Carn Liath Broch

Carn Liath is in a pleasant location between Golspie and Brora on the east coast of Sutherland. The broch is right beside the A9,  between the road and the sea, but despite being beside a busy main road you’re not aware of the traffic once you’re inside the broch.

Carn Liath is Gaelic for grey cairn and the large mound was thought to have been a burial cairn until it was excavated by the Duke of Sutherland in the 19th century. They discovered that it was a broch with remains of a settlement around it.
Unfortunately the excavation wasn’t accurately recorded but the artifacts found indicated an occupancy over many centuries.  Another excavation in 1986 established that the site had been in use in the Bronze Age. A Bronze Age burial cist and a food vessel were discovered.

Like many brochs, Carn Liath had a well-guarded entrance, with elaborate door checks and a guard cell.


The interior is far deeper than the exterior with the walls reaching 12 feet high.

One of the best things about Carn Liath is that it still has a well-preserved section of stairs within in walls, showing how brochs were built, with their doubled skinned walls with stairways leading to upper storeys and galleries between the two walls.

Outside the broch are the ruins of a settlement and these are from different time periods. People lived here for a few hundred years after the broch fell out of use but some are probably contemporary with the broch.

The broch is 3 miles north of Golspie and it is easily accessible. There’s a car park beside the A9 and footpath over to it, although you do have to cross the busy main road.

Looking south from the broch you can see the fairytale towers of Dunrobin Castle, the ancestral home of the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland.

5 thoughts on “Carn Liath Broch

  1. I guess the nearest Irish equivalent to a Broch is a Caher (Cathair in Irish) but Brochs seem to be a uniquely Scottish phenomenon. I have only ever seen them on Orkney, most of Scotland remains largely undiscovered!

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    1. You’re right. They’re unique to Scotland, mainly to the far north and the Northern and Western Isles. With their double walls and cooling tower shape there’s nothing like it in Ireland. More broch posts to come!

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  2. We came across this one by chance when we were travelling down to Fife after having a holiday in Orkney. You’re right about the busy road being so close but it really can’t be seen or heard when you are in the broch. Very atmospheric.

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