The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Caisteal na Coille



Visited: June 17, 2019

North of Loch Bora, on the lip of a gorge on the Blackwater River, stands a hidden gem of a broch, Caisteal na Coille, sometimes dubbed 'Castle Cole'. For the determined walker it would be possible to set out from the same starting point as for Carrol Broch broch. But this would mean a round trip of some 28 kilometres.

I decided to investigate a shorter alternative by driving through Brora where, immediately north of the River Brora, a minor road signposted 'Balnacoil' heads northwest, hugging the eastern shore of Loch Brora for 13 kilometres (8 miles). Your target is a left-hand bend on the road from which an estate road (marked by two prominent boulders, one on either side) heads to the right into a patch of woodland. There may be space for verge parking for a couple of cars here. If not, you should be able to park close to the bridge (red marker) over the River Brora, 700 metres farther on.

The estate road (yellow track on the map below) provides easy walking for just under 4 kilometres, by which time you should be level with the broch (white marker on map).

As you near your target, you will see ahead a small stand of a dozen or so mature trees just to the right of the track. By now you will see the broch and must make a decision on the best point to leave the track and start crossing towards the broch. I found no evidence of any footpath leading from the road to the broch and surmise that this is simply because it is so rarely visited.

Now comes the hard bit, crossing some 300 metres of blanket bog, firstly downhill, followed by a climb up to the mound supporting the broch. But the effort is certainly worth it ...

Caisteal na Coille stands within an almost level grassy platform on the summit of a small hill that drops vertically into the valley of the Black Water, the northern tributary of the River Brora. The broch is constructed from rectangular sandstone slabs rising to at least a dozen courses at the entrance and twenty or more on its eastern side. On the western flank, which falls down to the river as a cliff, the walling is rudimentary (unless, of course, it was never more than a low boundary wall, since an approach from that quarter would be deemed impossible?)

The entrance is capped by a massive, roughly triangular lintel not dissimilar to those at Dun Dornaigil in Sutherland and Caisteal Grugaig in Glenelg, and leads to an entrance passage almost four metres long. To the east of the entrance lies a large guard cell, now uncapped, and the rampart beyond it shows indications of an intramural gallery. A striking feature of the internal walls of Caisteal na Coille is the number of cupboard recesses on display.

This broch is very much one for the connaisseur, and a visit to it is an experience to be treasured.

Further information relating to this structure can be viewed on the Canmore website.
LesHamilton Posted by LesHamilton
2nd July 2019ce
Edited 9th September 2019ce

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