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Skye, Dun Taimh

Fort (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Skye, Dun Taimh

Classification Fort (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Gesto

Canmore ID 11049

Site Number NG33NE 3

NGR NG 3630 3664

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/11049

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2018.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Bracadale
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Skye And Lochalsh
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Activities

Field Visit (18 May 1915)

488. Dun Taimh, Beinn Dhubh, Gesto.

To the north-west of the summit of Beinn Dhubh, a hill rising over 400 feet above sea-level on the

eastern side of Loch Harport, near its mouth, is a narrow ridge with a gentle slope and precipitous

sides increasing in height towards its western extremity, which is occupied by a ruined fort, Dun Taimh. Built on a prominent position it commands one of the finest views in the Isle of Skye. In the background is the rugged range of the Cuillins; in front lies Loch Bracadale, studded with islets, with the flat tops of Macleod' s Tables rising behind, and in the farther distance the Minch, beyond which appear the Outer Hebrides. The fort is defended by a curved wall built across the ridge and returning a distance of nearly 40 yard s along the southern flank, which though precipitous is not quite inaccessible. There is no rampart on the northern flank, as the cliff rises sheer. Across the ridge in front of the main wall is an outer wall erected about 24 feet 6 inches distant from it at the centre,

the ends of which recurve to meet the inner defence on the edge of the cliff. Both walls are much dilapidated. The inner wall shows small portions of both faces in position; it is II feet6 inches in width at the entrance placed in the centre of the ridge, and at most shows a height of 6 feet of displaced stones. The outer wall is reduced to the foundation course, and at oneplace, where the two faces remain in situ, it measures 5 feet in thickness. The entrance has gone straight through both defences, and where it pierces the inner wall it measures 6 feet 2 inches in width. Along the major axis which runs about west -north-west and east -south-east the fort measures intern ally over 132 feet, while it is some 76 feet across the widest part. Within the dun is a large cairn erected to

commemorate the jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887.

Visited by RCAHMS 18 May 1915.

Field Visit (1 June 1961)

Dun Taimh, as described by RCAHMS. The dimensions suggest a fort rather than a dun.

Visited by OS (C F W) 1 June 1961.

Field Visit (5 November 1971)

The wall along the SW side can be traced for at least another 12.0m further to the NW than indicated by first OS field surveyor on his sketch plan.

Visited by OS (A A) 5 November 1971.

Field Visit (18 October 1971)

Dun Taimh, a fort, as described by RCAHMS and planned by previous OS field surveyor. The entrance in the outer wall is 2.1m in width and the wall thickness here is 1.6m.

Visited by OS (R L) 18 October 1971.

Field Visit (20 April 2015 - 22 April 2015)

Field visits were undertaken to various sites, 20–22 April 2015, as part of a general survey of forts on Skye carried out by Simon Wood and Ian Ralston as part of the fieldwork for the former’s PhD research.

NG 37400 64720 Dun Skudiburgh (Canmore ID: 11195) Occupying a position of some strength on a conspicuous rocky knoll, Dun Skudiburgh, a dun sitting on top of a vitrified fort, has perhaps been underrepresented by previous investigators. At least two different phases are visible in the dun, with considerably poorer quality dry stone walling including many smaller stones evident to the W, S and SE.

A poor quality wall running parallel to the main dun wall c1m outside it in the W and S has little structural integrity in itself and is likely to be comparatively recent. The vitrified fort is more complex than depicted in the RCAHMS plan (1928).

Two additional lines of defence were observed on the steep E side, the outer more easily discernible with a clearly visible outer face up to three courses high in places. The inner is only identifiable in a few patches up to two courses high.

The enclosure identified by RCAHMS in the NW appears more likely to be a bank running parallel to the fort wall. Another rampart leading N away from the N-facing entrance is probably also a later field bank, possibly a continuation of this feature. An additional area is enclosed by a wall in the W. The OS previously identified this rampart as a probable later wall, but no stratigraphic evidence was noted for this to be the case. It defends a steep but accessible slope into a small plateau surrounded by sheer cliffs falling to the sea.

In total there are three apparent lower enclosures that may be contemporary with either the fort or the dun. Vitrified stone was observed on several stones in the inner fort wall. Two rocky beaches, one to the N and one to the S are less than 200m away from the fort and offer comparatively excellent access to and from the sea.

NG 48920 45270 Dun Gerashader (Canmore ID: 11271) Described by the RCAHMS (1928) as ‘a fort of great strength’, this site actually represents the remains of two different forts. The later fort, as identified and planned by RCAHMS survives as a massive stone wall up to six courses high, with an entrance in the E. A rectangular enclosure noted to the SW by RCAHMS is not an enclosure but the inner and outer face of a rampart with an entrance through it. The facing stones of the entrance likely influenced the previous misidentification of this feature as they superficially represent the shorter E side of a rectangular enclosure. This rampart continues to the E and includes many very large stones. Facing stones of this rampart continue along the W and E sides of the hill to the N and appear to be overlain by the large well-built wall of the later fort. This is almost certainly an earlier fort with an entrance to the S, with this entrance blocked by the surviving wall of the later fort. The two lines of boulders identified by RCAHMS may be ramparts contemporary with the earlier fort as they appear to contain similarly sized large stones. Alternatively, they may represent reuse of the boulders from the earlier fort to add extra lines of defence or create a visually intimidating barrier on the more accessible S side of the knoll.

