WORK to turn an Iron Age roundhouse into a tourist attraction has turned a corner thanks to heritage funding.

Ousdale broch, which lies near the Caithness-Sutherland border, underwent extensive excavations in the 1890s when a buttress was created to support the clearance of the interior. It is thought that this Victorian build has helped dislodge parts of the ancient structure, with some collapse taking place within recent months.

Now experts are to conduct detailed survey work at the site in a bid to preserve it and help more people learn about Scotland’s distant past. An appraisal will be carried out in January thanks to a £3800 grant from Historic Environment Scotland to the Caithness Broch Project, which is working to bring prehistory to life.

It is hoped that subsequent conservation work — which could cost a six figure sum — could be completed within a year, allowing the team to erect new signage and interpretation boards to help visitors understand the site, which is close to the A9.

Chairman and co-founder Kenneth McElroy said: “Most brochs are mounds of rubble, grass and earth, but Ousdale is impressive, with more features than any other, though it has never been well known.

“Within the last two years it has had a bit of collapse, which is probably because of excavations done 100 years ago by James Mackay. He built a buttress to hold the wall up where he was working — his building techniques have only lasted 100 years, whereas the broch is 2000 years old.”

Historic Environment Scotland said: “The Caithness Broch Project has been working hard to promote the Iron Age habitats of northern Scotland. We are pleased to be able to support them.”

Meanwhile, the Caithness Broch Project has unveiled a colourful range of enamel pins for history fans. Designed by Gina Ramsay of Orkney, they are available at