Broch of Gurness

Another rainy day here in the south – but warm memories of a visit to the Broch of Gurness on mainland Orkney last year.
Never come across brochs before a previous visit to Orkney (and what a fabulous place), since most people might associate ancient Orkney with sites like Skara Brae or the Tomb of the Eagles, but Gurness is a stunning place.
Apparently built around 200 bc, this is one of several brochs still in existence. Mysterious structures, hugely solid barrels of stone, mostly reduced in stature, debate seems to have settled on them being structures mostly defensive, but with elements of status symbol. There’s plenty out on the web if you care to look.
Situated on Eynhallow Sound, it’s a truly magical spot, especially on the day we visited, with perfect blue skies and superbly clear air. Later during the day we took the ferry across to Rousay, the large island on the far side of the sound – where there’s a treasure trove of stunning ancient remains (perhaps more of them in a later post).
The large structure of the broch itself is actually at the centre of a small village of roomed huts, clustering around its massive walls. Up to 40 families may have lived here, and it’s an extraordinary feeling to walk through passageways and into rooms which date back so far, to see stone furniture and step through doorways where bolt slots and hinge points can still be seen.
Puts things in perspective a bit – in a Spinal Tap kind of way.

The Broch from the west outside the ditch

Doorway / entrance passage into the broch

Some of the village rooms east of the broch

View over the village and sound to Rousay

Built in funiture!

View along Eynhallow Sound, with the tiny island of Eynhallow centre

Rousay looking east – with evidence of erosion of the village, much of which has disappeared into the sound.


Can’t overemphasise what a fabulous place Orkney is, and if you are fascinated by antiquity, by birdlife or just stunning views (and ever-changing weather!), it’s worth a visit (it is a long way mind!).

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