Colonsay, Dun Eibhinn

Fort

Site Name Colonsay, Dun Eibhinn

Classification Fort

Canmore ID 37904

Site Number NR39SE 3

NGR NR 3822 9439

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Colonsay And Oronsay
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NR39SE 3 3822 9439

(NR 3820 9437) Dun Eibhne (NR)

OS 6" map (1900)

The well-preserved remains of a possibly multi- vallate fort which occupies a high debris-strewn hill rising from boggy land. The ruined, but strongly-built inner wall surrounds the flat top of the hill, on which are traces of huts, and has a narrow entrance in the NE now somewhat altered and robbed.

The other walls of the fort (not shown on plan) lie below the crest of the hill and have been heavily robbed for the building of a probably medieval settlement at the foot of the hill. A rectangular depression in the lee of the SW wall of the interior may also be medieval and this may be the explanation for a reference to "the Lord of of Dunevin in Colonsay" on an early 16th century tombstone on Iona.

The name is given as Dun Evan by Grieve, but as Dun Eibhinn (with or without the accent) by the other authorities, Loder explaining it as "The Fort of Eyvind", a Norse personal name.

Name Book 1878; S Grieve 1923; J de V Loder 1935; S Piggott and C M Piggott 1948.

NR 3822 9440: Dun Eibhinn - a dun measuring 20.0m NE- SW by 18.0m within the grass-covered tumbled remains of a wall which, although having no surviving inner facing stones, must have been as much as 4.0m thick from the evidence of the outer face which is traceable throughout. Three rectangular buildings are visible in the interior and appear to have been built on top of collapsed wall material. The entrance to the dun was clearly in the NE where there is a 2.0m wide gap in the wall and several long stones which may have been associated with a doorway. The later occupation was apparently approached by way of a terrace and entrance on the SE. The suggested outer walls of the dun, around two small terraces well down the slope on the SE side, seem to be later enclosure banks similar to others that occur in the vicinity.

There is much evidence later habitation at the foot of the hill where there are overgrown building foundations and field dykes but these cannot be certainly described as medieval.

Surveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (BS), 9 April 1974.

This fort occupies a detached rocky knoll, some 15m high, situated in the central massif of Colonsay in a position which

commands extensive views over the southern part of the island.

The defences comprise two walls, of which the inner follows the perimeter of the summit to enclose an area

measuring some 20m by 18m; on all sides except the NW it is accompanied by an outer wall, built, some 6.5m below it,

along the edge of a natural terrace. The outer face of the summit wall is still visible for much of its circuit, standing to a

height of 0.8m in six courses on the NW flank; the lowest courses of facing-stones.are set as much as 3.3m below the

level of the interior, giving an indication of the impressive height of the original wall-face. Although no inner facing-

stone remain in situ, the spread of debris suggests that the wall was at least 4m thick. The entrance, on the NE, has been robbed of almost all its stonework and now survives as a hollow-way into the interior. A depression in the wall-debris on the E side appears to be a modern pathway.

The outer wall has been more severely robbed, although intermittent traces of outer facing-stones are still visible, and

the core material appears as a band of rubble about 2m thick. It was entered through a gully at the NE angle.

The area enclosed by the inner wall is occupied by the remains of a number of drystone buildings including, in the

SW sector, an oblong structure measuring 5.6m by 3.2m transversely within walls 1.2m in average thickness. There

are vestiges of smaller structures of subrectangular plan in the E and NE sectors, while the buildings in the W half are of indeterminate plan. Distributed around the base of the knoll there are the foundations of two oblong buildings within the vicinity of the main NE approach, and a group of at least three small circular or subcircular huts built among the out-cropping rocks in the W sector.

The buildings on the summit may be vestiges of medieval occupation of the site, attested by the inscription on an early

16th-century graveslab at lona which names Malcolm MaeDuffie, 'Lord of Dunevin in Colonsay' (RCAHMS Argyll vol.4). Those in the lower group are probably upland settlements dating from the 18th or 19th centuries.

RCAHMS 1984.

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