Located in a field on a hill, hidden from the single-track road that passes through the nearby village of Hallin, on the lovely Waternish peninsula of Skye, sits Dun Hallin broch. Kept company by a horse, eagles, and occasionally cows, Dun Hallin is one of as many as 571 brochs. These are circular, Iron Age, hollow-walled fortified stone structures found almost exclusively in Scotland, with the vast majority in the north of the country.
Dun Hallin, like most remaining brochs these days, is only a few meters high. But it was certainly much taller when it was in use. The broch on Mousa, in Shetland, is over 13 meters (roughly 43 feet) tall. And several other brochs, particularly those in isolated places like the island of Mousa, are still over 6.5 meters high, despite roughly 2,000 years of weathering and locals scavenging their stone for new structures and walls.
But I'm here to talk about the Dun Hallin. Of the handful of other brochs I've visited (including Dun Beag, also on Skye), Dun Hallin had the most lasting effect on me. Perhaps because there was an eagle or other large bird of prey perched somewhere inside it that flew away when I scrambled up the hill. Or maybe just because I stayed at the broch for quite a while, taking photos and soaking up the surrounding scenery despite the wind and rain (always the rain).
I don't quite know what it was that began by connection with this place. But I sat in this Iron Age fortified structure, on the Waternish Peninsula, sheltering from the wind and rain, just as its builders must have roughly 2,000 years ago. And as I crouched down, taking in the surrounding countryside with my eyes and camera, I leaned into the wall for support and felt the whole thing move, not a little, but inches, back and forth with every strong gust.
It's no wonder, then, that the broch is now shorter than it once was, with many of its stones strewn about the hill, some covered with moss and lichen, munching away at the fallen stones. But Dun Hallin is still here, still beautiful and still strong, millennia after it was birthed, while more modern structures have risen up and crumbled to dust several times over.
It's still here, at least in part, because it was built without mortar, so it can flex and sway, breathing with the years (good and bad) but not collapsing. It's held together by the collective cohesion of its parts and the dirt and plants that have grown up around it, that have come to be a part of its support system.
I sat with this fort, perhaps made by my ancestors, and felt it breathe, felt it ENDURE. It taught me a lot, and reminded me that nothing is truly permanent except decay and rebirth. But so long as you can bend and sway, so long as you have a helpful support system, you've got a good chance of hanging on for an interesting ride.