Ancient Monuments

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Armadale Burn, broch 1420m south east of Armadale House.

A Scheduled Monument in North, West and Central Sutherland, Highland

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Latitude: 58.5355 / 58°32'7"N

Longitude: -4.064 / 4°3'50"W

OS Eastings: 279933

OS Northings: 962670

OS Grid: NC799626

Mapcode National: GBR J6B5.955

Mapcode Global: WH49B.JQZG

Entry Name: Armadale Burn, broch 1420m SE of Armadale House.

Scheduled Date: 14 November 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13678

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: broch

Location: Farr

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: North, West and Central Sutherland

Traditional County: Sutherland


The monument is a broch, a substantial stone-built roundhouse, dating from the Iron Age (between 600BC and AD 400). The broch is visible as a dry stone structure sitting atop a large knoll with surviving walling, an entrance and some internal features. It is defended by natural scree and cliff around its eastern side and by a conjoining circuit of low drystone walling running from the north of the broch around its west, south and southeast sides. The broch is located on the west side of a steep ravine to the south of Armadale Bay at approximately 60m above sea level.

The broch is approximately 17m in overall diameter with its walling up to 4.5m thick. The entrance is located on the southeast side and has a  well-preserved passage leading inwards. Around the southwest quadrant up to fifteen stone courses are visible and overall the broch survives up to approximately 4m in height. The interior is obscured by vegetation but records indicate the presence of chambers within the thickness of the enclosing wall. An outer wall extends from the river cliff north of the broch around the west side, rejoining the cliff in the southeast. There is an entrance through this outer wall in the northern half, opposing the inner broch entrance in its southern half. There are structural remains at the bottom of the west side of the knoll, the form of which indicates that it is a prehistoric domestic structure.

The scheduled area is circular on plan measuring 70m in diameter, to include 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.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument comprises the structural remains of an Iron Age broch with surviving  architectural features. The broch survives as low, drystone structure, with a well-preserved entrance passageway in the southeast quadrant leading to the interior. The interior appears to be relatively undisturbed and archaeological features, artefacts and ecofacts are likely to have been sealed by the collapse of sections of the interior wall. The outer defensive wall and an adjacent structure at the bottom of the natural knoll upon which the broch sits adds the site's significance.

By analogy with a number of excavated brochs, the broch and its outer-works 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, as well as providing information about broch architecture and construction methods.

Brochs in Sutherland and Caithness are typically thought to date from the mid-first millennium BC through to the early part of the first millennium AD. The presence of outer-works and structure beyond these outer-works indicates that this site may have had an extended development sequence. Scientific study of the site would allow us to develop a better understanding of the chronology of the site, including its date of origin, state of completeness and any possible development sequence.

Brochs are a specific and complex type of Atlantic roundhouse. They were large structures that could accommodate an extended family or a small community. There would likely have been a social hierarchy within the community living here, however, 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 in prehistoric society.

Contextual Characteristics

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.  In this part of northern Scotland, they are clustered along the coastline and, in the case of this example, within the major north-south straths. These river valleys would have served as important communication corridors. This broch is located midway between two local clusters of similar sites around Torrisdale Bay and beside the River Naver, to the west and, Melvich Bay and Strath Halladale to the east.

Links between neighbouring brochs such as within this local cluster are likely and these links suggest broader community interests at the time of the construction and use. This example therefore has the potential to broaden our understanding of prehistoric society and community across northern Scotland.

The broch sits on a prominent natural knoll and is well defended because of the steep slopes of the knoll. Theses natural defences appear to have been accentuated by an outer defensive work. The knoll with the broch on its summit is a prominent landscape feature with extensive views southwards and along the River Naver. It may have been deliberately sited here to control the local topography and to be seen as a prominent landmark.    

Associative Characteristics

There are no known associative characteristics which contribute to the site's cultural significance.

Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it makes a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular of Iron Age society in Sutherland and, the function, use and development of brochs. This is a well-preserved example with identifiable architectural features including an entrance passage and internal features. Significant archaeological deposits are likely to survive in and around the broch, indicating activity and materials used in the broch's construction, occupation and abandonment. The broch's location on a prominent knoll and the associated outerworks are aspects of the importance of this site, demonstrating how topography was exploited and accentuated by those building brochs. The site also can add to our understanding of settlement patterns, social structure and economic circumstances prevalent during the Iron Age in northern Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland




Local Authority HER/SMR Reference: MHG10748

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: 635-6.

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: 63, No. 190.

Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 6393 (accessed on 5 Sep 2017).

Local Authority HER/SMR Reference 10748 (accessed on 5 Sep 2017).


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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