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Bank (Earthwork) (Period Unassigned), Broch (Iron Age), Cairn (Period Unassigned)(Possible)

Site Name Watenan

Classification Bank (Earthwork) (Period Unassigned), Broch (Iron Age), Cairn (Period Unassigned)(Possible)

Alternative Name(s) Watenan North

Canmore ID 8983

Site Number ND34SW 10

NGR ND 31804 41456

NGR Description ND 31804 41456 and ND 31823 41435

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

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

Archaeology Notes

ND34SW 10 31804 41456 and 31823 41435

(ND 3180 4146) Broch (NR) (remains of)

OS 1:10,000 map, (1976)

The remains of the broch, almost entirely overgrown, stand on a grassy mound. Wall faces and a chamber have been exosed and suggest that the diameter of the broch was about 63ft and the wall thickness 12ft. 'The elevation of the structure is about 8ft.' Between the base of the broch and the edge of the mound on the E is a considerable area showing signs of buildings.

'On the SE a small isolated mound some 5ft in height is cut off from the main hillock by a trench about 28ft in width, and signs of a similar trench are visible on the N with a slight elevation beyond it.'

RCAHMS 1911.

The grass-covered remains of a broch, situated on an artificially scarped mound, as described by the RCAHMS. Minor quarrying in the S of the broch has revealed a further mural cell.

The isolated mound to the SE is apparently an extension of the natural mound on which the broch stands, and the trench between is probably the remains of a ditch which originally surrounded the broch mound. Vague traces of the ditch can also be seen to the N.

Resurveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (N K B), 27 April 1967.

A broch and a possible cairn are situated on the leading edge of an E-facing terrace overlooking Loch Watenan, some 130m N of Watenan farmsteading. The broch (YARROWS04 206) measures 14m in diameter within a grass-grown wall at least 4m in thickness. The entrance appears to be on the SSE where the wall thickens and part of an intra-mural cell is exposed on its E side. This cell, which extends for a distance of 0.5m into the body of the wall and measures up to 0.8m in width, is still partly roofed with corbelled slabs and capstones. Another intra-mural cell, measuring 2.2m in length, has been exposed as a result of robbing on the E side of the broch. Its E side has been reduced to a low bank but its W side still stands to a height of 1.6m.

The broch stands on top of what is probably a low natural rise, but the collapse of its walls and the construction, subsequent collapse and degradation of structures around it have led to the formation of a mound measuring 48m from NE to SW by 38m transversely and about 2.5m in height. Now grass-grown, the foot of the mound has been truncated by ploughing and a track runs up onto its summit from the N. Other than the odd exposure of possible dry-stone walling, the only evidence of these structures is a rectangular stone-lined depression on the S side of the mound.

What may be a cairn (YARROWS04 207), comprising a grass-grown mound of earth and stones, stands 10m SE of the broch mound. Roughly D-shaped on plan, the mound measures 13.6m from NE to SW by at least 8m transversely and 1m in height. From the S round the W to the NW the foot of the mound has been truncated by ploughing. A low stony bank can be seen extending from the edge of the broch towards the SW side of the cairn. Whereas the depiction of the broch is annotated 'Pict's house' in antiquity type on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Caithness 1877, sheet xxix), the depiction of the cairn is in non-Roman type.

(YARROWS04 206, 207)

Visited by RCAHMS (AGCH), 26 May 2004.


Publication Account (2007)

ND34 15 WATENAN NORTH ND/3180 4146

This broch in Wick, Caithness, is now almost completely grass-covered and stands on a mound in flat country near the north end of Loch Watenan. It is one of the finest examples in the area of a ruined broch standing on a probably multi-period earlier mound [3]. A recent careful survey has located no fewer than three outer wallfaces of stone in the ruins of the central building [3]; the outer one suggests an overall diameter of about 18m (64ft), and the inner one of about 12m (40ft).

Both faces of an intra-mural cell or gallery can still be seen on the east side [3] and was better exposed in 1910 (through the collapse of part of its corbelled roof) when a doorway to the interior was visible from inside it [2]. This doorway was 60cm (2ft) wide and 1.2m (4ft) long. The inner face of this feature could be the innermost “face” mentioned by Mercer, in which case it is probably a gallery, and presumably an upper one since the height of the broch mound itself is 4 m. Thus it might be supposed that the structure is not so much a "complex of superimposed buildings" [3] but rather a simple broch with upper mural gallery preserved. The doorway to the interior seen in 1910 could be a raised doorway or void connecting with a Level 2 gallery. However if this intra-mural space really is a cell as claimed by Mercer (no ends are shown on the plan) then things may not be so simple; excavation will be needed to make things clear.

The “intermediate” face may be the actual outer face of the broch, though the indicated diameter of 15m is small, or, perhaps more likely, an intermediate wall-face. The wall here is 3.6m (12ft) thick [2]. There are signs of outbuildings on the east, between the base of the broch and the edge of the underlying mound, which itself displays at least three wall facings at different levels [3]. This is a complex site which would surely repay systematic excavation.

Sources: 1. NMRS site no. ND 34 SW 10: 2. RCAHMS 1911b, 163-4, no. 524: 3. Mercer 1985, no. WAR 184 and fig. 63.

E W MacKie 2007


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