Nybster Broch
Nybster Broch
The Caithness Archaeological Trust calls Nybster Broch one of the most spectacular Iron age settlements in the north of Scotland. I'd say they are understating the case.
Nybster is easily one of the most accessible brochs in Caithness, which has more of the rounded Iron age communities than anywhere in Scotland. And make no mistake, Nybster is a settlement, not an isolated fort.
The broch occupies a well-defended position on a promontory, with steep cliffs on the seaward side. It was occupied throughout the late Iron Age and well into the historical period. Throughout this long period of use it evolved into a complex of interlinked stone buildings, connected by passages.
It is difficult to interpret the complex of structures surrounding the central broch. Some of the buildings on the seaward side may be Pictish, or at least reused in Pictish ties, and a block-house to the west of the broch may actually predate it, perhaps being as old as 700 BC to 500 BC. Some of the outbuildings associated with the broch have been lost to coastal erosion.
The broch itself has an internal diameter of 23 feet, with a wall thickness of roughly 14 feet. Only 5 feet or so of the walls still stand, but that is enough to give a very clear outline of the broch construction and layout.
Mervyn's Tower
Nybster was first excavated by Sir Francis Tress Barry in the late 19th century. Apart from the exhaustive excavations of the site, Tress Barry's major contribution was a rather odd tower built to commemorate his nephew. This memorial, known as Mervyn's Tower, seems to have been built with stones removed from the excavated broch, and is decorated with rather bizarre carvings of gargoyles, and set with plaques commemorating the archaeological work of Tress Barry.

Though the juxtaposition of the 19th century tower and the Iron Age broch is strange one, it does have one great positive result; you can climb Mervyn's Tower to get a wonderful overview of the excavated broch. Its the closest thing you can get to a birds-eye view without hiring an airplane!

Finds from the broch excavations include stone tools, pottery, metal objects, and pottery. Many of these finds can be viewed at the nearby Broch Centre, housed in Nybster's old school house on the main road.

Mervyn's Tower
Mervyn's Tower
The broch from atop Mervyn's Tower
The broch from atop Mervyn's Tower
The broch entrance
The broch entrance

About Nybster Broch
Address: A99, Nybster, Caithness, Scotland, KW1 4XR
Attraction Type: Prehistoric Site
Location: Signposted off the A99 at Nybster, just south of the Caithness Broch Centre. Small parking area and short walk along a signposted trail to the broch. Open access site.
Website: Nybster Broch
Location map
OS: ND370630
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest

Caithness Broch Centre - 0.7 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

Keiss Castle - 1.3 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe - 5.1 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Wick Heritage Centre - 7.7 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

Castle of Mey - 7.9 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Castle of Old Wick - 8.9 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Mary Ann's Cottage - 11.2 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

Yarrows Archaeological Trail - 12.9 miles (Prehistoric Site) Heritage Rating

Nearest Accommodation to Nybster Broch:

Nearby accommodation is calculated 'as the crow flies' from Nybster Broch. 'Nearest' may involve a long drive up and down glens or, if you are near the coast, may include a ferry ride! Please check the property map to make sure the location is right for you.

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    Nearest Tourist Information Centre ('as the crow flies')

Tourist Information Centre
Caithness Horizons, Old Town Hall
High Street
Highlands and Islands
KW14 8AJ
Tel: 01847 893 155
Email: info@visitscotland.com
Web: http://www.visitscotland.com/destinations-maps/highlands/
Seasonal opening