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Loch Of Houlland, Esha Ness

Broch (Iron Age)

Site Name Loch Of Houlland, Esha Ness

Classification Broch (Iron Age)

Alternative Name(s) Villians Of Ure

Canmore ID 498

Site Number HU27NW 5

NGR HU 2139 7916

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Shetland Islands
  • Parish Northmavine
  • Former Region Shetland Islands Area
  • Former District Shetland
  • Former County Shetland

Archaeology Notes

HU27NW 5 2139 7916.

(HU 2141 7917) Brough (OE)

OS 6" map, Shetland, 2nd ed. (1900)

A broch occupying practically the whole of a small low-lying promontory. The site has been considerably disturbed and the structure is largely buried under its own debris. Here and there, however, particularly on the N and NE, the wall still survives to a height of approx- imately 12', although only the upper 7' stand clear of vegetation. The over-all diameter is 57' and the wall thickness 15' with the entrance at the WSW. A guard-chamber, now choked with debris, lies to the right, and there are frag- mentary indications of a gallery at the north and east, but no other constructional features are visible.

Three lines of defence have been drawn across the isthmus at regular intervals to guard the approach. They are not necessarily all contemporary with the broch.

The innermost, which is approximately 2' high is a bank faced on the outside with stone, while the other two consist of large stones set edge to edge. The outermost may originally have been a rudely built wall with a base-court of very large stones, in some cases as much as 2' to 3' high. An entrance passage, 5' wide, runs obliquely through the two outer lines and over the inner bank. There appears also to have been a rough wall round the promontory close to the water's edge.

There are some scattered traces of prehistoric outbuildings in front of the broch entrance and again at the neck of the peninsula on the north side. At the southern extremity of the headland the broch is connected with an adjacent island in the loch by a partially submerged causeway, some 8' or 9' broad, and this island is, in turn connected with the west shore of the loch by another causeway, which runs off in a direction slightly to the north of west. This latter causeway too is partially submerged and now much broken.

RCAHMS 1946, visited 1931

A broch as described by the RCAHM.The medial rampart is now incomplete and the out- buildings are too obscured by debris to warrant survey. Nothing can be seen of the alleged causeway from the broch peninsular to the adjacent island, except a pier of stones. This is more likely to be a boat harbour than the start of a causeway. The other causeway mentioned by the RCAHM is now in good repair, and appears modern.

Surveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (NKB) 28 April 1969.


Publication Account (2002)

HU27 2 LOCH OF HOULLAND ('Esha Ness')

HU/214792 (visited 4/61963)

This unexcavated broch in North-maven occupies almost the whole of a small, low, heavily defended promontory jutting into the Loch of Houlland (Ills. 4.21-23). The innermost of these defences, barring the neck of the promontory in front of the broch, is a stone-faced bank 2 ft. high on the exterior, with two more lines of large stones set edge in front of this. The outermost may also be a ruined wall with very large base stones. There is a causeway 8-9 ft. wide connecting the headland with a nearby island in the loch, and another connecting the island to the west shore. The site stands on low ground amid rolling cultivable land with sheer cliffs and the sea a few hundred yards away.

The stony broch mound still stands about 15 ft. high above the surrounding ground with the wall surviving to 12 ft. on the north and north-east (Ill. 4.22) although only the upper 7 ft. are clear of debris. An upper mural gallery on the wallhead is apparent on the north side.

The main entrance is on the west-south-west and is apparently lintelled at the inner end; it is 3 ft. wide at the mouth but narrows to 2 ft. 10 ins. at the inner end. The sides of a void can be seen above these lintels but there appears to be no front wall for this, its sides apparently going straight through to the exterior, a feature hard to understand. Misguided modern reconstruction (such as occurred at Clickhimin: HU44 1) is possible but perhaps more likely is the extension in ancient times of the passage through the wall at first floor level, because the ground level was already buried in debris. There are no signs of intra-mural galleries running into the sides of this chamber.

The roof of a tall mural cell, probably a guard chamber, is visible on the right of the entrance, its domed roof rising well above the lintels of the latter (Ill. 4.23): this is another clear sign of hollow-wall construction and probably explains the lack of an upper mural gallery at the chamber over the entrance. The tops of the cells would have blocked this, as at Dun Mor Vaul (NM04 4).

Dimensions: overall diameter c. 57 ft., wall c. 15 ft. thick; wall proportion is therefore approximately 52.6%.

Sources: 1. OS card HU 27 NW 5: 2. RCAHMS 1946, vol. 3, no. 1352, 89-90; 3. Low 1774, 136.

E W MacKie 2002


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