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Skye, Dun Ardtreck

Broch (Iron Age), Bead (Glass), Unidentified Pottery (Roman)

Site Name Skye, Dun Ardtreck

Classification Broch (Iron Age), Bead (Glass), Unidentified Pottery (Roman)

Alternative Name(s) Ardtreck Point

Canmore ID 11064

Site Number NG33NW 5

NGR NG 3350 3581

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

NG33NW 5 3350 3581.

(NG 3350 3581) Dun Ardtreck (NR) (Galleried) (NAT)

OS 6" map, (1969)

Dun Ardtreck, a galleried dun or semi-broch, excavated by Mackie in 1964 and 1965 as part of an exercise to establish the development of the broch, the dun's material culture having suggested affinities with the pre-broch forts of Clickhimin (HU44SE 2).

The dun stands on an isolated rocky knoll cut off from the surrounding moorland by a depression of lower marshy ground. The landward side of the knoll is bounded by precipitous rock faces except on the SE where a small cleft has been used for the outer gate-way. An outer wall runs along much of the edge of the knoll on the landward side. It was 6' thick and its inner face stood up to 3 1/2' high although this was completely hidden by later accumulations of rubble and debris. The gateway was 5'wide with parallel sides which bore no signs of door-checks. There is no reason to doubt its contemporaneity with the dun.

The dun itself - D-shaped in plan with the straight side formed by the cliff-edge - occupies the highest point of the sharply sloping rock, so that while the wall near the cliff-edge was reduced to one course of masonry, the outer face on the landward side rose to 8' or more. It was deduced that the wall had reached a height of at least 16'.

It had been built in two stages - a roughly level platform 19' in maximum width retained by a battered outer face of massive boulders was constructed and on this was set the galleried wall. Charcoal from the platform produced a date of 115BC.The wall survived to a maximum height of only 3' and there was no evidence to suggest the former existence of upper mural galleries.

The dun entrance, 3'3" wide,was checked for a door whose iron handle was recovered. The entrance to a crudely built guard cell led off to the right behind the door-checks.

The excavations indicated that the occupation of the dun had been spasmodic, the primary occupation being very short and there were indications that it had ended in violence and destruction. There were very few finds from this period.

A secondary occupation, its beginnings dated from Antonine sherds to about the middle of the 2nd century AD involved minor alterations. The outer court showed signs of sporadic occupation in this period and the foundations of a possible hut were identified, but the main occupation was in the interior of the dun and the many finds were all domestic, including iron tools, bronze ornaments and glass-paste ring-heads as well as Samian sherds and a piece of Roman melon bead.

The pottery included several of the styles which have been suggested for the Hebridean Iron Age and many incised sherds were of Vaul-ware pottery vases.

RCAHMS 1928; E W MacKie 1965; 1967; 1969; Curr Archaeol 1967.


Field Visit (20 May 1915)

Dun (Ardtreck), Ardtreck Peninsula.

On the western shore of the peninsula of Ardtreck, about 650 yards south of Ardtreck Point, is a stack of rock rising in a sheer precipice from the water to a height of over 50 feet, while it rises about 25 feet in two rock-faced terraces above the hollow lying between it and the high ground to the east. The flat summit is occupied by the ruins of Dun Ardtreck, the main wall of which on plan forms about two-thirds of a circle, the chord of the missing part being formed by the edge of the precipice, which shows no traces of even a parapet. It measures 44 feet in diameter internally from north-west to southeast, and 35 feet from the wall at the entrance to the edge of the cliff. What remains of the wall is a fine piece of building, showing an inward batter. Towards the east-north-east for a considerable distance it stands 11 feet high on the outside, 3 to 6 feet of which are hidden by fallen stones. At other parts the wall is very much lower. The wall measures 8 feet 6 inches thick on its present summit, and the entrance has been placed in the centre of the curve facing north-east. It is blocked with tumbled stones, but on the outside it measures 3 feet 3inches in width, and the jambs remain intact for a height of about 4 feet above a depth of 4 feet of stones which have accumulated in front. None of the lintels remain in position. On both sides of the entrance a gallery can be traced within the thickness of the wall, and on the northside it measures 3 feet in width with the outer wall 2 feet 6 inches thick and the inner wall 3feet. The part of the summit between the building and the rocky bluff towards the land has been protected by a wall built on the edge of the rock, forming an outer ward of irregular crescentic plan. The wall has nearly disappeared but has been 6 feet thick. Springing from the edge of the cliff on the north it swings outwards for a distance first of 32 feet, then 45 feet, and curves back to meet the cliff on the south end. Towards the east is the outer entrance, 4 feet wide, to form which the wall recurves inwards on both sides. This entrance is reached by a steep narrow ridge.

RCAHMS 1928, visited 20 May 1915.

OS map: Skye xxxiii.

Note (21 January 2015 - 31 May 2016)

The structure known as Dun Ardtreck is now semicircular, backing onto the cliff-edge on the SW flank of this coastal stack, which falls some 15m sheer into the sea. Elsewhere the cliffs are not quite so imposing, though nevertheless providing a formidable obstacle which was enhanced by the construction of a wall about 2.3m in thickness around the E margin of the summit area, forming an enclosure measuring internally about 40m from NW to SE by at least 17m transversely (0.07ha); this wall barred the only possible points of access and included an entrance 1.2m wide on the ESE. The relationship of this wall to the dun is uncertain, though it is usually considered to be an outwork. The dun was never strictly circular, measuring 13.4m from NW to SE by 10.7m transversely to the present cliff-edge within a galleried wall measuring a maximum of 3.3m in thickness and still standing up to 2.4m in height; a checked entrance lies on the NE, with a guard cell on its N side. The wall seems to have narrowed slightly towards the cliff and turned quite sharply along its edge, where a substantial portion to complete the circuit has fallen into the sea. Excavations by Euan MacKie in 1965-5 indicate that the galleried wall was founded on a contiguous rubble platform and suggested that the wall itself may have stood as much as 6m in height. Small pieces of charcoal recovered from the foundation returned a radiocarbon date of 170 BC - AD 110. There were only slight traces of occupation before the structure suffered a fierce fire, following which the upper walls were taken down and the lintels removed from the passageway, much of the rubble lying in the area between the dun and the wall along the margin of the stack. The ruined shell was subsequently reoccupied, and the objects recovered from its floor deposits include Roman items, while a sherd of E-ware of early medieval date was found on its uppermost surface. While the fallen rubble from the dun fills the space within the outer wall, implying that they were at least broadly contemporary, there is no evidence that the latter was not initially a free-standing enclosure, nor that it continued to function as such during the later phases of occupation.

Information from An Atlas of Hillforts of Great Britain and Ireland – 31 May 2016. Atlas of Hillforts SC2734


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