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Broch (Iron Age)(Possible)

Site Name Alltbreac

Classification Broch (Iron Age)(Possible)

Alternative Name(s) Altbreck; Allt Breac

Canmore ID 5211

Site Number NC51SE 2

NGR NC 5911 1035

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Lairg
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Sutherland
  • Former County Sutherland

Archaeology Notes

NC51SE 2 5911 1035.

(NC 5911 1035) Broch (NR)

OS 1:10,000 map (1970)

The dilapidated remains of a broch situated on a knoll which appears to have been artifically levelled to take it. A hollow-way through the NE scarp may have formed an approach. The broch has measured 9.5m in diameter within a wall 3.9m thick with an entrance 0.9m wide in the SE. There is a guard-chamber on each side of the entrance passage and four other mural chambers, one of which, to the west of the entrance appeared, in 1909, to be the staircase gallery. The chambers and entrance are still visible but are almost filled with collapsed walling. The outer wall-face stands to a maximum height of 1.2m. Debris fills the interior to a depth of about 2m. Abutting the broch on the NW is the foundation of a D-shaped enclosure built of broch material. To the east of the broch is the foundation of a large oval scooped enclosure 18m by 10m. Both enclosures are probably associated with the depopulation area of Altbreck (NC51SE 29).

RCAHMS 1911, visited 1909; Visited by OS (EGC) 26 June 1963

The broch is as described. It is in a clearing surrounded by afforestation and thick vegetation.

revised at 1:10 000

Visited by OS (JB) 23 August 1976

As previously described in 1963, with a few minor amendments. The broch has measured 10m in diameter within a wall 3.8-4m in width with an entrance 1.2-1.3m wide. The entrances to only three intra-mural chambers (excluding guard cells) were noted.

Surveyed at 1:125

Visited by RCAHMS (SMF) 18 October 1989.

Scheduled as Altbreck, broch N of Lairg.

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 21 June 1993.


Publication Account (2007)

NC51 1 ALLT BREAC ('Alltbreac’)

NC/5911 1035

This probable ground-galleried broch stands on the summit of a gradual rise on the north side of a shallow glen running down to the flat land around Loch Shin, which is a mile away (visited 11/7/63). The structure has been badly quarried and ruined and the walls are down to a height of from 0.9 to l.2m (3 or 4ft). Some of the stones in the outer face are very large, over 90cm (3ft) long and up to 60cm (2ft) high [2].

The entrance is on the north-north-east and there are traces of a guard cell on the right with its doorway l.93m (6ft 4in) from the exterior (the door-checks have vanished). The doorway is 51cm (1ft 8in) wide and 1.22m (4ft) deep, and the cell behind is 3.05m (10ft) long (Commission's measurements [2]). The Commission also saw a guard cell on the left with a doorway 61cm (2ft) wide and 76cm (2.5ft) long; this led to a badly ruined cell 2.13m (7ft) long and 81cm (2ft 8in) wide, but this can no longer be seen.

There are clear traces of a mural gallery, or of several cells, in the wall and these must be at ground level because of the low wallhead. At present they look like the fragmentary remains of a single gallery but the Commission describes more than one built end to the various visible sections, which suggests that there may be a series of sub-divided sections of gallery. In 1963 the feature was visible at about 10 o'clock (with a square-built end facing back towards the entrance), again from 11 to 1 o'clock (with a rounded end at the former point) and finally at 3 o'clock (where a left end was reported in 1909 [2]). This broch thus seems to be an example of the ground-galleried form, or of something very close to it; presumably one of the subdivisions is a stair-foot guard cell; no traces of the stair have been reported and it must still be buried.


The external diameters from 6-12 and from 9-3 o'clock seem to be l8.61m (61ft) and l5.86m (52ft) respectively, which would make the structure markedly oval. The wall thicknesses along the first diameter are 4.8m and 4.35m (13.5 and 14.5ft) and the first wall thickness on the second diameter is also 4.35m (14.5ft). The oval shape was confirmed by Mercer's survey but he gives the diameters as 20m and 25m [3].

Sources: 1. NMRS site no. NC 51 SE 2: 2. RCAHMS 1911a, 136-8, no. 395, and fig. 56: 3. Mercer 1980, 125, site DAL 256.

