (Fig. 56. [SC 1476345])

From the first floor the structure is continued in an outer and inner wall, bonded together by slabs 3 to 6 inches thick, which are close-set on the floor of the first and second levels, but are discontinuous or show gaps on the third. This construction leaves a series of encircling galleries, which measure in height 5 feet, 4 feet and 6 feet respectively, starting from that on the first level above ground. The uppermost of these is obstructed in what remains by two bonding slabs about midway in its height. These galleries, in virtue of the batter of the outer wall, diminish in width as they rise, the first having an average measurement of 2 ½ feet on the floor, while the uppermost averages 1 foot at the bottom to 8 inches at top.

Above this level there is now no inner wall and the outer wall has been repaired. A void in the inner wall, 2 ½ feet wide, with vertical jambs, extends the whole height of the two uppermost storeys in the high portion of the inner wall, and has a single transom at the third gallery floor level. Around the inner face of the broch, about 7 feet above the ground level, there is a 10-inch scarcement, which overhangs the bottom of the wall by about 5 inches and is produced by the slightly concave construction of the lower masonry; above the scarcement the wall is intaken and is vertical.

RCAHMS 1928, visited 4 June 1921.

OS map: Lewis xii.

Publication Account (2007)

Carloway Broch, Isle of Lewis

Little is known of the origin and purpose of the brochs; it appears that they were all lofty structures but the original height at Carloway is not known. It certainly required competent building skills to construct. The remains of the structure are circular in plan with a low narrow doorway giving access to the interior courtyard. A good average internal diameter is 32 ft. The thick walls are built hollow at ground level and the structure tapers to give a conical profile.

Much of the broch is missing, probably because the carefully built drystone masonry was easily pilfered for other buildings, but the form of the structure is clearly seen on inspection. Generally brochs are considered to date from about 200BC continuing into the Christian era.

R Paxton and J Shipway, 2007.

Reproduced from 'Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Highlands and Islands' with kind permission from Thomas Telford Publishers.


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