Ancient Monuments

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Broch of Burland, broch 1135m south east of Hillcrest

A Scheduled Monument in Lerwick South, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.1069 / 60°6'24"N

Longitude: -1.2001 / 1°12'0"W

OS Eastings: 444570

OS Northings: 1136075

OS Grid: HU445360

Mapcode National: GBR R2D0.SV6

Mapcode Global: XHD3K.S7D8

Entry Name: Broch of Burland, broch 1135m SE of Hillcrest

Scheduled Date: 31 May 1934

Last Amended: 27 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2053

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: broch

Location: Lerwick

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Lerwick South

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises a broch of Iron Age date, built probably between 500 BC and AD 200, and the remains of three large ramparts and ditches on its landward side. The broch is visible as a very large turf-covered mound on the NE side, but elsewhere the external stone wall stands exposed to a height of around 3m. The ramparts and ditches are mostly visible as earthworks, though stone facing is exposed in places. The monument lies about 30m above sea level, in a spectacular location on a narrow peninsula surrounded by cliffs. The monument was first scheduled in 1934 but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The broch has an overall diameter of 19.5m and survives to a maximum height of 3.5m. A tumble of stone debris occupies and obscures the interior, but it is clear that the wall is about 4.5m thick. Galleries are visible within the wall thickness high up on the E and W sides, and there is an entrance passage to the west, opening on to a narrow path passing immediately above the cliffs. About 3m into the passage, there is a door check on either side. Beyond, a narrow side passage leads south to a chamber. The entrance passage continues through two lines of later walling which abut the inner face of the broch wall. These are parts of secondary modification of the broch interior, now largely obscured by rubble, that reduced the central area to less than 5m in diameter. North of the broch, the three ramparts and ditches span almost the full 45m width of the promontory and, together, are 40m across from north to south. The outer ditch is 6.5m wide and to the south is a probable stone wall, 5.5m wide, with an opening at the centre 2.4m wide. To the south are two further pairings of ditch and wall, also both with a central gap. These defences enclose the seaward end of the promontory, an area measuring about 80m N-S by 50m transversely in total, with the broch sited in its NW corner.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, measuring 148m NNW-SSE by 67m transversely, 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. The scheduled area extends to the mean high water mark to the east, south and west.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Although the broch has partially collapsed on the NE side, the surviving structure is in good condition and shows little sign of recent deterioration. It is very probable that substantial buried remains of the broch's lower courses, including walls and galleries, are preserved beneath the tumble overlying the structure. It is clear that the broch itself is the product of several phases of development. This is demonstrated by the stone structure in the broch interior, a secondary feature that itself shows two episodes of building. Researchers have commented on the excellent preservation of the entrance passage that was extended to pass through the secondary structures, making it unique in Shetland. The earthwork features nearby suggest further complexity, and there is potential that these defences were used before or after the primary occupation of the broch tower. Excavation in 1983 demonstrated that the buried archaeological deposits can enhance our understanding of the external defences. The small-scale excavation suggested that the outer two ramparts are constructed of dumped earth and rubble, with stone revetting. Further investigation of the buried remains may allow future researchers to date the construction of the broch and compare this with the dates of the rampart defences. 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 very high potential for the recovery artefacts and ecofacts that may illuminate the diet, economy and social status of the occupants, and the extent to which this varied over time.

Contextual characteristics

This broch is one of around 130 known in Shetland. It has the potential to enhance our understanding of the relationship between brochs, the extent to which they were contemporary, and their relationship with the wider landscape. 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 Burland have high potential to help us address these questions and provide insight into the nature and use of these structures and the landscape immediately around them. There is also potential to compare the outer defences here to those of other brochs, such as at Aithsetter 6km to the south. Some researchers have suggested that the wall-face at the W end of the inner rampart invites comparison with block houses, such as that at Ness of Burgi.

Associative characteristics

The broch is depicted and labelled 'Brough of Burland' on the Ordnance Survey first edition map.

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. The monument offers considerable potential to study the relationship between the broch and three ramparts, and the broch itself shows a development sequence, the entrance passage extending through two phases of secondary internal structure in a manner unique in Shetland. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the development and reuse of brochs in Shetland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as HU43NW 5. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR records the site as MSN664 (PrefRef 888).


Lamb, R G, 1980 Iron Age promontory forts in the Northern Isles, Brit Archaeol Rep, BAR British, vol.79. Oxford. 81

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.

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. 70-2.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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