ENCOMPASSED by the majestic mountains of Sutherland, and across the water from the world-famous Orkney, lies the expansive plains of Caithness. Caithness, lacking the exciting geography of its mainland neighbour, or the international renown of Skara Brae, has arguably been somewhat glossed over in terms of tourism.

However, a small but ambitious, eager and enthusiastic band of volunteers have been working to change this. Since 2013, archaeological charity Caithness Broch Project have been highlighting the rich archaeological landscape of the county, and, in particular, its many broch sites.

Brochs – huge, imposing drystone towers built during the Iron Age – are unique to Scotland, and should be celebrated with kilts and haggis as a true Scottish icons.

There are between 400-500 brochs in Scotland (depending on your view of what a broch is, but we won’t have time for semantics and taxonomy today), and around 200 of these structures can be found in Caithness – surely, in this case, Caithness deserves the epithet of the "Home of the Broch".

Caithness Broch Project understand this, but also understand the fragility of the local area. Dounreay, the nuclear power plan which has provided employment and security for so many, for so long, is winding down. The effects of its closure may quite well be disastrous for the county – that’s unless action is taken now.

And so, CBP have an ambitious vision for Caithness, which may help to mitigate such unforgiving circumstances – the construction of a replica broch. This would which would serve as a major archaeological experiment; vivid "living history" learning experience and, perhaps most importantly, an iconic and unmissable tourist attraction – not only for Caithness, but for Scotland.

In 2018 this project took several steps forward. We held a "broch symposium" at Historic Environment’s Scotland Engine Shed in Stirling, attracting around 30 archaeologists and heritage professionals from across the UK, to refine and hone our broch design.

From this CBP invited 10 Scottish architect practices to tender for the project brief phase of the replica broch and visitor centre. We selected Hoskins Architects, a leading architectural practice with studios in Glasgow and Berlin, and whose portfolio includes Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre, the National Museum of Scotland and World Museum Vienna. The architects will be joined by Paul Jardine of Jura Consultants in Edinburgh, one of the UK’s leading management consultancies specialising in the heritage sector.

So, we’re now in a good position to develop our exciting and ambitious project. The next steps involve further consultation, architectural design, and, perhaps most importantly – where to build the broch.

The project design brief, a document crucial to the progressing of the project, will help to further inform all of these aspects. It does, however, cost money to enact such a project. So far we have managed to raise over £5000 thanks to a collaboration with the creators of Rock Rose Gin, Dunnet Bay Distillery – we bottled a limited edition Broch Rose Gin, inspired by archaeological finds from broch sites throughout Scotland – and we can’t thank them enough for their generosity and belief in our project.

In addition to that, we managed to raise £5000 in just five days through a crowdfunding appeal. This was a wonderful surprise, but I think reflects the public desire for our project to succeed. Ours has a strong level of support from the local community, but has also managed to pique interest from further afield – the Caithness Broch Project currently has members from America, Hungary, Germany, Switzerland and New Zealand.

We are still pushing forward with our crowdfunder: we only need to raise a little less than £8000 to reach our "stretch target", for the full costs of the project design brief.

If you would like to donate, on the link below we would be very grateful. You could help breathe life into an ancient icon of Scotland, and make Caithness an even more special place for everyone.

Donate at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/lets-build-a-broch