CAITHNESS may be the land of the broch, with more of the Iron Age structures situated here than anywhere else, but if you’re building a new one just where do you site it?
This was a question that had the Caithness Broch Project (CBP) volunteers scratching their heads for some time. After a lot of thought about how to integrate a towering structure into the Caithness landscape while making it accessible to visitors, CBP chose a site near John O’Groats.
The remains of brochs, built around 2000 years ago can be found scattered throughout Caithness.
Co-founder and chairman of CBP Kenneth McElroy said he was elated at the latest breakthrough after a successful year where the group initiated digs at two broch sites in Caithness; hosted a series of high-profile events called Brochtober; launched broch-styled merchandise and created a novelty Lego broch.
“There are a number of reasons as to why we have chosen this site,” he said.
“It has beautiful sweeping views across the Pentland Firth; ease of access and development potential and proximity to the NC500 and the major tourist landmark of John O’Groats.
This would make the venture not only sustainable but successful.”
“We have tried to strike a balance between authenticity and sustainability.
“However, there is archaeological evidence for brochs being built in this area too – with a possible broch under Canisbay Church and at Duncansby Head. So perhaps it’s time for a new broch to be built here as well.”
Mr McElroy is studying in Glasgow for an archaeology and history degree but continues to work with fellow co-founder Iain MacLean to oversee the development of the proposed life-sized broch.
CBP was awarded £10,000 from Big Lottery Fund Scotland and £2000 from Highland Council towards the creation of a business case and feasibility study for the construction of a replica broch
The study, undertaken by Alan Jones Associates, was completed in the summer. Mr McElroy said it is an important step in realising the group’s vision, and understanding the mechanics of how the broch would fare as a successful business concern.
“The good news is the report states that our broch would be a sustainable venture.
“One of the most important aspects of this project was understanding where we should build the broch. This was, for us and for many others, the burning question.”
CBP was offered five sites in north-east Caithness adjoining the North Coast 500 route. The group is now working with John O’Groats Mill Development Trust on their preparations to develop the chosen site.