In the shadowy realms of the Shetland Islands, Mousa Broch stands as a haunting testament to ancient legends and eerie sagas. We take a look at this magnificent example of Iron Age towers, one of the best-preserved and finest examples of its kind.
Brochs, synonymous with the Iron Age history of Scotland, are round stone towers primarily found in the northern and western parts of the country.
These enigmatic structures, with their thick dry-stone walls and hollow interiors, evoke images of ancient clans and their efforts to stay safe from both elements and enemies.
Their primary purpose remains a matter of debate, but their impressiveness is undeniable.
History of Mousa Broch
Among the several brochs scattered throughout Scotland, Mousa Broch stands as a paragon of preservation and enigma.
Situated on the island of Mousa, this tower, believed to have been erected between 300 and 100 BC, is not just the tallest of its kind, but also one of the most well-preserved prehistoric structures in Europe.
Overlooking Mousa Sound, the broch’s massive structure and strategic location suggest it might have served as a lookout tower.
It is a testament to its builders, with its walls narrowing as they rise, that it has endured for over two thousand years.
Legends of Mousa Broch and The Orkneyinga Saga
The charm of Mousa Broch isn’t merely architectural.
Tales and sagas from days of yore infuse the stone walls with the whispers of the past. One of the most famous legends stems from the Orkneyinga Saga, which speaks of Erland the Young.
In 1153 AD, this daring soul abducted Margaret, the widowed mother of an Orkney Earl. They sought refuge in the broch, but were soon besieged by Earl Harold. However, the stronghold’s daunting structure made it “an unhandy place to attack”, highlighting its defensive capabilities.
Another story from Egil’s Saga talks of a couple eloping from Norway, who, following a shipwreck, found temporary shelter in the looming shadow of Mousa Broch.
Mousa Broch Today
Today, Mousa Broch stands not just as a relic of the past, but as a living testimony to history.
The broch, amidst its silent walls, is alive with the soft chirping of European storm petrels.
Bird enthusiasts often find themselves in a trance, listening to these birds, especially on overcast summer nights.
Beyond the wildlife, the broch also harbours tales of its use by smugglers in more recent times and findings of otter bones suggesting these creatures once called it home.
How you can visit Mousa Broch, Shetland
For those yearning to see Mousa Broch up close, it beckons from the western shore of Mousa Island.
The island, accessible by boat from Sandwick, Shetland, offers the promise of an adventure steeped in history and nature.
As you approach the island, the broch, with its impressive stature, serves as a beacon guiding you towards tales of love, war, and survival.
Have you been to Mousa Broch? Tell us in the comments section below!