Graham Ritchie's "Brochs of Scotland" has been the definitive short guide to Scottish brochs since it was first published in 1988, and it remains so with this welcome reprinting of the second edition.
There are some 500 brochs scattered across Scotland, especially (but not exclusively) across the north and west of the country. Built in the last couple of centuries BC and the first couple of centuries AD they combine features of fort, fortified house, and status symbol, and could easily have served different purposes in different places and at different times.
In his book, Graham Ritchie takes a scholarly but accessible look at Scotland's brochs. The text is brought to life by excellent black and white photography, much of it from the archives of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, and some of it from the air, which is by far the best way of appreciating the layout of many surviving brochs. There are also a number of drawings and plans, which again perfectly complement the text. This is a book you can read from cover to cover in a couple of hours, yet it is also one you will want to refer back to time and again. Its compact size makes it an ideal companion for anyone wanting to explore brochs on the ground: a process greatly assisted by the detailed gazetteer of over thirty of the best brochs to visit in the rear of the book.
The book begins with a look at brochs themselves, when they were built, by whom, and the different types and sizes which are found. It goes on to look at the development of brochs and their relationship to the types of structures which preceded them and followed them. Three central chapters look at brochs in Shetland; in Orkney and Caithness; and in Skye and the Western Isles.
The main body of the book concludes with a fascinating chapter on "what brochs are not". This addresses a series of popular myths developed by early travellers and antiquarians, who often classified brochs as Pictish towers, or Viking lookouts, or defences against Roman invasion, or even as evidence of immigration from Sardinia, whose stone "nuraghi" were thought by some to be superficially similar to brochs.