Ancient Monuments

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Skirza Head, broch 290m south east of Craigwell

A Scheduled Monument in Wick and East Caithness, Highland

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Latitude: 58.5997 / 58°35'59"N

Longitude: -3.0441 / 3°2'38"W

OS Eastings: 339420

OS Northings: 968444

OS Grid: ND394684

Mapcode National: GBR L6V0.284

Mapcode Global: WH7F1.63PQ

Entry Name: Skirza Head, broch 290m SE of Craigwell

Scheduled Date: 17 February 1938

Last Amended: 29 January 2016

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM580

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: broch

Location: Canisbay

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Wick and East Caithness

Traditional County: Caithness


The monument is the remains of a broch dating probably from the Iron Age (between about 600 BC and AD 400). It is visible as a low, turf-covered mound with a hollow in the centre where the broch interior lies. A broad ditch lies to the W of the broch on the landward side. The broch stands 30m above sea level towards the neck of a narrow headland surrounded by tall sea cliffs, with Effies Geo to the N and Rushy Geo to the S. There are extensive views out to sea and views S over part of Freswick Bay.

The inner wall-face of the broch is visible on several sides and stands at least 1m high. The outer face is obscured by tussocky grass and part has fallen over the cliff on the N side. Records from 1910 suggest the broch walls are about 4.25m thick and the interior 6.7m across, implying an overall diameter of about 15.2m. The entrance is to the SE, facing diagonally across the headland towards the sea, and is about 0.9m wide. Several features were visible in 1910 but are now obscured, including checks for a door within the entrance passage, a doorway to a mural stair to the SW and a small guard cell at the foot of the stair. To the NW and N, a low wall extends up to 1m inside the inner wall face and researchers have suggested this stonework extends from beneath the broch wall. The ditch to the W is about 12m wide and 1.5m deep, and an outer bank beyond the ditch stands about 0.3m high relative to the ground surface to the W. The promontory on which the broch stands measures about 75m E-W by 25m transversely and is in effect a defended enclosure. Outside the broch to the S of the entrance is a large hole, probably a chamber or well. A stone-lined passage or channel leads SW from its base. A stone wall to the S of the broch and a mound of soil to the E probably derive from excavations by Tress Barry in the 1890s. Reports of the excavations refer to outbuildings, but these were not visible in 2015.

The scheduled area 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 is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. On the W side the scheduling extends up to but excludes a post-and-wire fence. The monument was first scheduled in 1938, but the documentation did not meet modern standards: the present amendment rectifies this.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

This monument is of national importance because it can make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular of Iron Age society in northern Scotland and the construction, use and development of brochs. Records from recording of the site in 1910 suggest this monument is likely to retain its structural characteristics to a marked degree, with walls preserving evidence for  intramural features. There is high potential for a complex sequence of buried remains: researchers have suggested a low internal wall may pre-date the broch. The monument's importance is enhanced by its association with the wider landscape of Iron Age brochs located around Freswick Bay. It is an important component of the area's historic landscape. The loss of the monument would diminish our ability to understand the development and use of brochs in Caithness and their role in the Iron Age settlement pattern. The broch towers of northern Scotland have a significant place in the national consciousness.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: CANMORE ID 9271.

The Highland Council Historic Environment Record reference is MHG655.


HER/SMR Reference

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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