Forming an excellent triumvirate of coastal brochs with the more obscure Ousdale Burn and the tourist-friendly Carn Liath this, the enigmatic Cinn Trolla Broch, prompted me to stay a good deal longer than I'd originally anticipated. A sure sign of a good vibe, despite being within sight of the busy A9 and right beside a railway line. Suffice to say the latter is not exactly Clapham Junction, however....
Having awoken from my wild camp to a cloudless dawn in the hills near Invergordon, my boundless enthusiasm for the day ahead - and all things Scottish - is subsequently curtailed in rather short order by the sight of sea mist more or less completely obscuring the coast in the vicinity of Brora. Particularly since I had my beady eye upon venturing upon the hills overlooking the head of Glen Loth. Nature, eh? Reappraisal undertaken, I decide to check out the Cinn Trolla before heading for the wondrous Strath of Kildonan. The broch lies a couple of miles north of Brora and is signposted from the A9... after passing a campsite on the right, followed by the access road to Kintradwell farm on the left. As it is I overshoot and end up parking, rather fortuitously, opposite Ballinreach. Hopping over the gate - or something like that - I make my way diagonally to the coast, so cunningly avoiding the traffic hurtling by a few feet from the verge. It seemed like a good idea. And for once, it was. The broch is difficult to miss...
Excavated by J M Joass around 1865 ('Two days' diggings in Sutherlandshire', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol.5 refers... class title, or what?), back in the day when learned gentlemen visited sites such as this - in lieu of middle class, scruffy pseudo-antiquarian amateurs such as myself - the interim has unfortunately (apparently) resulted in a marked deterioration of the fabric. Nevertheless the ancient fortress remains a substantial circular structure, full of archaeological interest and boasting excellent sea views. Hey, an estate agent might well mention the great transport links, too.
Yeah, sadly the guard cell opening from the right hand flank of the entrance passage, upon the western arc, has lost a former 'domed' roof... and debris now accumulate upon the floor of the interior of the broch obscuring a 'well', 7ft deep and featuring steep access steps, to the south-east. However a mural passage concealing a staircase remains in situ, together with another cell, so all the requisite archetypal broch attributes are present and correct. According to E W Mackie (2007) the outer wall face, formed of handsome blocks of sandstone, rises to approx 2m. Which seemed about right. Furthermore the broch is associated with additional external structures reminiscent - well to me anyway - of The Broch of Gurness, these of much cruder construction so, presumably, later?
I sit upon the rotund wall top and watch the thick sea mist sweeping in from the North Sea (obviously) billow up and swirl around the immovable presence of the green hills flanking the entrance to Glen Loth, one such, incidentally, bearing the fine Lothbeg Bridge chambered cairn. Ever so slowly, with an almost glacial imperceptibility, the grey vapour tendrils falter and lose their grip, the hitherto reticent sun seizing the opportunity to break through the mantle to vanquish the overcast morning once and for all.
The landscape duly transformed, I decide to postpone my visit to Strath of Kildonan and head for Glen Loth after all to see if the summit cairn of Ben Uarie has any secrets it may want to pass on?
Superb 1880 photo of the excavated broch interior showing "entrance to stair-foot Chamber & stair, left and right respectively, also floor Cell and Well - with Querns, crushers, Cup-marked stone, Mortar and Central slab".