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Broch (Iron Age)

Site Name Suisgill

Classification Broch (Iron Age)

Canmore ID 6639

Site Number NC82NE 12

NGR NC 8875 2530

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

NC82NE 12 8875 2530.

(NC 8875 2530) Broch (NR)

OS 6" map, (1962)

The remains of a broch with outworks situated on the summit of a mound some 30' above the river to which the site slopes steeply. Of the broch little remains, a considerable portion of the north wall having been removed about 1909, but surviving wall faces indicate that it has measured 40' in diameter within a wall 15' thick on the north and 12' thick on the south where the remains of a mural chamber are visible.

The outworks consist of a wall, with an external ditch on the east and west and a fragment of outer rampart on the SE. The wall maintains a distance of 18' from the broch except on the south where it is closer. The ditch, immediately outside the wall is 34' wide and 8' to 10' in maximum depth and the outer rampart, 12' broad at base runs at a distance of 28' from the ditch. The approach is through the defences on the south.

(RCAHMS 1911, visited 1909)

The broch is generally as described by the RCAHMS. A small modern gap in the north gives entrance to a later rough enclosure cleared out of the broch debris.

Revised at 1/10,000

Visited by OS (J B) 14 January 1977


Field Visit (4 June 1991)

The robbed remains of this broch and its outworks occupy the E end of a low ridge which, on the S, falls steeply to the River Helmsdale.

Roughly circular on plan, it measures about 12m in diameter within the remains of a wall up to 4.5m in thickness; the N quadrant of the wall was removed before 1909 but, elsewhere, it stands to a maximum height of 1m with what is probably an entrance on the ESE there are traces of two intramural structures, one on the NNE, possibly part of a passage or chamber, and the second, on the S, may be the remains of a guard-cell opening off the W side of the entrance-passage. The court is choked with tumbled stone in which at least three huts have been created.

The broch is surrounded by an outer wall, measuring 1.5m in thickness and 0.6m in maximum height which, on the W, N and E has been accompanied by a ditch, 9m broad and 2.5m deep. The entrance through the outwork lies on the ESE; here the ditch was expanded in breadth and the wall extended around the ditch terminal. On the E and S there are traces of a counterscarp bank, and on the E a further short stretch of bank cuts across the crest of the ridge.

Visited by RCAHMS (DCC) 4 June 1991.

Publication Account (2007)

NC82 4 SUISGILL NC/8875 2530

This probable broch in Kildonan, Suth-erland, stands about 0.75 miles above the junction of the Suisgill burn and the river Helmsdale and on the summit of a mound 9.2m (30ft) above the river. It is in the centre of the pass at a narrow point of the Strath. This broch seems to have been much better preserved 250 years ago. The Rev. Alexander Pope, in discussing the “Pictish” buildings of the north of Scotland in 1774, says –

"There is one of them entire in the parish of Loth" (probably NC90 1, Kintradwell). "It is the only one that is, as far as I could find, excepting one at Suisgill in the parish of Kildonan." [3].

Little of the broch is left – much of the wall having been removed at about 1909 [2] – and the north wall has disappeared entirely. The remains of a mural cell are visible on the south and there are no signs of the entrance. The interior diameter is about 12.2m (40ft), the wall on the north is 4.58m (15ft) thick and 3.7m (12ft) thick on the south (the river side). In 1985 signs of a mural gallery about 0.9 m wide were seen on the south-east side [4].

There are massive outer defences on the level approaches to the site on the west, north and east [4], which “bear a close resemblance to those of the neighbouring broch of Kilphedir” (NC91 7) [2, 105]. These are most complex on the east, away from the river, and consist of three ramparts with two deep ditches between them starting about 5.49m (18ft) from the broch. On the north there is a single rampart with a gap, perhaps recent, through it on the north-east [4]. The original entrance through these outer defences is on the south-east, between the steep drop to the river and the eastern defences; it is defended by a forework mound 3.7m (12ft) wide and 8.5m (28ft) further out. The innermost rampart appears to surround the broch completely [4].

Sources: 1. NMRS site no. NC 82 NE 12: 2. RCAHMS 1911a, 105, no. 308: 3. Pope 1774, 318 - 19 4. Swanson (ms) 1985, 800-801 and plan: 5. RCAHMS 1993.

E W MacKie 2007


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