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  • Writer's pictureStephen Jennings

Site in Focus - East Shore Broch

East Shore Broch

Terribly eroding into the sea, East Shore Broch is adjacent to Harpers Marina and just east of Eastshore and the Pool of Virkie. With Old Scatness and Jarlshof, it forms a trinity of clustered Iron Age settlement in the south mainland. Built sometime between the 1st centuries BC and AD, the site shows evidence of occupation reaching back to the early first millennium BC and continuing to at least the middle of the first millennium AD.

East Shore Broch wheelhouse radial pier

The breadth of its ‘village’ has been estimated to be just shy of Jarlshof. The over 19m diameter tower itself was enclosed by a rampart or wall about 10m away which was still standing to a height of nearly 3m in 1956 and very much in evidence today. Radial piers from a later wheelhouse can be seen in the north of the interior with ongoing collapse spilling down towards the sea edge.

A small excavation in 1989 provided the radiocarbon dates and several artefacts were recovered including sherds of pottery, steatite, part of a rotary quern and worked stone. Perhaps the rarest of finds was the remains of woolen fabric. In 2010 a stone disc was recovered that may have been the reused remains of a gaming board and since 2017 various sherds of pottery, hammerstones and even the complete upper stone of a rotary quern have been exposed.

Using a variety of maps from the National Library of Scotland, it appears the extensive croft on top of the village and ramparts was built sometime before 1857 with its present size broadly in evidence from 1877. Much of the stone used would have undoubtedly been robbed from the broch and surrounding Iron Age settlement.

Use caution when visiting the site as footing is quite uncertain. It would be highly recommended to view the broch and wheelhouse from above rather than climb down to what remains of the interior. Moreover, a walk around the abandoned croft with a keen eye will present fleeting glimpses of the clustered Iron Age settlement and remaining broch enclosure.

Further afield, Clevigarth Broch is 1.7km north, also worth a visit, and of course nearby Old Scatness and Jarlshof will aid in giving a rough idea of what East Shore Broch may have been like in full occupation.

For more detailed information we suggest visiting here.


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