Building a broch
Bent double, lashed with freezing horizontal rain, and raking around in someone's 2,000 year-old rubbish. Perhaps not normally where you might expect to find inspiration, but in 2011, while excavating Nybster Broch in Caithness - I realised that I found archaeology tremendously exciting and enjoyable.
As well as archaeology, I had developed an interest in tourism, largely thanks to my time served in numerous bars and restaurants. This allowed me to gain, first-hand, an appreciation of the importance of tourism to not only Caithness, but to Scotland, too.
I believe that archaeology and tourism will play an even more important part in the future of Caithness, my home county. Caithness is a rural, isolated and economically fragile area, suffering from a number of social issues, and a lack of opportunities. Most worryingly, though, is the anticipated closure of Dounreay, the local nuclear power plant, which is expected to close completely sometime around 2030. Dounreay employs roughly 10% of the population of Caithness, so its closure will have serious repercussions for the county.
In order to offset some of these issues, I co-founded Caithness Broch Project with Iain MacLean in 2013. The Project utilises the rich archaeological landscape of Caithness, and in particular its many broch sites, to help promote the county as a heritage tourism destination, providing a sustainable avenue for economic stability and growth.
Our ultimate aim is to put Caithness on the map, and we aim to do this through something that hasn't been done in 2000 years - we want to build an Iron Age 'broch'. This will serve as a major archaeological experiment, an unmissable tourist attraction, a vivid, 'living history' learning experience, and also as a source of pride for the local community.
While working towards this goal, we have also been busy within the local community raising awareness and interest in the archaeology of Caithness. We have carried out numerous projects and events, including colouring-in competitions, school visits, archaeological surveys and excavations, walks, talks, stone-carving workshops and an exhibition featuring a 10,000 piece Lego broch!
We've tried to present archaeology in an exciting way - in a style that is engaging and accessible. I think key to this has been our use of social media: often we are quite irreverent, but always informative, and we now have a modest following.
Caithness is small and relatively unknown part of the world, but it is my part of the world - I hope that through the Caithness Broch Project, we can help to make it an even more exciting and enjoyable place for everyone.