Ancient Monuments

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Broch of Burraland, broch 890m east of Curefield

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland South, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 59.991 / 59°59'27"N

Longitude: -1.2002 / 1°12'0"W

OS Eastings: 444722

OS Northings: 1123173

OS Grid: HU447231

Mapcode National: GBR R2DB.6PK

Mapcode Global: XHD44.S4CK

Entry Name: Broch of Burraland, broch 890m E of Curefield

Scheduled Date: 19 June 1934

Last Amended: 30 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2054

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: broch

Location: Dunrossness

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland South

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises a broch of Iron Age date, built probably between 500 BC and AD 200, the remains of two ramparts on the landward side of the broch, and the remains of several earth and stone structures, some of which are probably later houses. The broch is visible as a very large stone structure, with the outer wall faces standing up to 2.4m high. Parts of the E side of the broch stand nearly 4m above the present ground surface on the W side. The ramparts are visible as turf-covered earthworks, and the buildings are visible as low earthworks or sunken structures. The monument lies about 20m above sea level, towards the narrow neck of a wide peninsula that is surrounded by cliffs. The Broch of Mousa lies 1km to the east on the opposite shore of Mousa Sound. The monument was first scheduled in 1934 but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The main entrance to the broch is just visible above the surrounding rubble on the W side. Its lintels remain in place, but the aperture has contracted and is visible only as an irregular hole. The position of the entrance lintels shows that there must be a depth of at least 1.5m of debris obscuring the base of the wall, while the wall head here is 2m above the level of the entrance lintels. This means that the gallery visible almost all the way around the broch circumference must be a first floor (level 2) gallery. Another gallery visible opposite the entrance is considerably higher and must be a second floor (level 3) gallery. The outer wall near the wall head is near vertical, only showing a batter on the W side, and measures 16.8m in diameter and 3m thick. The steepness of the walls, the relatively small diameter and relative narrowness of the structure all reflect the fact that the exposed masonry is significantly higher than the base of the broch, which is likely to have been much more massive. To the WNW of the broch, two ramparts protect the narrow neck of the peninsula on the landward side. The outer rampart is visible as a low turf-covered bank faced externally with large edge-set stone slabs. Behind this bank is a modern dry stone wall with a shelter at the N end. The shelter abuts the inner rampart, a turf-covered bank at least 1m high. The broch is surrounded by the remains of a variety of structures. These include: possible rectangular structures on a platform northwest of the broch; a sub-circular structure which may be the remains of a prehistoric house to the north; a large sub-rectangular enclosure with external facing stones to the east; and to the south, several other sub-circular buildings, some conjoined, visible as sunken structures with areas of exposed internal wall face.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, 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 north, east and south of the broch.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The visible remains of the broch are impressive, but it is clear that substantial buried remains of the broch's lower courses and foundations are preserved beneath thick deposits that surround the tower. The earthwork features nearby demonstrate that this is a complex multi-phase monument with evidence for a development sequence that probably includes continued Pictish occupation of the outbuildings after abandonment of the broch tower. The buried archaeological deposits associated with the monument's construction, use and abandonment may allow future researchers to date construction of the broch, and compare this with the dates of the rampart defences and probable later structures. 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 recovery of significant assemblages of 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 high 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 often face each other on the opposite sides of voes or sounds and this example appears to be paired with the Broch of Mousa, a spectacular complete structure sited 1km away across Mousa Sound. Brochs have been viewed as having a defensive or offensive function, or simply as being the prestige dwellings and farms of an elite keen to display its status. The buried remains at Burraland have high potential to help us address these questions and provide insights into the nature and use of these distinctive structures and the landscape immediately around them. The sub-circular buildings on the S side of the broch mound have very high potential to tell us about continued Pictish occupation on broch sites and may be compared with early historic structures at other nearby brochs, such as Aithsetter.

Associative characteristics

The broch is depicted and labelled 'Brough of Burraland' 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 potential to study the relationship between the broch itself and the two ramparts, and to compare the use of the broch with that of several sub-circular structures that cluster on its S side. The monument also stands opposite the nearby Broch of Mousa and offers potential to examine the relationship between these two structures. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the development and reuse of brochs in the Shetland Islands.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as HU42SW 1. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR records the site as MSN786 (PrefRef 726).


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. 81.

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. 24.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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