Stones Journeys: Burrian Broch

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On the approaches to Burrian Broch, there are lines of four defensive ditches, probably a number of dwellings. A geophysics survey in 2005 by Orkney College Geophysics Unit identified the remains of structures outside the ramparts.

As for the broch itself, the wall is 14+ feet (4.5 meters) thick, enclosing a courtyard of almost 33 feet (10 meters) in diameter. The entrance is in the southeast from the shore, and the walls are solid. There is a wall cell in the northeast arc. A peculiarity of the construction is a 4 foot (120 cm) high "intake" above a ledge 3 feet (90 cm) above the original occupation floor. There is a well in the interior courtyard. The broch is defended by the remains of four ramparts on the landward side.

In its second phase, the broch was converted into a sort of wheelhouse with internal divisions. Buttressing on the outer face of the northwest arc and several small buildings on the north arc may also belong to this period. The discovery of an early cross with an Ogham inscription, an oxbone with Pictish symbols, and a pebble with Celtic designs has led to speculation about a possible third phase - a Christian monastery or hermitage. A Celtic bell of the earlier type (5th-9th centuries A.D.) was also found. The most significant find was a stone slab 2-1/4 feet (686 mm) long, engraved with a cross and Ogham script and named the Burrian Cross, which has become one of the symbols of Orkney. It and the above mentioned finds are now displayed in the National Museum of Scotland.

Journey to Burrian Broch

To visit Burrian Broch requires a commitment, as it is located on North Ronadsay, the northern-most isle of the Orkney archipelago. The isle may be visited either by ferry from Kirkwall or via plane from Kirkwall Airport. An excellent place to stay on the isle is the Bird Observatory. From there, it is a long walk taking less than an hour along the shore of Nouster Bay beach to the broch.

Streetmap UK (NGR HY76275138)

Visitors Information Visitors information for Burrian Broch may be found at the Howar Conservation Farm website. General tourist information for North Ronaldsay may be found at the website.


Please check local road conditions for possible changes prior to venturing forth on this journey. A helpful resource for changes and possible trip interruptions if you are travelling in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland is the AA-UK Route Planner. Another map source that this website uses and that may be useful to you on your journeys is Streetmap UK.

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