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North Uist, Coileagan An Udal

Settlement (Period Unassigned), Wheelhouse(S) (Iron Age)

Site Name North Uist, Coileagan An Udal

Classification Settlement (Period Unassigned), Wheelhouse(S) (Iron Age)

Alternative Name(s) The Udal; Rubha An Udail; Grenetote; Sollas

Canmore ID 10330

Site Number NF87NW 2

NGR NF 825 783

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/10330

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Western Isles
  • Parish North Uist
  • Former Region Western Isles Islands Area
  • Former District Western Isles
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Recording Your Heritage Online

The Udal. Situated on the sandy wing of Machair Leathann north of Sollas, this important site, excavated from the early 1960s, bears evidence of continuous occupation from Neolithic times to the post-medieval period.

Taken from "Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Mary Miers, 2008. Published by the Rutland Press http://www.rias.org.uk

Archaeology Notes

NF87NW 2 825 783.

NF 824 784 An extensive domestic settlement containing the elements of at least 20 buildings was partly excavated at Udal in 1963 and 1964. Widespread oral tradition a century ago suggested that the site was anciently called Veilish and that the name can be equated with varied name forms appearing regularly in the charters of the Great Seal between 1465 and 1660. The traditions further suggest that Veilish, ie. Udal, was the main settlement in the Northern Isles in the 13th and 14th centuries.

The site lies among four large sand dunes, some 40ft high, on the slopes of which the RCAHMS, in 1914, noted kitchen midden refuse and quantities of stones, apparently the ruins of earth houses. This description, with the exception of the term 'earth houses', is still appropriate. Elaborate iron work and decorated pottery, both undatable, and a considerable quantity of iron slag, suggesting mediaeval iron-working, were found during excavations.

The excavations in the main area exposed two buildings in toto. The later building, incorporating fabric and materials of the other, may be a chapel site but could have been an 18th century kelp-burners' bothan. The other building, an ovoid building of massive construction, with double infilled walls - 6ft thick, seems likely to be the first domestic building dating from the period 1000 - 1600 AD yet discovered in the West Highlands, and may well be a mediaeval prototype of the 'black house'.

Surface finds made before 1921 are in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS).

I A Crawford 1964; RCAHMS 1928; Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1912; 1915; 1916; 1922.

NF 825 783 Udal settlement is as described above. Excavation was in progress during 1965.

Visited by OS (R D) 23 June 1965.

Additional information - Fort.

I A Crawford 1966.

Activities

Aerial Photography (May 1966)

Oblique aerial photographs of Coileagan An Udal settlement, North Uist taken by John Dewar in May 1966.

Publication Account (2007)

NF87 6 THE UDAL (‘Coileagean an Udail’)

NF/824783

These are four aisled wheelhouses, probably dug-out, in North Uist [7, 232-3]. They appear to have been built into a slope and therefore to have been partly dug-out and partly free-standing. The site at Udal is one of the most remarkable in north-west Europe and consists of several mounds containing structure and occupation layers spanning the last three or four millennia. It was excavated for many years in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s by Iain Crawford but full details of the discoveries are not available yet, and several interim reports have to be relied on.

Judging from the small scale plan available [7, 122] three of the wheelhouses at Udal form a fairly tight cluster, like Foshigarry (NF77 6). Some further architectural details can be gleaned from Crawford’s comments and table [7]. Four C-14 dates are listed in his table of dates [7, Table 15] and they all fall into the first and second centuries AD. A piece of 3rd century Roman pot in a late wheelhouse context was also found [7, Table 17].

Sources: 1. NMRS site no. NF 87 NW 1 and 2: 2. RCAHMS 1928, 273, no. 89: 3. Crawford 1965: 4. Crawford 1966: 5. Discovery and Excavation in Scotland, 1966, 29: 6. Armit 1992, 51-2: 7. Crawford 2002.

E W MacKie 2007

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