A record of our ancient Brochs, Hill-forts and Sculptured Stones of Scotland

Ousdale Broch


N.M.R. number:- ND01NE1 Highland HER number:- MHG 708   OS Grid Ref:- ND07131881        SCHEDULED






Site Description:-

Ousdale Broch is a well-preserved site with intra-mural cells, galleries and stairs which are clearly visible for examination. A few courses of the external wall are visible with much more showing inside to a height of 4m. The entrance is in the SW and faces up-slope.

Access from the lay-by on the A9 is for 500m or so of rough sloping ground.


Major Structural Notes:-

The outside diameter is around 16.5m  with a wall thickness of 4.5m at the entrance and an inside diameter of about 7.2m. The entrance passage has a ‘guard cell’ entered through the east-most passage wall. Another intra-mural cell is accessed from an opening just to the north of the entrance. In the NW quadrant a passage gives access to a further cell and a stair rising clockwise upwards. A primary scarcement is about 2.5m above the floor.This is a very similar footprint to Kintradwell Broch north of Brora except for the smaller diameters.


Associated Structures:-

There is an enclosure partially surrounding the tower just to the NW. A depopulated site of several houses stands some 200m to the NW suggesting the underlying landscape was arable and there are three long cairns between the sites, possibly clearance.


Site Setting:-

The broch sits high above the Ousdale burn near to its mouth with clear views north and east. Just to the east is the gulley of the Allt a’ Bhurg. Upslope and to the north and across the Ousdale Burn would have been arable land which has now degraded to rough pasture. Ousdale is a hill-locked glen past which the old track to Caithness would have gone. There is a hollow-way up-slope to the west.


Special Mentions:-

A human skeleton was head down in a small opening above the stairway when the site was excavated in 1891. A central hearth was found above the floor level and stone tanks were built into the floor. A gallery runs above the entrance passage it may have been part of a load-relieving device.. Artefacts were collected but no especial pieces of note were recorded.


Sources: Site visits, Highland HER and RCAHMS Canmore database and PSAS 26 (1892) pp351-357.