A towering titan
Mousa is unlike other broch towers – it has the smallest diameter of any, but its walls are far thicker than in others. Its massive build probably explains its excellent state of preservation, and suggests that this has always been an exceptionally tall broch.
We don’t know whether Mousa was the apogee of broch building, or if there were other broch towers of this height and strength that, for whatever reason, did not survive.
In the sagas
Mousa Broch is mentioned in two historical documents.
Egil’s Saga relates how, in AD 900, an eloping couple from Norway found themselves shipwrecked in Shetland, and sought refuge in ‘Morseyarborg’.
The Orkneyinga Saga recounts how, in AD 1153, a certain Erlend abducted Margaret, the mother of Earl Harold and took her to Morseyarborg ‘where everything had been made ready’. Earl Harold besieged the broch but found it ‘an unhandy place to get at’ for attack.
The Orkneyinga Saga mentions several of our properties in the Orkney and Shetland Islands, including:
Brochs are unique to Scotland. They consist of drystone roundhouses or towers formed of two concentric walls, with a narrow passage and small cells. A stone stair corkscrews between the inner and outer walls to the top.
There are about 500 surviving examples, found mostly in northern and western Scotland and the islands. Of these, about five stand close to their original height, Mousa being the tallest among them.