Tappoch Broch (sometimes known as Torwood Broch) stands hidden in a dense forest about two miles north east of the town of Denny. To reach it you take a minor road that turns off the A9 in the village of Torwood, which you then follow for a third of a mile before encountering a track on your left signposted as a pedestrian right of way. This is fairly rough, but driving a hundred yards or so along it brings you to an open area on the left, which is where you should leave your car. Opposite the parking area a wooden bridge marks the start of the path through the forest to the broch: while walking for a little under half a mile up the continuing track brings you to Torwood Castle.
The path to Tappoch Broch from the parking area is just over a third of a mile long, and climbs gently as it twists and turns though the dense growth of conifers. In places the path is so indistinct that a little care is needed to follow it on the ground, while in other places its course is only too obvious as the passage of boots and cycle tyres have churned it into a surface that can be very muddy after rain.
Tappoch Broch occupies the summit of the hill you climb to reach it, and your first glimpse of it through the trees is as a heather-clad mound. As you come a little closer the path leads you between heather banks to what initially appears to be a very odd structure, a bridge of stone laying across the path with a gap beneath. The "bridge" is in fact the lintel over the start of the entrance passage into the broch itself. The structure would once have been many metres higher than it is now, which leaves just the lintel of the passageway as the highest part of the broch on this side.
Following the path through the entrance passage brings you into the interior of the broch, which is lined by standing stone walls up to sufficient height to be impressive. In many ways, however, the best way to appreciate the broch is by walking up the mound either side of the entrance passage, which leads to a path running round what is now the upper surface of the wall of the broch.
From here the broch appears to have been constructed by someone digging out the summit of the hill and lining their excavation with stones. This is a misleading impression. The broch was excavated in 1864 by digging into what had previously simply been a mound on top of the hill. What emerged was an unusual lowland example of a structure found much more frequently in the north and north west of Scotland: the best preserved example is Mousa Broch, on Shetland. Their exact role is debatable, but brochs combined features of fortified house and status symbol, and must have taken a lot of skill and labour to construct.
When originally built, in the last century or two BC or the first century or two AD, Tappoch Broch would have formed a truncated tapering cylinder (think "cooling tower" and you are not far wrong) of anything up to 10m or more in height. The walls are massively thick (nearly 7m thick at the site of the entrance passage) and built from two thicknesses of dry stone walling with the inner and outer faces linked together at frequent intervals to ensure strength and stability. Air circulated between the outer and inner walls. The sheer scale of Tappoch Broch when it was built is hard to imagine when looking at its remains today, but there are some features still in evidence which help build a mental picture. The length of the entrance passage is one. Another can be found on the right hand side of the broch when looked at from the entrance. Here you can find a large circular cavity created within the thickness of the wall which would have provided the residents with storage or accommodation.
Perhaps the most striking feature of Tappoch Broch today is the incredibly well preserved "intramural staircase". Brochs usually allowed access between different levels by means of staircases set within the gap between the inner and outer layers of the walls. A double layered lintel on the left side of the broch when viewed from the entrance leads through to the base of a set of steps up between the walls. Today this simply brings you out onto the top of the mound which still surrounds the broch: it would once have continued upwards to the upper part of the broch, perhaps to the walltop as at Mousa Broch.
Other features of interest at Tappoch Broch are the signs of a possible ditch and embankment around it, perhaps an indication of a surrounding settlement as found at a number of brochs including Broch of Gurness on Orkney. One source also refers to a carved stone immediately inside the entrance of the broch, though we failed to spot it on our visit