Ancient Monuments

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Hoga Ness, broch, Unst

A Scheduled Monument in North Isles, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.6841 / 60°41'2"N

Longitude: -0.9804 / 0°58'49"W

OS Eastings: 455790

OS Northings: 1200525

OS Grid: HP557005

Mapcode National: GBR R0XH.RCC

Mapcode Global: XHF7H.NQJ9

Entry Name: Hoga Ness, broch, Unst

Scheduled Date: 24 May 1934

Last Amended: 31 October 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2072

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: broch

Location: Unst

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: North Isles

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises the remains of a broch of Iron Age date, built probably between 500 BC and AD 200, and its substantial outer defences. The broch is visible as a large turf-covered mound, about 24m in diameter. Two intramural chambers are visible in the southeastern arc of the broch wall, and an entrance passage is located to the south. The broch is enclosed by a sub-circular defensive system, defined by a series of three substantial ramparts and probably rock-cut ditches. A stone-faced section of rampart which runs to the coastal edge, WNW of the broch, appears to be of slightly different build. The low traces of an outer rampart are also visible on the northern arc of the defensive circuit. Coastal erosion has removed part of the enclosure. The monument lies in open pasture beside a sea cliff at less than 10m over sea level. 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 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.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The broch survives in good condition, albeit obscured by collapse within its interior and suffering some coastal erosion to the west and south. The outline of the broch tower is partly obscured by vegetation and rubble, but the presence of intramural chambers in the S and SE arcs, where a 4m section of the main internal wall-face is also visible, and the entrance passage in the SW arc, are clearly indicative of broch morphology. The defensive system with its massive ramparts and deep ditches is particularly impressive.

It is clear that the lower courses of the broch and substantial parts of the stone and turf ramparts survive beneath the ground surface. Future archaeological investigation of buried remains may allow researchers to record the foundations and lower courses of the broch and to examine layers formed during its occupation. The buried remains have considerable potential to enhance our 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 of artefacts and ecofacts that could illuminate the diet, economy and social status of the broch builders and occupants, and the extent to which this varied over time. There is high potential to date the construction of the broch and to compare this with the date of the ditch and rampart defences. The lower remains of an outermost rampart are apparent on the north side of the monument, but the topography of the site indicates that buried remains of this rampart may also be preserved elsewhere. A modern rectangular sheepfold is located over the northern slope of the broch mound.

Contextual characteristics

This broch is one of over 130 brochs 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 other contemporary settlement types and 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 Hoga Ness have very high potential to help address these questions and could provide insights into the nature and use of these structures and the landscape immediately around them. There is also potential for this monument to contribute to our understanding of how broch sites might be reused in later periods.

Associative characteristics

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

National Importance

his 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 high potential to study the relationship between the broch and its defensive system (the ramparts and ditches that surround it). 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




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. 56-7.

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. 131-2.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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