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Cummi Howe

Broch (Destroyed)

<b>Cummi Howe</b>Posted by widefordImage © wideford
Also known as:
  • Cumminess
  • Cummina Howe
  • Cummany Howe
  • Gamm:sea
  • Gimme's Howe

Nearest Town:Stromness (3km WSW)
OS Ref (GB):   HY28241039 / Sheet: 6
Latitude:58° 58' 29.51" N
Longitude:   3° 14' 53.86" W

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8 posts
Corn Hillock Chambered Cairn

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<b>Cummi Howe</b>Posted by wideford <b>Cummi Howe</b>Posted by wideford <b>Cummi Howe</b>Posted by wideford <b>Cummi Howe</b>Posted by wideford <b>Cummi Howe</b>Posted by wideford <b>Cummi Howe</b>Posted by wideford <b>Cummi Howe</b>Posted by wideford <b>Cummi Howe</b>Posted by wideford <b>Cummi Howe</b>Posted by wideford <b>Cummi Howe</b>Posted by wideford <b>Cummi Howe</b>Posted by wideford <b>Cummi Howe</b>Posted by wideford <b>Cummi Howe</b>Posted by wideford


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The mound is outside of the field fence, an unenclosure. Coming from Unstan I thought of going along the coastline but I reckon Dead Sand could well be quicksands, and the land beyond looked patchy - also I wasn't sure where the mound lay in relation to the fields where kie were grazing. Instead I decided to go via Corn Hillock, taking the track that goes down to the north end of Cumminess Bay. Walk the shore as the clifftops though low are broken up in places. The planticru on the landward side is out of proportion to the surviving mound, and I wonder if has a more direct connection to earlier features than simple re-use of stones. Coming to the exposed fraction of the broch the cutting looks way too regular for erosion by sea. There is an area at the front of the cut covered by stones that could either have come from the wall or might possibly be a floor exposed by erosion. Standing above the wall still present gives the impression that it is only faintly curved near the mound's periphery and then sweeps in where it is more fragmented, and then following on there are a few slabs (rather than blocks) in a line above the level of the wall top. Walked the grassy mound top directly behind the wall and found myself stumbling over hidden stones - the smal structure ?? - so watch your step there. Then in front of you there's a big depression, a rounded hollow almost down to 'ground level', open seaward, that is probably an ovoid stroke lens-shaped area like those you'd expect between an outer broch wall and the tower. At the back can be seen just two courses of a wall, just two stones with another one a few inches away barely peeping out. Another, say, six inches to thesouth and there's a brown stone behind a grassy veil and and another couple of feet another similar. Not much of a wall line but its there [just now I'm reminded (for the brown stones) of the two near the top of Howie o' Backland in Deerness]. A couple of stones at the bottom of the hollow may or may not be loose. Between the mound and the shore the ground is flagstone with a slight incline and it is obvious that the broch has been built straight onto the rocks. Unlike Inganess and Berstane there is no cliff beneath, so it must have stood further back from the coastline than them. Near the base the odd brown stone can be seen, these being more obvious and frequent near the cut. If the mound has always been about its present height then the broch can never have been much more than three metres, perhaps four metres at most. So my thinking is more central tower than high tower.
I wonder if this entire stretch of coast could actually have once been called Gammi Sea, from the Knowe of Gemashowe (lost but near the Hall of Ireland) through Cummi Ness and the knowes of Gimme's Howe to [or including] Gorrie Knowe just north of here.
wideford Posted by wideford
29th May 2009ce

This broch was formerly within sight of the Howe which lay on the hill the other side of the water (just past the RH edge of the photo). The mound to the south, Corn Hillock, is now considered as of similar nature, giving a pair of brochs as seen elsewhere in Orkney. wideford Posted by wideford
24th February 2004ce
Edited 20th May 2009ce


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Hedges regards the semi-circular structure with passage as perhaps Pictish wideford Posted by wideford
24th February 2010ce

Highly unusual for us not to know the overall dimensions of a broch - if I'd known I'd 'ave done it mi sen. So this is likely the cairn below Cumminess mentioned on 1907. Described as amorphous, however viewed from several directions it supplies the standard broch profile even if most of the west side has been lost to the sea and a planty creugh [also planti-crû or planticru, used to shelter young plants] built into the east. A few feet south of the highest surviving point of the mound is a 2m high cut (mound top less than a metre higher if that) measuring 25m by 14m is seen extending out to the seaward side. A curving broch wall 6m in length (in 1966 leastways) survives to eight courses of middling blocks in the western half of its northern edge, with more walling and slabs carrying on to the eastern end. Opinion is undecided as to what feature this represents - outer wall-face [of the tower presumably], intra-mural cell or a gallery's inner face. In 1966 Ordance Survey believed there might be further traces of this wall to the north. Though the cut is ascribed to coastal erosion I would not rule out an unrecorded trench (or possibly even accidental survival of an original space) because it is such a regular shape. Sometime between 1846 and 1966 other features by here - consisting of a small structure and a very short passage - have either been lost or subsumed by vegetation. The passage, about 0.6m long and 1.12m in height, "adjoined" the seaward end of the wall. This led into a structure (perhaps later in date) 3m N/S by 2.4m E/W shaped like part of a circle.
Though this is unlikely to be a broch settlement mention should be made of Gorrie Knowe between here and the Brig o'Waithe. HY21SE 76 at HY28091059 appears in the Orkney Name Book as a house but the site is a circular/sub-oval structure originally 10m across surviving to three courses as a curving wall fragment. And given that The Howe had a Viking Era settlement an aerial survey found two rectangular cropmarks, HY21SE 101 at HY28101061, not yet located on the ground.
wideford Posted by wideford
24th February 2007ce
Edited 29th May 2009ce

Latest posts for Cummi Howe

Corn Hillock (Chambered Cairn) — Fieldnotes

The fieldgate at the south had barbed wire either side of the top and the way there is spongy - so go through the farm. A small area of stones exposed in the eastern side has no order apparent unless the top few are a real line.

