The Broch of Dun Carloway, which dates from perhaps the 1st century BC or earlier, is the most spectacular of any in the Western Isles and one of the best preserved brochs in Scotland. It is located above Loch an Duin on a rocky knoll in a good defensive position on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Like many other such brochs, it overlooks the township and today its walls still reach over 9 metres in height.
A broch is an Iron Age structure designed to impress and defend, it is thought that brochs were probably the homes of tribal leaders and important members of the community. They are only found in Scotland and approximately 500 have been found in the region, however their precise function remains unknown. Many of the brochs were repurposed and there is evidence that Dun Carloway was used as a pottery kiln for a period of time.
Brochs are built with two concentric walls of stone, with a stairway or gallery within the walls to the upper levels. The double walls are over three metres thick at the base and are very well constructed, showing the considerable skill of the Iron Age masons.
Dun Carloway is entered by a single, low, heavily defended doorway with a guard chamber to one side. Inside are a number of chambers accessible at floor level, which would probably have been used to house farm animals. The human residents would have lived two metres higher, above wooden flooring supported on a ridge.
The main part of the broch was cleared out in the 1920s without proper archeological study. The north-eastern cell was reinvestigated in 1972 and large numbers of pottery shards were found, along with part of a quernstone and much evidence of fires. The suggestion is that it was still occupied as late as 700AD.
The broch is said to have also been used as a stronghold by members of the Morrison clan during the 1500s. It was during this time that a group of clan members were surprised by a gang of MacCauleys, who climbed up the walls and threw burning heather into the broch, smoking out their arch enemies.
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- The Outer Hebrides Guide Book Third Edition
- Explore Outer Hebrides 2015/2016