Dun Carloway

The best preserved broch in the outer hebrides

This is the most well known broch in the Outer Hebrides and the only one to rise to such a height. It’s certainly a striking feature in the landscape, sitting up above  the crofting township of Carloway, on the west side of Lewis.

The broch was probably built about 200BC but could have been in use up to about 1000AD. It was quite common for brochs to be used again as strongholds during medieval times and the Morrison Clan are said to have used Dun Carloway as a stronghold in the 1500’s.

The entrance is on the north side and most of the walls on this side have collapsed, leaving a view of the interior structure.

The door is only a metre high and would have had been well defended. As you go in the door there is a small guard chamber set into the wall.

The interior, showing a low entrance into one of two chambers on the ground floor.

A common broch feature is the scarcement which is when the lower part of the wall is made thicker so that it forms a ledge to support the wooden floor above it. Here the line of the scarcement  can be seen about halfway between the lower and upper doorways. The lower wall would also have been made thicker to support the huge weight of the tower above it.

An artist’s impression of the broch shows how the space inside would have been used, with animals kept on the ground floor and living quarters on the floors above. Stairs and galleries were built between the concentric walls.
The highest part of the broch is 9m high and it probably wouldn’t have been much higher than this originally.

There are extensive views across the surrounding landscape as well as out to sea.

Ruins of blackhouses in the field below the broch. No guessing where the stone would have come from! Blackhouses were the traditional form of cottage with thatched roofs and rounded corners.

A few miles down the road are the famous Calanais Stones and its surrounding ritual landscape of stone circles and other Neolithic monuments. There is nowhere like this small area in the remote west of Lewis to evoke such a connection with the distant past.

3 thoughts on “Dun Carloway

  1. A great post to start the New Year and whet our appetites to get out in the fresh air! However it won’t be for a day or two here in NI; it’s been blowing a gale all morning. Mind you, after the storm……..who knows what’s in store these days. Have a happy healthy New Year.


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