This site has long intrigued me. A broch... here in the dark badlands of South Lanarkshire? Well... why not? After all... on my short twenty minute journey to the site of Calla Broch I drove past a henge, a Norman Motte, the oldest roofed building in Scotland, the late Upper Paleolithic site at Howburn, an important roman crossroads, a roman fortlet and a field with two emus in it.
The broch site is just that... just a site, A stump.. but it is a beautifully elevated platform with stunning views to Tinto, Quothquan Law and within sight of the massive roman complex at Castledykes by Ravenstruther. It is thought that the legions had a hand in bringing this mighty structure crashing down at the end of the first century.
The broch was known locally as "the quarry" for centuries and has provided the drystane dykes for many of the fields here. The site itself has intact walling most of the way round, but it is just well concealed under turf, deep undergrowth and fallen trees.
A quiet site with little to catch your eye. There are some large blocks of worked and hewn masonry scattered at the edge of the platform and here and there where you can find the curtain wall's edge, it is robust and stands quite a few courses in height.
The site has never really been excavated. Chatting with a local archaeologist about it a few years back, he described the broch as having been toppled into itself. The resultant heap was then quarried over centuries and then the area around the broch heap was planted with conifers and Beech. Many of these old trees have blown down around the edges of the broch platform and remain uncleared. It would take an army to clear this place in order to let any excavation take place. A very limited dig some years ago uncovered a couple of pieces of cannel coal.
I cross a field of sheep in the direction of a small forest built upon a hillock only 274 m high, but still offering a defensive position as much of the land around is flat and falls away to the W. I find a gate through the electric fence (thankfully!) and scrabble through dense undergrowth and many felled trees. Unfortunately the remains of this broch are just that- much destroyed. There are remains of a moss covered wall section at the NNE and four very large stones on the NW side, some as large as 1.5 m long. But this site is covered in long grass and has also been forested and then harvested without clearing, so it’s very difficult to get an overview of this site.
RCAHMS description from 1978;
Some slight remains of a broch are situated 650m S of Calla farmhouse on a low rocky knoll (274m OD) at the SE end of Calla Bank. In 1972, only the tops of a few stones could be seen protruding through the long grass that covers the site. The plan, however, shows the features that were visible in 1952, when the site was discovered and planned by the RCAHMS. At that time the site, which has long been known locally as the 'old quarry', was already in a dilapidated condition, both the broch wall and its enclosing wall being reduced to low grass-grown stony banks. Nevertheless, by clearing back the turf and rubble from a number of facing-stones, it was possible to establish that the broch measured about 11.6m in diameter within a wall varying from 4.9m to 5.8m in thickness. Excavation would be required to establish the position of the entrance and of any intra- mural structures.
The broch stands within an oval enclosure formed by a wall, of which two long stretches of the outer face survive on the NW and SE respectively, but there are no visible indications of the thickness of the wall or of the location of the entrance. The outer facing-stones are set at a distance from the broch wall of as little as 4.0m on the SSE and as much as 12.2m on the N.
Three relics found at the time of the original survey are now in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS). They are: (i) a roughly circular piece of sandstone, 56mm by 50mm and 14mm thick; (ii) a piece of cannel coal, 106mm by 80mm and 10mm thick, with an incomplete hour-glass perforation near the centre; and (iii) a rough disc of cannel-coal, 25mm by 23mm and 6mm thick, with an hour-glass perforation near the centre.