The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

Warbeth Broch

In the cliff face close to the ruins of Breckness House, some walling is visible. This is almost all that remains of a broch that once stood on the site, now totally destroyed by coastal erosion. A description of it in 1867 states that, "the curvature of the remaining wall shows that this has been originally a circle of 44 feet, inner diameter and thickness of wall is 12 feet”. The broch was encircled by a strong outer wall and a kitchen. Midden deposit was seen low down at shore level. This would have been an ideal site for a broch as it looks across the sound towards the Head of Hoy and it would have given the occupants a good view of the surrounding area.

Some of the broch remains seen in the cliff section. (c) SFLPS

The site had been known for a long time but the broch and surrounding buildings were hidden under long grass until storms and coastal erosion caused damage to the site. Skulls and other artefacts were often found on the beach. In 1992 a severe storm revealed a well in the cliff section. A year later, half of this had gone, so an excavation was planned before the next storm or high tide could remove the well completely.

About a metre of Iron Age deposits survived in the bottom of the well, and this was excavated in one day’s digging in 1993. The archaeologists discovered that the well had been cut out of sandstone and stood at a height of around 2 metres and that the roof may have been corbelled. The floor of the well was level to that of the beach, and the floor had been formed by beach stones which were bedded in a thin layer of clean clay.

Three bone points made from antler were recovered as well as pieces of cut and uncut red deer antler fragments. The recovery of these artefacts indicated the remains of activities that might have taken place within the broch at the time of the collapse of the well roof. Also in the fill of the well were bones of birds and sea mammals and a few sherds of pottery.