E W MacKie 2007

Field Visit (20 July 2012 - 30 August 2012)

A desk-based assessment and walkover survey were carried out 20 July – 30 August 2012 on 29 sites in the North Highland Forest District. The work was undertaken in order to update existing monument management plans with new detailed site descriptions, condition reports, fixed point photography and plans (RCAHMS Level 4) of 25 scheduled monuments and one unscheduled monument. Three additional scheduled monuments were surveyed in greater detail, (RCAHMS Level 1). Recommendations were also made for the conservation management of the sites. The sites visited and surveyed were:

NH 728 784 (SAM 4760) Provost’s Well homestead and enclosure

NC 688 348 (SAM 2513) Noc na h’Iolaire hut circles and clearance cairns

NC 557 027 (SAM 1784) Ruim Baile Fuir stone circle, cairns, hut circles and enclosure

NC 679 390 (SAM 1779) Lach an Righ stone circle

NC 600 149 (SAM 5401) Loch Beag na Fuaralachd prehistoric settlement

NC 623 139 (SAM 5084) Achadh nan Eun shieling

NC 597 149 (SAM 5081) Loch Beag na Fuaralachd cairn and shielings

ND 212 372 (SAM 573) Rumster Broch

NH 786 942 (SAM 5484) Glen Cottage long cairn

ND 205 374 (SAM 550) Golsary Broch

NC 602 146 (SAM 5159) Loch Beag na Fuaralachd shielings

NH 730 798 (SAM 4752) Carn Liath long cairn

NH 731 786 (SAM 4743) Provost’s Well hut circles and field system

NC 689 392 (SAM 2517) Meall a Choire Bhuidhe hut circles

NH 772 926 (SAM 5573) Proncy hut circle

NC 696 334 (SAM 2519) Cnoc Airigh an Leathaid hut circles

NH 681 942 (SAM 4505) Creagan Reamhan farmstead, kiln and fields

NH 728 767 (SAM 2916) Scotsburn Wood cairn

NH 747 780 (SAM 3129) Lamington Park cairn

NH 734 834 (SAM 4763) Redburn Cottage long cairn

NH 396 628 (SAM 2720) Little Garve Bridge

NC 604 124 (SAM 5161) Meall Meadhonach sheepfold

NC 608 112 (SAM 4560) Meall Meadhonach hut circles, field system and shielings

NC 687 370 (SAM 2514) Cnoc na Gamnha hut circles, burnt mound and clearance cairns

NC 619 124 (SAM 5093) Meall Meadhonach settlement and shielings

NH 782 944 (SAM 1885) Skelbo Wood Broch

NC 591 103 (SAM 1829) Altbreck Broch

NC 592 102 (SAM 5563) Altbreck homestead

NC 571 067 Ferry Wood Broch

Funder: Forestry Commission Scotland

Steven Birch, West Coast Archaeological Services

Lynn Fraser, Ross and Cromarty Archaeological Services

Mary Peteranna, 2012

Field Visit (30 July 2013)

NC 5911 1035 A detailed topographic survey was carried out, on 30 July 2013, of Altbreck Broch, for the purposes of conservation management planning. The broch is ruinous, but the remains of at least five intra-mural chambers are visible and, although the stairs are not visible beneath the rubble of the building's collapse, there is indirect evidence for the original presence of an upper storey, and architectural features imply that the structure originally had tower-like proportions. For the most part, the structure stands to less than 1.5m in height, although capping lintels are in situ in the guard cell to the N of the entrance passage, and a probable displaced jamb stone is visible in the entrance passage itself. The stairs were probably located in the gallery on the S side of the broch, which is entered through a narrow opening and contains a reverse corbelled chamber to the E. Two small enclosures have been constructed against the roundhouse wall to the W, and a linear field boundary runs from the rubble mound to the NE. A shooting butt of recent date overlies the broch wall on the N side.

Archive: RCAHMS

Funder: Forestry Commission Scotland

Graeme Cavers, Gemma Hudson, John Barber - AOC Archaeology Group,


(Source: DES)

Measured Survey (30 July 2013 - 31 July 2013)

An archaeological survey was undertaken at the broch of Altbreck, Dalchork forest, for the purposes of conservation management on behalf of Forestry Commission Scotland. A laser scan survey was carried out in conjunction with an interpreted total station survey and a detailed photographic record.

Information from Graeme Cavers (AOC Archaeology) September 2013

OASIS ID: aocarcha1-161069


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