THE YEAR of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017 will be a “defining year” for an ambitious project to bring the prehistoric legacy of Caithness in the far north of Scotland to life with a world heritage Iron Age broch site and visitor attraction.

The year-long Caithness Broch Festival, backed by The National as media partner, will be working with the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (Orca) and University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Archaeology Institute to put on a whole host of archaeological projects, events and investigations designed to give the public a chance to get involved.

Kenneth McElroy, chairman of the Caithness Broch Project, said: “This year is going to be a defining year for Caithness Broch Project. We’re planning a year-long Caithness Broch Festival, involving a number of archaeological projects and investigations, all designed to give the public the opportunity to get involved with their heritage.

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“We’ll be looking at a number of broch sites in Caithness alongside Orca and the UHI’s Archaeology Institute, including Thing’s Va, which is both a broch and the site of a former Norse meeting place – perhaps a parliament – so a really exciting archaeological site. We’ll be carrying out a number of different archaeological exercises, including field-walking, geophysics and test-pitting, and inviting schools in the area to get involved in these activities, too.”

In May, the project will be unveiling a Lego model of an Iron Age roundhouse commissioned by the Caithness Broch Project to help educate schoolchildren and be put on display in Caithness Horizons Museum.

McElroy added: “We are also really excited to unveil our Brick to The Past-built Lego Broch – this will be a fun educational resource and we can use it to help children, and big kids too, to understand a bit more about brochs and ancient life. Caithness Horizons Museum will be leading the educational outreach programme for this, and we look forward to seeing the broch on display in their gallery as part of a wider broch exhibition.

“We’ll also be organising walks, talks and other activities — including ‘Brochtoberfest’, a celebration of all things Broch in October.”

These events will help raise awareness and the £1 million of funding needed by the Caithness Broch Project to recreate a 13m-high drystone tower with replica furniture a tourist centre and a neighbouring workshop where visitors will learn how the broch was created.

Caithness has more than 180 brochs, more than anywhere else in Scotland, but most of them have been left to crumble.

A spokesman for the UHI Archaeology Institute said: “The Caithness Broch Festival will provide hands-on training and memorable experiences in field archaeology to the local community through a number of archaeological events at broch sites across the Caithness region: Bruan Broch near Lybster, Rattar in Scarfskerry and Thing’s Va near Scrabster.

“Training will encompass the whole archaeological process, from finding objects through fieldwalking and excavation, to surveying, mapping, processing, reporting and displaying the results in Caithness Horizons through a series of workshops and drawing on field experiences.

“The project provides a spring board for community-led investigations, training and engagement with heritage centred on the story of Caithness brochs. The Caithness Broch Project is a grassroots archaeological organisation which aims to promote Caithness as a viable heritage tourism destination. Its ultimate aim is to build a replica broch, which would serve as a major archaeological experiment and first-class visitor attraction.

“The fieldwork aspect of the project is due to commence in April 2017. Archaeological events will run throughout the year, culminating in an exhibition at Caithness Horizons in early 2018.”

If you would like to get involved in the year-long festival email the team at caithnessbrochproject@gmail.com.