Broch of Gurness, Mainland, Orkney, monuments, staircases

Inside the Broch of Gurness is an elegantly curved staircase dating from somewhere between 500 BC and 100 AD. People lived here and fought off attacks on the remote island of Mainland (Orkney), where the known world mainly comprised Norway to the north and Scotland and England to the south.

Settlement at the Broch of Gurness  began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. A stone tower is at the centre of the settlement, which  may have reached a height of around 10 metres. Probably it was inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area. However, it also served as a last resort for the village in the case of an attack. The Broch also features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. This is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.


The Broch continued to be inhabited even as it began to collapse. Nonetheless, the original structures were still being altered: The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the Broch’s use.

Roman finds

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a “King of Orkney” submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.


At some point after 100 AD the Broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. Nonetheless, it is thought that settlement at the Broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time, the Broch was no longer inhabited and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings.  The site was a single farmstead until about the 8th century.

Later history

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried here in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were also buried.

Source: Wikipedia