Caithness broch centre opened
Archaeological Trust initiative aims to capitalise on area's ancient treasures;
A new centre focusing on the brochs of the far north opened at the weekend.
Caithness Archaeological Trust has spearheaded the transformation of the former Northlands Viking Centre, at Auckengill.
It is the latest initiative to showcase the area's ancient treasures and help secure visitor spin-offs similar to those enjoyed across the water in Orkney.
Saturday's opening of the Caithness Broch Centre marked the completion of a £185,000 project the trust has carried out in liaison with Highland Council, which owns the building.
The focus is firmly on brochs – mysterious Iron Age stone towers whose exact purpose has still to be established conclusively.
Caithness, and the area around Sinclair Bay in particular, has one of the largest concentrations of brochs in Scotland. One of the goals for the centre is to attract more visitors to see them.
The centre has sections on the people who built and lived beside the brochs more than 2,000 years ago and the 19th-century archaeologists who first excavated the structures.
The revamp has been led by the trust, which has arranged to display a large collection from the National Museums Scotland in the centre. The 150 items include gaming pieces, painted pebbles, spindle whorls, stone balls, rings, combs and Roman pottery.
The opening included a tour of the centre and the nearby broch at Nybster led by former trust project officer Andy Heald. A treasure hunt and other children's activities were also run.
The project has been funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Highland 2007, Highland Leader and Highland Council.
Bill Fernie, chairman of the council's education, culture and sport committee, said: "I am very pleased that we are now able to present an important element of the history and archaeology of the north in a great new setting.
"The new visitor centre will add to the growing list of places of interest for both local people and visitors to find out about the area and its past.
"Caithness has been called Broch Central due to the many brochs and standing stones to be found – one of the largest concentrations in Scotland – and now will be able to really let people know about them."
The Earl of Caithness, Malcolm Sinclair, who is chairman of the trust, said the project was a great example of community working.
"It is highly appropriate that Caithness should have such a high-quality attraction, given it is the broch centre of the UK," he said.
Posted by moss
27th July 2009ce
Edited 27th July 2009ce