Brotchie’s steading, is a ruined croft house just to the West of Dunnet Church. It originally became the focus of archaeological interest because structural members (cruck blades) in one of the rooms were known to have been formed from a pair of whale mandibles, probably from a fin or blue whale. These are presently housed in the Dunnet Bay Visitor Centre.
An excavation by Headland Archaeology was undertaken to examine the role of whale bones as a construction material in Caithness croft houses but it quickly became apparent that the 19th/20th century croft house sits on a much older and extensive archaeological site.
Brotchie's steading facing NE showing the depth of stratigraphy
Trial trenching has shown that the bank upon which Brotchie’s steading sits is largely man-made and part of an extensive settlement mound that possibly includes a ruined broch. The earliest deposits excavated were from an occupation surface and material from this provided a date in the range 390-170BC. At the North end of the site a thick layer of stone rubble associated with a clay and stone-lined pit and two red deer antler picks was identified. Radiocarbon dating showed these to be from the 1st-3rd centuries AD. The overlying strata supported by a sequence of radiocarbon dates and datable finds indicate that the site was also a focus of human activity in the 5th, 13th and 15th centuries AD up until the early 20th century. While the full extent of the site is currently unknown the knoll upon which Dunnet Church now sits would appear to form a part of a major archaeological site that has seen almost continuous, or at least regular, occupation for over two millennia.