Finally able to have a good look at the cut in the northern end (no compass so, mound very roughly aligned with long axis NS but probably only following [present] cliff edge). Not even superficially a quarry, and Orkney has some decidedly rum bits mapped as this. Slightly more circular than rectangular when you're in it. Not sure if the back is a continuous arc, more like angled stone lines either side. And if these are a wall still unsure if truly curved or straight walls distorted by erosion. Probably artefact of unrecorded prior excavation or else resulting from digging out circular feature such as a round cairn

What I thought to be a decorated stone is more likely to be natural. Behind the cut is the reported 15m depression that has led to its identification as a possible broch. Then I was on top of the cut and not far from this is an orthostat seen from the coast. And it is part of a feature highly reminiscent of that at the top end of the round cairn inserted into Head of Work, which Davidson and Henshall contend is likely the top of a chamber. even if this is incorrect it is definitely nothing a Brochaholic would accept as to do with a roundhouse. What you first note are two orthostats of a size on order with that at the top of the cut - maybe half-a-metre or so high - and three feet across the pair, with a jumble of flat stones of various sizes tumbled in front for about five feet and layered. If these are the backstops the chamber is roughly aligned EW and running at right angles to the long axis- so unlike the Head of Work in this respect too. On closer inspection there are further orthostats a couple of inches behind the 'backstops', though rather than something like packing these may be more of the backstops themselves heavily fragmented, indicating depth to my mind.

There's the top of a long rectangular stone that looks to form most of the southern edge, with a longitudinal split that indicated it goes down a fair piece - to the feature's floor perhaps. There are several other thick stones exposed, flat on the mound but partially buried nevertheless. Two of these solidly sunken near the eastern side, not flat but the tops of probable orthostats. These look to be at right angles to each other. Though they are exposed two or three inches away one from another they could well form a real pair under the earth.
wideford Posted by wideford
17th September 2009ce

Corn Hillock (Chambered Cairn) — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>Corn Hillock</b>Posted by wideford<b>Corn Hillock</b>Posted by wideford<b>Corn Hillock</b>Posted by wideford<b>Corn Hillock</b>Posted by wideford<b>Corn Hillock</b>Posted by wideford wideford Posted by wideford
26th May 2009ce

Corn Hillock (Chambered Cairn) — Fieldnotes

From the hill above the Mill of Ireland this and Cummi Howe broch and The Cairns 'Danish fort'/castle look equidistant - though it is 8m from the cliff edge the other sites could have suffered more erosion, one tideswept and the other ? subject to undercutting - and there were three brochs on the other side of the water too. From the road the hollow appears less central. Short of Outbrecks I followed the track down to the north end of Cumminess Bay. There is a gate into the NW corner of the field containing Corn Hillock but my main purpose was to see the known broch, so as yet I have only viewed it from the coastal fence. At this end of the bay there is a rather lage area covered by loose large stone blocks of fairly regular shape that have all the appearance of being artificial, which made me think of the the stones dumped into the sea from the Work Broch in St.Ola (and from whatever lay by/under St.Nicholas Church in Holm). Though I then walked along the low clifftop it is a little intermittent and I would suggest going along the shore mostly. It simply has not the feel of a broch in my mind. Only a few stones can be seen in the coastal side until you approach the north end, where I noticed what seems to be an overgrown trench (either excavated or for sheltering stock I think) with various sorts of stone around the likely sides. These are mostly horizontal slabs, perhaps evidence of drystane walling - but I wish I had gone in to inspect as my images show up on the southern end a large ? orthostat and low down on the northern end a rectangular sandstone block that may have an incised line around the face of it. The orthostat's position is an unlikely one in a broch (my hazard would be pre or post "Broch Age") and the block resembles ones I connect with early kirks (there is one in a wall by Long Howe that has to come from St.Ninian's Chapel and another in the Sands of Wideford bridge I take to have come from Essonquoy). Best guess from me is that Corn Hillock is the result of two periods of construction. wideford Posted by wideford
26th May 2009ce

Corn Hillock (Chambered Cairn) — Miscellaneous

This grassy mound (corn here means 'cows'), RCAHMS record no. HY21SE 99, does not appear to have had specific mention prior to the 1998 coastal survey (assuming the cairn below Cumminess referred to in 1907 is Cummi Howe broch). It is some 33m by 20m and 1.6m in height. They found stone concentrations at various places and some protruding earthfast stones, also evidence of quarrying about the edge. EASE hazards that it is the remains of some kind of settlement, perhaps a broch because of an apparent 15m central hollow. wideford Posted by wideford
26th May 2009ce