By Mark Horton
Last updated 2011-02-17
The massive walls of the stone broch (a fortification in the form of a tower) at this site rise above the sea loch on the western coast of Lewis. Brochs are quite common in western Scotland, and this example is particularly well preserved, with some surviving parts as high as 6.7m (22ft). The structure is thought to date to the first century BC, which was the time of the Atlantic Iron Age.
The broch was entered through a small doorway, into a courtyard. The walls are double thickness, and contain passages and stairways. There is evidence of several floors within the tower, which would have contained the living accommodation. Animals were kept on the ground floor. The whole edifice would have been roofed with a conical roof, made from straw. Excavations were undertaken here in 1971, and these have located the remains of hearths, possibly for pottery making. Brochs such as this one seem to have functioned both as houses for an extended family, and also as places that could be defended.
The medieval history is noteworthy. The broch was used during clan feuds in the early 16th century. One story recounts how one Donald MacAulay climbed the tower by inserting a knife between the rocks and using it as a support, then threw burning heather into it to smother the Morrison family who were sheltering within it, after a cattle raid.
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