NG 35980 70020 Dun Liath (Canmore ID: 11206) This galleried fort is mostly as described by the OS in 1971. A wall at the base of the valley c30m to the E that Mackie considered an outer defence is undoubtedly a dyke associated with later field systems. Another possible rampart closer to the fort on the E and N sides enclosing a small area with several structures is also probably considerably later than the fort, as noted by the OS. Towards the top of the hill on the S, SW and SE; however, is a definite outer rampart, visible as a scarp with many facing stones visible. This second rampart may represent an earlier phase of enclosure on the hill, ie an earlier fort, or an outer defence for the galleried fort. On size (1035m2 inside the galleried defences) this should be considered a fort rather than a dun.

NG 28140 40750 Dun Neill (Canmore ID: 10861) Dun Neill is considered by the OS to be a dun overlying a fort. A strong argument can be made for it being just a dun with outworks. There is no obvious stratigraphic relationship between the oval walled dun and the small, ephemeral rampart remaining around the western, seaward side of the promontory. This wall has no obvious defensive function as it encloses an area surrounded on all sides by sheer cliffs, indeed it makes more sense that it was a wall contemporary with the dun preventing people or livestock from falling off the promontory. A flat, circular depression within the outwork on the seaward end may be the remains of a structure.

NG 36300 36640 Dun Taimh (Canmore ID: 11049) A small fort generally as described by the RCAHMS in 1928. This is essentially an inland promontory fort with ramparts continuing in an arc stretching from the W to S and E. There is arguably some walling continuing along the W flank of the promontory to the NW. Evidence of some structural remains are visible in the interior, besides the 19th-century cairn, but it is likely that there has been considerable amounts of later activity on the hilltop. A possible ditch and causeway lie to the S and SE on the main approach to the site.

NG 31730 37400 Ullinish (Canmore ID: 11065) This promontory fort appears to be larger and more heavily defended than apparent from the OS report (1971). A considerable rampart stretches along the E side of a large promontory from sheer cliff on the S to a smaller, 2–3m high, cliff on the N. This northern side has been described by the OS investigator as a place of easy access, making the position weak; however, considerable amounts of scree lie at the bottom of this cliff, suggesting that a rampart may have once stretched further to the N than currently visible. The interior measures 4085m2 and is mostly flat, making this one of the largest forts on Skye.

NG 40210 55520 Creag nam Mann (Canmore ID: 11314) The northern part of the fort at Creag nam Mann has been quarried away. The remains of several large structures are visible in the flat interior. At least one of these structures overlies the fort rampart, suggesting a later phase of activity on the hilltop.

NG 41080 51850 Dun Cruinn (Canmore ID: 11332) This is a multivallate fort overlain by a later dun occupying a rocky knoll on a large promontory stretching out into Loch Dun Neill, Skye Snizort Beag. A large earthen rampart with internal quarry ditch stretches around the base of the steep S and E sides, but is not apparent at the more gently sloping N side. It would make sense that this rampart, facing inland towards possible approach routes, along with the several large boulders arranged on the W side approaching the entrance, was more for display than practical defence. A small bank on the N side could be a continuation of this rampart, but as it lines up with field banks leading away from the fort to W and E it is probably later. The earthen rampart is overlain by scree from the fort wall at the top of the hill, suggesting that it is not later in date. On the summit, a straight internal bank running E/W, noted by the RCAHMS as contemporary with the fort or dun, may be another later field bank. The adjacent abandoned farming township has impacted the visible remains greatly and complicated interpretations of what could be in itself a complex and interesting site.

Archive: National Record of the Historic Environment (intended)

Funder: School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh

Simon Wood and Ian Ralston – University of Edinburgh

(Source: DES, Volume 16)

Desk Based Assessment

NG33NE 3 3630 3664.

(NG 3630 3664) Dun Taimh (NR) Cairn (NAT)

OS 6"map, Inverness-shire, 2nd ed., (1903)

Dun Taimh occupies a prominent position at the western extremity of a gently sloping, but precipitous sided, narrow ridge. It is defended by a curved wall built across the ridge and returning a distance of nearly 40 yards along the southern flank, which although precipitous is not quite inaccessible. There is no rampart on the northern flank, as the cliff rises sheer. Across the ridge in front of the main wall is an outer wall erected about 24' 6" distant from it at the centre, the ends of which recurve to meet the inner defence on the edge of the cliff. Both walls are much dilapidated. The inner wall shows small portions of both faces in position; it is 11' 6" in width at the entrance placed in the centre of the ridge,and at most shows a height of 6' of displaced stones. The outer wall is reduced to the foundation course, and at one place, where the two faces remain in situ, it measures 5' in thickness.

The entrance has gone straight through both defences, and where it pierces the inner wall it measures 6' 2" in width. Along the major axis which runs about WNW-ESE the fort measures internally over 132', while it is some 76' across the widest part. Within the dun is a large cairn erected to commemorate the jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887.

Information from OS.

RCAHMS 1928, visited 1915.

References

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