Broch of Mousa And The Isle Of Mousa

WORLD HISTORY | December 26, 2019

Broch of Mousa. Source: (wikipedia)

An interesting place to visit is the Broch of Mousa.

Located on the island of Mousa in Shetland, Scotland is the tallest broch that is still standing at 44 feet high. This tall round tower is the most preserved building from the prehistoric time known as the Iron Age. Believed to be one of more than 500 broches built in 100 B.C., it has the smallest diameters at 50 feet wide as well as the thickest wall bases at 16 feet thick. This remote location could very well be the reason it has been preserved so well.

Broch of Mousa. Source: (touropia.com)

Besides being a strong defensive structure because of its being lined with thick stone inside and out, it makes quite an impressive tourist attraction for visitors. It can be reached by boat which is 14 miles from Shetland, Scotland. With just one single entrance at the bottom, a tourist can climb the stairs on the inside all the way to top.

During the summer, a ferry boat is also in operation and takes visitors on trips to the island, where they can see multiple birds under partial darkness which is a spectacular sight.

At one time, Mousa was a populated place up until the middle of the 19th century. In 1774, there were 70 people there.

Storm Petrels. Source: (wikpedia)

Storm petrels, a type of sea bird, populate the area near the Broch and breed around 6,800 pairs. They actually nest in burrows inside of the Broch and amount to about 2.6% of the world population. These sea birds can be seen mostly after it gets dark. Besides storm petrels, other wildlife inhabits the island such as seals, otters, guillemots, fulmars, and others. Archaeologists have found things like clay pots, stone pot lids, and even a carved model of a Norway boat. 

Inside the Broch. Source: (wikipedia)

It is unknown what the exact reason for building the broch was. Speculations are that it possibly was a wooden structure at one time that was later replaced by a wheelhouse. Based on its design and the winding staircase, it was probably used as a lookout tower. There is a stone bench and thick walls at the base of the broch that gets thinner the higher up they go. Inside of the walls are openings and three cell doors located on the main floor that lead to large cells. Openings above them allow air and light inside of the cells. Six galleries are located above the base, most of which is possible to walk along. The winding staircase begins on the second level inside of one of the cells.

View Of Mousa From The Mainland. Source: (wikipedia)

Looking at this photo of Mousa from the mainland, the broch looks like a tiny speck on the right. Sometime before 1861 otters used the broch as their home; and, at some point in time, smugglers also used it. There are two stories associated with the Mousa broch. One of them is about a man that had trouble trying to free his mother who had been captured and held inside the broch. That could definitely be a problem since there is only one entrance. The other story is about a couple from Norway who was eloping to Iceland but instead got shipwrecked, so they used the broch as a shelter. Besides the shipwreck of the couple that was eloping, some other wrecks include Le Jeune Alphonse on April 4, 1853, the Haabet on January 2, 1826, and the Algieba on July 17, 1914.

In 1774, George Low, who was an antiquarian, visited the Mousa and produced the first drawings of the place. Others who visited it include Sir Walter Scott (1814), Samuel Hibbert (1818), who gave a detailed description of it, and Sir Henry Dryden (1852 and 1866) who gave the most accurate survey of the place.  

Tags: Broch of Mousa | The Isle Of Mousa

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