Mousa Broch

Mousa Broch

Far north of the Scottish mainland, in the far-flung Shetland Isles, sits one of the best-preserved brochs in history. Mousa Broch is a fantastic attraction to your Shetland Isles vacation, with plenty of historical importance, amazing views, and a vibrant atmosphere. It’s an excellent way to attune with the Iron Age (Scotland over 2000 years ago) and one of the only places in Scotland where you can still do so.

If climbing to the top of Mousa Broch and learning about Norse sagas is your idea of fun, then Mousa Broch is for you! We’ll cover everything you need to know about the tallest broch in Scotland, including its history, how to get there, and the top attractions to look forward to while you’re there. Let’s dive right into it.

History of Mousa Broch


Mousa Broch is one of the 500 broch towers in Scotland, built sometime 2000 years ago during the Iron Age. While many have been lost to time, Mousa Broch has shorter and thicker walls. This combination has made it the tallest broch you can see today, with the option to ascend to the top and see the beautiful views of the Mousa Sound.

The community that built Mousa Broch is still unknown, but it’s a fantastic relic with features throughout history. It’s featured in Orkney’s Norse sagas, including Egil’s Saga and Orkneyinga Saga and encountered by a few researchers later.

In 1774, for example, the Island of Mousa was visited by George Low, who provided the very first photos of Mousa Broch (which looks remarkably similar to the modern day). It was also written about by notable Scottish antiquarians and historians, including Sir Walter Scott and Samuel Hibbert, in the 1810s, with the former commenting that Mousa Broch was “a Pictish fortress, the most entire probably in the world.”

Later, between 1852 and 1866, Sir Henry Dryden began the most accurate survey of the Shetland broch. Today, Mousa Broch is now managed by Historic Scotland and is a popular site for visitors who want to enjoy one of the best-preserved broch towers in Scotland.

Mousa Broch in Folklore

Mousa Broch has been one of the constants throughout Shetland’s history, so it’s unsurprising that the broch features in at least two Norse sagas.

In Egil’s Saga, Mousa Broch acts as a refuge for an eloping couple who escaped from Norway but became shipwrecked on the Shetland coast. In the saga, Mousa Broch is called ‘Morseyarborg’, but its location and prominence point to Mousa Broch.

In the Orkneyinga Saga, which recounts events from 1153, an Erlender abducts Mother Magaret of Earl Harold and takes her to Mousa Broch. The Early besieged the broch in the story but found it a difficult place to attack.

Through historical context and mentions of nearby landmarks, Mousa Broch is a likely contender for both these stories.

How to Get to Mousa Broch

Mousa Broch is located on the Island of Mousa, one of the southernmost of the Shetland Isles. The island is uninhabited, so planning is required to reach out to anyone interested in visiting the broch.

One of the only ways to reach the island is from Sandwick, which sits around 14 miles south of Lerwick. From Sandwich, a variety of boats travel across the Mousa Sound to this remote island at various prices.

At the Sandsyre pier, you can learn about life on Mousa Island at the interpretive centre before catching a ferry ride to Mousa Island. No booking is required for the voyage, but Mousa boat daily trips can be cancelled due to inclement weather.

Prices for adult tickets cost £18, while child tickets (5 – 16) cost £8. Prices may vary from year to year. Please check out the Mousa Island Website for more information.

Best Time to Visit Mousa Broch

The best time to visit Mousa Broch is undoubtedly the summer season. While many attractions within Scotland become overwhelmed with tourists during summer, only a few treks to the Shetland Isles. Mousa Broch often only has ferries that travel between the Shetland Isles during the peak tourist season, so don’t expect to visit the uninhabited island during the winter.

The site is open between April and September, so plan your trips accordingly.

Top Things to Do at Mousa Broch

Once you’ve reached the island and seen the Mousa Broch site, prepare to dive back in time at a broch tower that’s survived intact far better than hundreds of others. Here are the top things you can enjoy during your visit to Mousa Broch, Shetland:

Sit in the Central Space of Mousa Broch

Sit in Mousa Broch

Once you approach the imposing 13-metre tall broch tower, find the single entrance that leads inside. Taking your first steps into the entrance passage feels like stepping back 2000 years, with the broch interior remarkably well-preserved. The sounds of seabirds and ocean echo down the two concentric walls of the broch, giving the space an ethereal presence.

Sitting on the stones within the broch lets you appreciate the craftsmanship of the building, with various levels and alcoves where items were once likely kept.

Climb up the Staircase to the Top

Staircase to the Top

The highlight of this Pictish fortress is the opportunity to climb up the internal staircase of the round tower and reach the top. Standing on the space between the two concentric walls of Mousa Broch, you’re granted a commanding view of the space around you. It’s easy to imagine Scottish and Norse settlers looking out from the tower to spy on threats from the Sound of Mousa.

If you’re looking for the best pictures to take during your visit, climb up from the floor level and brave the top of the only broch you can ascend so freely.

Go for a Walk Along the Mousa Broch Nature Reserve

Walk along Mousa Broch Nature Reserve

Not only does the Island of Mousa hold the Mousa Broch, but it’s also a national nature reserve that boasts an incredible variety of birds and sea life. Birders can look forward to the colony of storm petrels that call Mousa their home, with over 8% of the British population found here. You can see soaring through the sky as it gets dark or on incredibly cloudy days.

In addition to storm petrels, you can look forward to great skuas, oystercatchers, and black guillemots. Lazing on the beaches of Mousa, you’ll also be able to see grey seals too.

See More Historical Remains

Historical Remains

The Mousa Broch isn’t the only unique historical site you can see while on the island. There are several others which date back to the 1700s.

The Haa are a set of remains that once belonged to a Lerwick merchant named James Pyper. While the home no longer remains standing, you can see the outline of where it once granted beautiful views over the Sound.

As you arrive at one of the projecting stone piers at Mousa Island, you’ll likely see the Ham House – once a fishing house for local fishermen that dates back to the 1700s.

Admire Shetland’s Coastal Views

Shetland Coastal Views

Once you’ve spotted some storm petrels (some of which you can find inhabited within the broch tower), why not go for a coastal stroll? Taking a walk around the Island of Mousa’s uninhabited shores is one of the best wilderness experiences you can look forward to, with plenty of dramatic coastline views and relaxing harbour seals.

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