Rhins Heritage HighlightsSeptember 29, 2021
Exploring the Rhins OnlineNovember 9, 2021
Doon Castle Broch occupies a dramatic cliff-top location on the west coast of the Rhins, south of Ardwell Bay.
Brochs are tall, drystone towers mainly found in the north of Scotland. They have an unusual twin-walled design with a stairwell and cells or galleries in between. These hollow features reduced the weight in the walls so that they could be built taller, resulting in an impressive structure that was visible for miles around. Iron Age architecture was heavily concerned with status and appearances: the bigger, the better. Ultimately, though, these massive towers were the homes of farming families.
Doon Castle is unusual, not only in being an outlier in terms of its location, but also in its layout: it has two entrances where most brochs have only one. At other sites, a second entrance was sometimes added as a later modification, replacing the primary entrance. At Doon Castle, the broch appears to have been designed with two.
This paired entrance arrangement is replicated in Iron Age roundhouses elsewhere in Galloway - another site type that typically has only one entrance - and hints at a regional style. Doon Castle was perhaps intended to imitate northern brochs while staying true to the local building traditions.
This digital reconstruction of the broch gives an impression of what the broch may have looked like when it was occupied around 2,000 years ago. The broch has never been excavated, so our reconstruction is speculative and gives an atmospheric visualisation of the site in its setting, rather than a conclusive depiction of its original appearance.
The tallest surviving broch is at Mousa, Shetland; it stands to around 13m. Some brochs are thought to have stood even taller, perhaps to around 18m. Doon Castle, however, is likely to have been at the smaller end of the scale, perhaps around 5m tall.
The route into the broch is via a narrow causeway leading over a cleft in the bedrock. This allowed the people of the broch to control access onto and away from the promontory. You didn’t get in unless you were welcome!
The roofing of brochs is much debated among archaeologists! They are often depicted with conical thatched roofs. Evidence from Clachtoll Broch, in the far north-west of Scotland, suggests that the roof there may have included turf brought in from the surrounding landscape. Possible depictions of brochs show flat-roofed structures, such as on the 9th-10th century Sueno’s Stone in Moray, and gaming pieces from Upper Scalloway Broch on Shetland.
Managed by Solway Firth Partnership, our Rhins Coast partners, and produced by AOC Archaeology, the reconstruction forms part of the Rhins Revealed OnLine project, supported by Killgallioch Community Fund with funding from Scottish Power Renewables’ Killgallioch Windfarm and Dumfries and Galloway Council.