Sunday, 15 March 2015

The broch staircase

This wonderfully evocative photo (from the Shutterstone website) is of the staircase in the Carloway Broch on the Isle of Lewis, just over the Minch from here. My favourite thing about brochs is their double wall, with interior staircase circling up between them, playing both a structural and functional role.

In between the walls of Clachtoll broch there must have been a similar staircase, and one of the most exciting aspects of the excavation that will hopefully happen next year will be the exploration of this space. Even more exciting is the proposal, unveiled this week by archaeologists Graeme Cavers and Andy Heald of AOC Archaeology, to make sure we can use this staircase after the excavation, to climb up and out to look down into the broch.

This replaces the previous idea to build a metal spiral to a viewing platform inside the broch, which was consulted on last year to mixed opinions. That idea has been thrown out, and the new proposal is to give broch visitors access to the inside of the building, and ensure that the staircase is climbable from inside the broch.

What I love about this proposal is that we will be able to duck into the corballed staircase, just as the people who lived there would have done. Then we'll be able to climb the steps and emerge on the seaward side of the broch to look into the most intact parts of the building. If there is a chamber to the side of the stair (pretty likely), we'll be able to explore in there on the way, and I imagine it will be a magical, spooky, rounded space.

I am trying to get hold of  a decent reproduction of the drawings shown by Graeme and Andy when they visited this week, to give a sense of what is being proposed. If I do, I'll post it up here.

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