Ancient Monuments

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Broch of Culswick

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland West, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.1868 / 60°11'12"N

Longitude: -1.5439 / 1°32'37"W

OS Eastings: 425398

OS Northings: 1144802

OS Grid: HU253448

Mapcode National: GBR Q1JT.CBJ

Mapcode Global: XHD31.961Y

Entry Name: Broch of Culswick

Scheduled Date: 21 June 1934

Last Amended: 24 February 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2055

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: broch

Location: Sandsting

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland West

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises a broch of Iron Age date, built probably between 500 BC and AD 200. The broch is visible as a circular upstanding building, about 16m in diameter, encircled by a low rampart. The broch wall has a pronounced batter and stands up to 3m high. The monument lies about 45m above sea level, on the summit of a conical hill. The monument was first scheduled in 1934 but the documentation does not meet modern standards; the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, 60m in diameter centred on the centre of the broch, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

Despite some stone robbing and collapse since the 18th century, this is an exceptionally well-preserved broch mound with intact drystone masonry surviving to 3m in height. The wall stands to the height of the first floor gallery and an intermural cell is visible to the right of the entrance. The broch is constructed mainly of pink granite, which adds to its visual impact, and makes it a rare example of skilful building with unsuitable stone. There is a massive triangular lintel above the front door, a feature it shares with Dun Dornaigil, Sutherland, and other brochs in mainland Scotland. There is a pronounced batter visible, indicating the remains of a broch tower similar to that on Mousa. As the monument has not been excavated, it is highly likely that buried archaeological deposits associated with the monument's construction, use and abandonment are well preserved. These may include the scarcement ledge that was visible in the 18th century before some of the wall collapsed. Buried remains may allow future researchers to date the construction of the broch, and compare this with other brochs and the date of the rampart defence. In addition, the buried remains have considerable potential to enhance understanding of the use and function of brochs and the daily lives of the people who occupied them. There is high potential for the survival of artefacts and ecofacts that may illuminate the diet, economy and social status of the broch builders and inhabitants, and the extent to which this varied over time.

Contextual characteristics

This broch is one of over 130 known in Shetland, but it is one of the best preserved examples. It has the potential to enhance our understanding of the relationship between brochs, the extent to which they were contemporary, and their relationship with other contemporary settlement types and the wider landscape. The monument has wide-ranging views out to sea and a more restricted view down to the Loch of Brough. It has the potential to contribute to our understanding of the development of society over time. Brochs have been viewed as having a defensive or offensive function, or simply as being the prestige dwellings of an elite keen to display its status. The buried remains at Culswick have high potential to help address these questions and to provide insights into the nature and use of these structures and the landscape immediately around them.

Associative characteristics

George Low visited Culswick broch during his tour of Shetland in 1774 and his drawing is particularly informative, as it shows the broch still standing three storeys high at this time, with a scarcement ledge which is no longer visible. This adds weight to the local tradition that the monument survived to a greater extent until relatively recent times, and also to the theory that it was robbed for building stone, possibly for the adjacent farmstead.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular of Iron Age Shetland and the role and function of brochs. It is one of the best preserved brochs in Shetland. The monument offers potential to study the relationship between the broch and other monuments nearby, and with the wider landscape. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the development and use of brochs in the Shetland Islands.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as Broch of Culswick, HU24SE4, Canmore ID 337. Shetland Amenity Trust Sites and Monuments Record records the monument as Broch of Culswick, MSN2173, PrefRef 2056.


Armit, I 2003, Towers in the North: the Brochs of Scotland, Stroud: Tempus.

Lamb, R G 1980, Iron Age Promontory Forts in the Northern Isles, British Archaeological Reports British Series 79.

Low, G 1879, A Tour Through The Islands Of Orkney And Schetland, Containing hints relative to their ancient, modern, and natural history, collected in 1774, Kirkwall: William Peace & Son.

Mackie, E W 2002, The roundhouses, brochs and wheelhouses of Atlantic Scotland c.700BC-AD500: architecture and material culture, Part 1: The Orkney and Shetland Isles. BAR British Series 342: Oxford, 56.

RCAHMS, 1946 The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Twelfth report with an inventory of the ancient monuments of Orkney and Shetland, 3v Edinburgh.

Young, A 1964, 'Brochs and Duns', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 95, 182-3.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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