The Time Team Dig

Broch Image © Victor Ambrus

Brochs, which are believed to date from approximately 200 B.C. to 100 A.D. (during the Iron Age), were compact, thick walled, dry stone structures of circular ground plan, with an average diameter of 18 metres.  They had double walls constructed entirely without cement, two concentric halves forming narrow walkways and held together by horizontal rows of flat stone lintels.  Stairs linked the series of galleries so formed and gave access right to the top.

One of the many interesting and intriguing things about brochs is that they were erected mainly in the Highlands and Islands and their construction ended a millennium before the earliest mortared stone castles of mediaeval times appeared.  The nearest equivalent modern buildings in Scotland were probably the tower houses of the border country and the single storey mortared houses for the Highland chiefs.

Brochs were quite an achievement in dry stone building.  They had standardised entrance passages, door-checks and intra mural stairs, galleries and cells.

Good examples of brochs exist at Mousa in Shetland and in Glenelg.

The broch immediately adjacent to Applecross Campsite was recognised by John Wood when he was archaeologist at Highland Council and by Cathy Dagg, an archaeological consultant.  Until now, it has never been seriously investigated.

Television's Channel 4 Time Team, which carries out televised archaeological surveys, were encouraged by the proprietors of the campsite to visit Applecross and carry out an investigation of the site.  The investigation, in the form of a dig, took place from 31st May to 3rd June, 2005 when a team of around fifty visited. Although the weather was exceptionally wet, a full programme of digging and investigating took place.

Investigations by the Time Team proved that the Applecross structure is, indeed, a broch.  Outer walls, inner walls and a stair were found, together with an entrance and evidence of an iron working hearth.

It is hoped that this site will now be taken seriously, and thoroughly and professionally investigated. Applecross Historical Society and the campsite are keen to encourage such activity.  Applecross Archaeological Society has been formed and has resourced grants.  In partnership with Highland Archaeology Services, it carried out a further investigation in October, 2006.  Interestingly, the week's excavation proved that the remains of the broch extend much further below the surface than initially thought and there is also evidence suggesting multiple periods of occupation on the site.  Other digs are programmed for 2007, the first being between 21st April and 30th April.

The Time Team programme is available to view in the Heritage Centre and photographs of the dig can be accessed from the link below.