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The Borg

Broch (Iron Age)(Possible)

Site Name The Borg

Classification Broch (Iron Age)(Possible)

Alternative Name(s) Forsinain

Canmore ID 6813

Site Number NC85SE 1

NGR NC 8993 5095

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

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

Archaeology Notes

NC85SE 1 8993 5095.

(NC 8993 5095) The Borg (NAT) Broch (NR)

OS 6"map, (1963)

The remains of a broch situated on a rocky knoll surrounded in part by marshy ground, the wall surviving to an average height of 3.3m. Internally, the broch is oval in plan, the east wall, containing the entrance, having been strengthened by the addition of an extra 2.7m of walling, giving diameters of 9.6m N-S and 6.6m E-W. The wall measures 6.7m in thickness in the east, 4m in the south and 5m in the west. In 1909 a guard chamber was visible, as well as a possibly secondary passage, 3m to 3.3m long and 0.6m wide leading to the inner wall 5.4m south of the entrance. Miss Young notes "straight walling" possibly indicating a wall chamber 1.5m from the entrance. A large enclosure, probably secondary, is attached to the NE arc of the broch and other walls spring from the south and west sides. Rectangular foundations measuring about 9m by 4m lie close to the broch, one to the SW and the other to the SE.

RCAHMS 1911, visited 1909; A Young 1964; Visited by OS (W D J) 28 April 1960.

The broch is generally as described above. The interior appears to have been originally circular in plan, about 9.4m in diameter. Secondary use has altered this to the present oval plan, by enlarging the N side and extending the entrance into the broch interior. A rubble-filled depression on the N side of the entrance passage probably indicates the guard chamber. The passage to the south of the entrance was not seen; a recent shelter set in the wall is the only visible structural remains in this arc. A short stretch of wall facing to the north of the entrance, above the collapsed chamber and possibly forming part of it, could be the "straight walling" noted by A Young (1964). The'rectangular foundation' noted to the SE of the broch appears to be a fortuitous arr- angement of tumble. A shallow ditch lies outside the SE arc of the broch.

Published survey (6") revised.

Visited by OS (J B) 9 June 1977.


Publication Account (2007)

NC85 2 FORSINAIN ('The Borg 1') NC/8993 5095

This probable broch with enclosures in Farr, Sutherland, is situated a few miles west of the geological boundary between the flat lands of north-east Caithness (sandstone) and the highlands of Sutherland (visited 9/7/63 and in 1971). It stands on a rock knoll on the east valley slope above the river Halladale (flowing from south to north) and is the furthest inland broch known in Strath Halladale. The ground falls sharply away from the site on all sides except the south.

The outer wallface, built with a considerable batter, survives to a height of nine courses (3m) on the west and the whole is built of squarish blocks of igneous or metamorphic rock, in sharp contrast to the sandstone sites in neighbouring Caithness. The entrance is on the east-south-east, facing uphill and away from the river, and the lintels are mostly still in position though the passage, and the broch itself, are choked with debris. The passage is now 6.71m (22ft) long (having been extended inwards, below), 76cm (2.5ft) wide at the exterior and widening to 1.14m (3ft 9in) at a distance of 4.58m (15ft) in. The doorway to a guard cell is 2.59m (8.5ft) in from the outside and is described as being on the east side of the passage: since this is more or less the way the passage faces it is not clear whether the cell is on the left or right. This feature was not visible in 1985 [5].

The central court appears partly to have been cleared out [2] and the author saw traces of a mural cell at about 9 o'clock; the doorway to this has been noted [2, 5]. Though the wall stands 2.44 - 2.75m (8 - 9ft) high in places there are no traces of a gallery on the wallhead. Through the entrance the external diameter of the broch is 19.52m (64ft) , the internal one 8.24m (27ft) : however the Commission noted 2.75m (9ft) of secondary walling against the interior on the east side [2] and later observers saw that the entrance passage had been extended inwards here [1], giving rise to its unusual length. The author's plan of the interior wallface confirms that there is a secondary wall inside this broch (below).

A number of walls emerge from the heavy rubble fallen from the broch wall to form several outer enclosures. In 1977 these were all planned by a team from Edinburgh University under Mercer [4, fig. 12] who put forward the interesting hypothesis that they can be plausibly inter-preted as being contemporary with the broch, or with the immediately post-broch occupat-ion witnessed by the secondary interior wall. If so there exists at 'The Borg' a reasonably intact set of Iron Age garden and stock enclosures which may one day repay detailed study and excavation.

Important in this context was the discovery that clearance cairns exist on the moor above, suggesting that the 'broch farmstead', if that is what it was, cultivated the high arable land to the east. The contrast with the two later abandoned farmsteads nearby, which used the lower ground on the valley floor and practised rig-and-furrow agriculture, was marked and seemed to support the argument that the complex around The Borg was earlier, and probably of late prehistoric age.

Dimensions: in 1971 the author carried out an accurate survey of the primary inner wallface of this broch which was thus shown to have been laid out close to a true circle with a radius of 5.20 +/- 0.04m. Thus if the broch was oval, as Swanson surmises [5], such a shape would apply only to the outer wallface. The original internal diameter would thus have been 10.40m, on 34.1ft, which confirms that there is a secondary wall inside the broch.

Sources: 1. NMRS site no. NC 85 SE 1: 2. RCAHMS 1911a, 62, no. 186: 3. Young 1962, 185, no. 28: 4. Mercer 1980, 24 - 6 and fig. 12, 103, no. 41: 5. Swanson (ms) 1985, 770-73 and plan.

E W MacKie 2007


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