Two broch towers, standing more than 10 metres high, with well preserved structural features. Set in beautiful surroundings. Twin brochs
Brochs are unique to Scotland. In pretty Gleann Beag (‘the little glen’), just south of Glenelg village, two of these towers stand within sight of each other. Dun Telve and Dun Troddan are 2,000-year-old Iron Age structures (the word dun means ‘fort’).
They are among the four best preserved brochs in Scotland, along with <Mousa> in Shetland and <Dun Carloway> in Lewis. But whereas Mousa and Dun Carloway stand in splendid isolation, Dun Telve and Dun Troddan stand barely 500m apart. No one today knows why.
Dun Telve: evidence of construction
This broch is over 20m in diameter and the portion that still stands is about 10m high. Behind the narrow, west-facing entrance doorway, a 5m-long passage leads into the interior.
Along the passage is a small side-chamber, sometimes called a ‘guard cell’. The door (now missing) within the passage was well secured by a bar hole in the wall, just as in a medieval castle.
The section left standing gives a perfect cross-section to show how brochs were constructed. The two concentric drystone walls are tied together by large horizontal slabs. These slabs also form the floors of the narrow galleries between.
Access up the tower is by a winding stone stair, and openings at intervals once gave access to the upper floors. The presence of two horizontal stone ledges, or scarcements, up the height of the surviving section suggests that there were two upper floors. The top floor would have been around 9m above ground level.
Dun Troddan: evidence of occupation
This broch is the better preserved of the two but does not reach quite as high. It has features now missing from Dun Telve. These include, in the floor, a number of holes for upright posts and a hearth. Built into the hearth is a broken quern-stone (for grinding corn).
The general view is that this ground floor was the main living area. But look at the encircling wall. It is poorly finished at this lower level compared to the upper levels. Could this ground-floor area once have held the animals, with the residents on the upper floors?
This would draw comparison with the later Viking longhouses, which also had animals living in with humans.
- The situation – in a very pleasant wooded glen a short distance inland from the Sound of Sleat.
- The towers – clamber up and through the narrow galleries to the wall tops and admire the views.
- The mystery - contemplate what life must have been like within and around these towers in their heyday, 2,000 years ago.