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Caisteal Na Coille

Broch (Iron Age)

Site Name Caisteal Na Coille

Classification Broch (Iron Age)

Alternative Name(s) Castle Cole

Canmore ID 6056

Site Number NC71SE 13

NGR NC 7957 1337

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/6056

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

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

Archaeology Notes

NC71SE 13 7957 1337.

(NC 7957 1337) Cailsteal na Coille (NAT) Broch (NR)

OS 6"map, (1969)

The remains of a small broch, Caisteal na Coille (RCAHMS 1911; ONB 1872) or Castle Cole (RCAHMS 1911; Feachem 1963) situated in a strong position on a rocky eminence on the left bank of the Black Water, and further defended by outworks. It measures 21' in diameter within a wall 13' thick with an entrance, 2' 8" to 3' 6" wide, in the ESE. Mural chambers were identifiable in the NE and south in 1909, but in neither case was an entrance visible. A guard-chamber was also visible to the north of the entrance passage leading off between two sets of door-checks. The broch wall stood to a maximum height of 10', on the east, but only the foundation remained in the SW. Feachem mentions at least seven aumbry-like recesses, comparable with those at Torwood broch (NS88SW 1). An outwork wall defends the broch on the north and east of the summit and RCAHMS mention a similar outer wall, running for part of its length along the top of a rocky outcrop on the east with small portions being visible on the north and SE.

Name Book 1872; RCAHMS 1911, visited 1909; R W Feachem 1963.

The broch is generally as described, still well enough preserved for details to be discernible, eg the guard chamber, now completely exposed from the top; traces of the outer wall of a mural gallery in the NE; the passage still lintelled to the first doorcheck, beyond which it is choked with debris; and the aumbry-like recesses, still visible at various heights in the wall. Six of them in the north half, average 0.3m to 0.5m across by 0.2m in height and depth. The seventh would appear to be at ground level in the SSE and substantially larger. There is no sign of the south mural chamber noted by RCAHMS. The wall encircling the summit appears to be a contemporary outwork, though a part abutting the broch on the NE has been renovated. The crude outer wall may be much later, possibly built to keep livestock from the sheer face of the eminence on which the broch stands.

Revised at 1:10,000.

Visited by OS (R D L) 23 April 1964 and (J M) 20 February 1976.

Activities

Field Visit (1872)

Field Visit (20 August 1909)

Field Visit (23 April 1964)

The broch is generally as described, still well enough preserved for details to be discernible, eg the guard chamber, now completely exposed from the top; traces of the outer wall of a mural gallery in the NE; the passage still lintelled to the first doorcheck, beyond which it is choked with debris; and the aumbry-like recesses, still visible at various heights in the wall. Six of them in the north half, average 0.3m to 0.5m across by 0.2m in height and depth. The seventh would appear to be at ground level in the SSE and substantially larger. There is no sign of the south mural chamber noted by RCAHMS. The wall encircling the summit appears to be a contemporary outwork, though a part abutting the broch on the NE has been renovated. The crude outer wall may be much later, possibly built to keep livestock from the sheer face of the eminence on which the broch stands.

Revised at 1:10,000.

Visited by OS (R D L) 23 April 1964 and (J M) 20 February 1976.

Field Visit (20 February 1976)

The broch is generally as described, still well enough preserved for details to be discernible, eg the guard chamber, now completely exposed from the top; traces of the outer wall of a mural gallery in the NE; the passage still lintelled to the first doorcheck, beyond which it is choked with debris; and the aumbry-like recesses, still visible at various heights in the wall. Six of them in the north half, average 0.3m to 0.5m across by 0.2m in height and depth. The seventh would appear to be at ground level in the SSE and substantially larger. There is no sign of the south mural chamber noted by RCAHMS. The wall encircling the summit appears to be a contemporary outwork, though a part abutting the broch on the NE has been renovated. The crude outer wall may be much later, possibly built to keep livestock from the sheer face of the eminence on which the broch stands.

Revised at 1:10,000.

Visited by OS (R D L) 23 April 1964 and (J M) 20 February 1976.

Publication Account (2007)

NC71 1 CASTLE COLE ('Caisteal na Coille', 'Achir na Kyle')

NC/7957 1337

This broch in Clyne, Sutherland, stands in a picturesque situation, on top of a steep-sided rocky knoll which overlooks a deep gully containing the Blackwater, a tributary of the river Brora (visited 12/7/63 and 10/7/85). The face of the knoll down to the burn is a sheer cliff 21.4 -24.4m (70-80ft) and it is high and steep on the landward side; the site is two miles from Strath Brora and the modern valley farmland. There seems little doubt therefore that, in this case, the broch served people who lived on the high moorland, though they doubtless dominated the farming population lower down. Castle Cole has been described as a “fortalice broch” [7].

Castle Cole (the name ‘Castle Cole’ is doubtless an anglicised form of ‘Achir na Kyle’, the second word being from the Gaelic caol, a long narrow sound of the sea. It is a curious name as there is no kyle near at hand , although the long, narrow Loch Brora is not far away). was visited and described by Charles Cordiner in 1775 and he found it –

“… free of rubbish even then so that one without stooping can enter by the inner doors to the apartments within the walls; and several of the staircases to the second storey are perfectly entire." [8].

