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between 12:00 Friday 15th December and 12:00 Monday 18th December


Cairn Hill, Old Stirkoke

Broch (Iron Age)(Possible), Long Cist (Early Medieval), Bodkin, Disc(S), Lamp, Needle, Spindle Whorl(S), Whetstone(S)

Site Name Cairn Hill, Old Stirkoke

Classification Broch (Iron Age)(Possible), Long Cist (Early Medieval), Bodkin, Disc(S), Lamp, Needle, Spindle Whorl(S), Whetstone(S)

Canmore ID 8974

Site Number ND34NW 4

NGR ND 3275 4928

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Wick
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Caithness
  • Former County Caithness

Archaeology Notes

ND34NW 4 3275 4928.

(ND 3275 4928) Cairn Hill (NAT) Broch (NR) (remains of)

OS 1:10,000 map, (1975)

Broch, Cairn Hill, Old Stirkoke: The mound had an original diameter of 80 to 90ft, but bout two-thirds of it had been removed on the N side before 1871, when Anderson observed the stone-robbing and published his observations in Archaeol Scot. The broch's walls were about 13ft thick, enclosing an area some 30ft in diameter. Objects recovered are mostly in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS, Accession nos: GA 73-81). They include a bone bodkin, a polished bone needle, half a disc of mica schist, a stone lamp, a few spindle whorls, two whetstones, hammer-stones, thin circular discs of slaty stone, a fragment of bronze and a portion of the hilt end of a very broad, double-edged sword.

RCAHMS 1911; J Anderson 1873; 1883.

On the NE of the mound an extensive midden was found which consisted principally of turf or peat ashes with wood-charcoal, shells, bones and pottery.

J Anderson 1866.

Cairn Hill is situated on the edge of the haughland. On its W side it has a height of some 6.3m which reduces to about 1.3m on its E side, while on the N it merges with the surrounding ground. The top of the hill has obviously contained some sort of stone structure, probably a broch, but it has been quarried and excavated to such an extent that no surveyable traces of any structure remain, apart from a short stretch of walling on the E side.

Revised at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (W D J) 23 April 1963.

The 'cairn', which had a circumference of about 90 yds, was still being quarried in 1882, when, among many other finds, iron ore and an iron ball were discovered as well as a large stone cist 'in an important position'. It measured 8ft by 2ft by 20ins deep, and was composed of rough slabs. The skeleton, although incomplete, appeared to be of great size. The skull was well-preserved, apart from the upper teeth, and measured 23ins in circumference. (See also ND34NW 14 - long cists.) Anon 1882.

The remains of the broch are as described by previous OS field investigator. No further information regarding the 'large stone cist' was encountered. The farmer at the adjacent farm, Old Stirkoke disputed the title 'Cairn Hill', stating that this name applied to 'Cairn of Stirkoke' (ND34NW 12).

Revised at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (J B) 1 September 1982.

ND34NW 4 ND 3275 4928

Roman coin. Denarius of the deified Faustina I, found by metal detecting at the broch of Cairn Hill (ND34NW 4). Claimed as Treasure Trove (TT.73/04) and allocated to Dunbeath Preservation Trust.

F Hunter 2005


Publication Account (2007)

ND34 8 OLD STIRKOKE ('Cairn Hill') ND/3275 4928

Probable solid-based broch in Wick, Caithness, which was originally a mound with a diameter of 24-27m (80-90ft), but two thirds of it had been removed on the north side by 1871 when Joseph Anderson visited the site and recorded what he could of the vanishing building. "Owing to the way in which the operations were conducted, no plan of the building could be obtained; but the farmer gave every facility for the preservation of such relics as happened to be noticed during the progress of the work, and collected most of them himself." [5, p. 143].

The broch wall was about 3.97m (13ft) thick and the diameter of the central court about 9.15m (30ft). It was possible to detect one long, oval-ended intra-mural chamber, and a square drain ran under the floor of the court. A cist-like construction 51cm (20in) deep was found near the middle; it had a stone slab for a base and four similar slabs for sides, and measured 1.22m (4ft) long and 76cm (2ft 6in) broad in the middle. It was completely full of ashes, with no earth, lacked a lid, and was covered by a layer of ashes 30cm (1ft) thick. Some years later the building was still being quarried, and in 1882 a long cist with a skeleton was discovered [3].

Finds [2, 5] included the following.

Iron: a fragment like the hilt end of a sword with a broad, double-edged blade.

Bronze: a fragment of a rod.

Bone and antler: 1 bodkin 20cm (8in) long, 1 polished needle with a round bevelled eye, several cut and sawn pieces of deer antler.

Stone: 2 sandstone whorls, 2 whet-stones, several hammerstones, 1 lamp, several thin discs of slaty stone (pot lids?), half of a thin disc of polished garnetiferous mica schist, several stone 'pestles', and a block of red sandstone with two intersecting hollows in its upper surface.

Sources: 1. NMRS site no. ND 34 NW 4: 2. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 9 (1870-72), 247-8 (finds): 3. The Antiquary 5 (1882), 228: 4. Anderson 1883, 232: 5. Anderson 1890, 142: 6. RCAHMS 1911b, 144-5, no. 499: 7. Anderson 1866.

E W MacKie 2007


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