The monument is a broch, a complex stone-built substantial roundhouse, dating to the Iron Age (between 600 BC and AD 400). The monument is visible as a roughly circular drystone-walled structure. It is located on the south side of Glen Cassley, approximately 85m above sea level and around 24m above the River Cassley.
The broch is positioned on the summit of a steep sided hillock above the River Cassley. Standing walls remain but much of the structure has collapsed forming a large debris field. The outer wall of the structure has an external diameter of 21m and measures up to 3.4m in height and up to 5.5m in width. The entrance passage, at the east, is around 5.5m long. There is evidence of a guard cell on the north side of the entrance passage and a set of projecting door checks and possible bar hole slot also within the entrance passage. An intramural cell is visible on the ground floor to the south of the entrance passage. Sections of the upper level intramural gallery with associated voids and lintels are visible at the southwest and north of the broch.
The scheduled area, centred on the broch, is circular in plan with a diameter of 40m and includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Post and wire fences and above ground elements of the stone-built sheep fank are specifically excluded from the scheduling.
Statement of National Importance
The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:
The monument is an example of a broch, visible as a drystone-walled structure set on the top of a steep sided hillock, directly above the River Cassley. Overall the site survives in very good condition with records indicating the site has never been excavated. Stone from the broch may have been re-used to construct the adjacent, relatively modern, sheep fank. There are numerous features visible such as an upper level intramural gallery, entrance passage with door checks and a guard cell. The surviving evidence points to the structure having been a tall broch tower. The level of preservation of the broch is an important part of the monument's intrinsic characteristics.
By analogy with a number of excavated brochs there is potential for other structural remains to survive obscured by the extensive debris field. These could include intramural cells, scarcement ledges, internal stone partitions, hearths and water tanks/well within the broch. There is also potential for the buried remains of outbuildings just beyond the broch. Many of these features can provide information about broch architecture and construction methods.
The broch remains and any associated structures are likely to contain deposits rich in occupation debris, artefacts and palaeoenvironmental evidence that can tell us about how people lived, their trade and exchange contacts, and their social status. Brochs are typically thought to date from the mid first millennium BC through to the early part of the first millennium AD. There are few precise scientific dates for brochs in northwest Scotland and their dating has traditionally been based on typological studies of artefacts recovered from broch sites. Scientific investigation would allow us to develop a better understanding of the chronology of the site, its date of origin, state of completeness, survival of outworks and outbuildings or related structures, and any development sequence.
Broch towers are primarily seen as a specific specialised development of complex Atlantic roundhouses. They were large complex structures that could have accommodated either an extended family or a small community. While there would have been a social hierarchy within this community, the construction of these elaborate towers is often understood in terms of elite settlement. Other interpretations have stressed their likely role as fortified or defensive sites, possibly serving a community across a wider area. Brochs are complex structures likely to have had numerous purposes and a complex role in prehistoric society.
Brochs are a widespread class of monument across northern Scotland with notable concentrations in Caithness, Sutherland, Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and the northwest Highlands. This monument is significant as an upstanding and well-preserved example of a broch and is the only recorded broch within a 10km radius. The nearest brochs are around 10.3km and 10.5km southeast, at the end of Glen Cassley, close to where the River Cassley meets the River Oykel. The two brochs are located close together and are known as Achness (Canmore ID 4857) and Achaneas (Canmore ID 4858). There is therefore potential for comparative study on a local and national scale to better understand the function of such monuments, their interrelationship and the significance of their placing within the landscape, in particular in relation to our understanding of Iron Age social hierarchy, changing settlement patterns and systems of inheritance.
The broch sits on a northeast facing slope, above the River Cassley, in a highly prominent position on a steep hillock. There are wide open views up and down the valley. The broch sits directly above a narrow and relatively shallow point in the river that, as noted during the site visit, acts as a natural fording point. Many broch towers were deliberately sited to be focal points in the landscape, and this example would have been clearly visible from within the valley and from hills across the river.
There are no known associative characteristics which contribute to the site's cultural significance.
Statement of National Importance
The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the function, use and development of brochs in northwest Scotland. It is a well-preserved example of a tall broch tower that retains architectural features and has high potential for additional buried remains, including occupation debris, artefacts and ecofacts. It is a prominent feature in the landscape and adds to our understanding of the siting of brochs. This in turn can help our understanding of settlement patterns and social structure during the Iron Age in the Highlands. This potential and interest is enhanced by the proximity of other brochs. The loss of the monument would diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the use of brochs in northwest Scotland, and the nature of its Iron Age society, economy and social hierarchy.
Historic Environment Scotland http://www.canmore.org.uk reference number CANMORE ID 4882 (accessed on 03/09/2018).
Highland Council HER https://her.highland.gov.uk reference number MHG 11897 (accessed on 03/09/2018).
Armit, I. (1998). Scotland s hidden history. Stroud, Gloucestershire.
Close-Brooks, J. (1995). The Highlands, Exploring Scotland s Heritage. Edinburgh.
Feachem, R. (1963). A guide to prehistoric Scotland. London.
MacKie, E W. (2007). The Roundhouses, Brochs and Wheelhouses of Atlantic Scotland c.700 BC-AD 500: architecture and material culture, the Northern and Southern Mainland and the Western Islands, BAR British series 444(II), 444(1), 2 V. Oxford.
RCAHMS. (1911). The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Second report and inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of Sutherland. Edinburgh.
Romankiewicz, T. (2011). The Complex Roundhouses of the Scottish Iron Age: An architectural analysis of complex Atlantic roundhouses (brochs and galleried duns) with reference to wheelhouses and timber roundhouses, BAR British series 550 (I), 550 (II), 2 V. Oxford.
Wood and Dagg, J and C. (2011). Duchally and Rosehall, Balnagown Estate, Highland (Creich parish), desk-based assessment and walkover survey , Discovery and Excavation Scotland, vol. 12. Wiltshire, England.
About Scheduled Monuments
Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.
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Printed: 24/06/2019 12:54