The fact that this broch was well known at an early date, and relatively well preserved and tower-like, suggests that – even though it is some distance to the north of Dun Alisaig (NH68 1) – it might be the second of the pair thought to be in the “Kyle of Sutherland” by early authors (but see site NH49 1).

The rock used to build this tower is a sandstone which happens to split neatly into horizontal 'bricks'; thus the structure appears much more sophisticated architect-urally than its neighbours and resembles the brochs of Orkney and Caithness. The entrance has neatly constructed door-checks and bar-holes and other features not usually found in Sutherland.

The entrance passage is on the east-south-east and is 3.91m (12ft 10in) long and facing the steep slope down to the stream; many of its lintels are still in place. The front one is shaped like a non-equilateral triangle. The sides of the passage continue above the lintels so there must have been a chamber there, a standard feature of hollow-walled brochs.

The passage contains two door-frames, each of rebated door-checks at 1.5m (5ft) and 2.95m (9ft 8in) from the exterior; it widens slightly inside each door-frame. A bar-socket is in the left wall immediately behind the front checks. There is a guard cell opening to the right between them, now mostly clear of debris; it is 1.73m (5ft 8in) long and 1.52m (5ft 0in) wide inside a doorway 1. 22m (4ft 0in) deep. About 30cm (1ft) in front of the first door-frame is a gap between the passage lintels from 8-l5cm (3-6in) wide which might have served as a meurtrière for defence (see Midhowe: site HY33 1).

The interior has been partly cleared and there a small fragment of a scarcement of the ledge type on the exposed wallface at 1.30 o'clock; this must be at least 3m above the interior floor. The Commission noted signs of mural cells or galleries on the wallhead from about 3-4 o'clock and again from about 8-9 o'clock but no doors or raised voids into them were visible. There are a number of aumbries or cupboards in the inner wallface, the largest being 60cm (2ft) square. The building has been completely destroyed along the side next to the cliff.

There are two outer walls around the broch; one follows the edge of the flat platform which is the top of the knoll on which the site stands and the other is at the foot of the slope of the knoll. Both walls are visible only on the sides away from the stream.

Dimensions: (author's 1963 measurements): external diameter (6-12 o'clock) l4.79m (48ft 6in), internal diameter 6.71m (22ft 0in): the wall therefore should be 4.04m (13ft 3in) thick on average and the wall proportion is 54.6%. The central court was planned exactly in 1985 and the radius of its best-fitting circle 3.38 +/- 0.12m.

Sources: 1. NMRS site no. NC 71 SE 13: 2. Mitchell 1880, 310 and figs. 6, 7, 9 and 10: 3. Anderson 1883, 185 and fig. 178: 4. RCAHMS 1911a, 7-9, no. 25, fig. 1 and pl. 1: 5. Feachem 1963, 173: 6. Mercer 1981: 7. Cordiner 1776.

E W MacKie 2007

Note (10 February 2015 - 31 May 2016)

The broch that stands on the E bank of the Black Water, occupying the crest of a precipitous hillock which drops away sharply to the river along its SW flank, is also enclosed by the remains of walls that are usually regarded as outworks. Indeed the outer wall on the SE appears to abut the broch wall on the E, though in the opinion of the John MacRae, the OS surveyor who visited in 1976, this sector has been rebuilt. Elsewhere, it is reduced to no more than a band of rubble extending along the lip of the summit, not only forming an outer enclosure in front of the broch entrance on the SE, but also around the less obviously accessible area to its rear on the NW. While it may be a contemporary outwork, it is equally possible that these are the remains of an earlier enclosure on the hillock measuring about 45m from NW to SE by up to 15m transversely (0.05ha). The broch itself still stands 3m high in places and displays several architectural features, including the checked and roofed entrance passage, bar-holes, a guard chamber, aumbries in the inner wall-face and mural galleries. A wall extending around the foot of the hillock on the NE is probably a later stock boundary.

Information from An Atlas of Hillforts of Great Britain and Ireland – 31 May 2016. Atlas of Hillforts SC2808

Desk Based Assessment

The remains of a small broch, Caisteal na Coille (RCAHMS 1911; ONB 1872) or Castle Cole (RCAHMS 1911; Feachem 1963) situated in a strong position on a rocky eminence on the left bank of the Black Water, and further defended by outworks. It measures 21' in diameter within a wall 13' thick with an entrance, 2' 8" to 3' 6" wide, in the ESE. Mural chambers were identifiable in the NE and south in 1909, but in neither case was an entrance visible. A guard-chamber was also visible to the north of the entrance passage leading off between two sets of door-checks. The broch wall stood to a maximum height of 10', on the east, but only the foundation remained in the SW. Feachem mentions at least seven aumbry-like recesses, comparable with those at Torwood broch (NS88SW 1). An outwork wall defends the broch on the north and east of the summit and RCAHMS mention a similar outer wall, running for part of its length along the top of a rocky outcrop on the east with small portions being visible on the north and SE.

Name Book 1872; RCAHMS 1911, visited 1909; R W Feachem 1963.

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