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An Dun, Gairloch

Dun (Prehistoric)

Site Name An Dun, Gairloch

Classification Dun (Prehistoric)

Canmore ID 11959

Site Number NG87NW 6

NGR NG 8027 7534

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Gairloch
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Ross And Cromarty
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Archaeology Notes

NG87NW 6 8027 7534.

(NG 8027 7534) Site of Dun (NR). (Supposed Pictish Fort).

A small fort (R W Feachem 1963) consisting of one enclosure on a promontory, named 'An Dun', which is cut off by a ditch crossed by a causeway.

The enclosure, about 65' each way, is formed by the grass-grown remains of a wall about 2' high, with, on the south, an entrance flanked by vitrified matter.

The ditch varies from 7' to 10' in width and the causeway, formed by an undug traverse, is 7' wide.

The tip of the promontory is cut off by a natural gully, but there is no evidence to suggest that it has been a separate fort.

There is a local tradition of a mediaeval castle on or near this site. (J H Dixon 1886)

R W Feachem 1963; A Graham 1951; J H Dixon 1886.

The fort, measuring 20.0m North to South by 14.0m East to West, is as described above.

There are faint traces of a grass-covered stone bank, on the landward side of the fort, above a fairly steep rocky slope extending along the top of the cliffs. This is possibly an outer line of defence, or traces of the later castle.

Surveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (N K B) 5 April 1965.


Publication Account (1995)

A small narrow promontory with steep sides projects abruptly into the sea from the head land of An Ard, providing splendid natural defences. A narrow rocky path gives access from the shore to the small stone-walled dun which occupies the first part of the promontory. The farther end is cut off by a rocky chasm with the sea flowing through it.

The dun comprises two enclosures. The inner enclosure occupies the highest part of the promontory, making use of the steep slopes either side. On the landward side, which was most vulnerable to attack, there is an outer wall, probably contemporary, providing both an outer line of defence and a second small enclosed area. There is hardly room for more than one hut in either enclosure. The stone walls are largely overgrown with grass, but parts of the wall-faces are visible, particularly the inner face of the inner enclosure and the outer face of the outwork wall on the landward side. The position of the entrance is not known.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Highlands’, (1995).

Note (20 January 2015 - 25 November 2016)

The defences of the small fortification on a rocky promontory extending N from the headland at the southern end of the bay at Gairloch comprises two elements: a small oval enclosure on the summit of the promontory; and a dug-out gully cutting off the landward approach from the SE. The inner enclosure measures about 17m from N to S by 15m transversely within the grass-grown remains of a wall about 0.6m high, within which vitrifaction has been observed on the N and adjacent to the entrance on the SE. The entrance opens onto a causeway across the gully, the bottom of which has been dug out to form a ditch some 3m wide by up to 2m deep. It is unclear whether the ditch is merely an outwork to the inner enclosure, or whether it is part of an earlier promontory work. Girt with cliffs along its sides and separated from the outer end of the promontory by a deep natural fissure, it is well-suited to defence and an area of about 0.09ha is cut off behind the ditch. Keith Blood of the OS also identified traces of a bank along the cliff-edge on the landward side of the ditch, possibly indicating an outer defence or an outer enclosure as was depicted by William Thomson in 1924 (1924, 135-9, fig 4); Thomson also believed that the outer end of the promontory beyond the natural fissure was enclosed with walls and marks several places where he identified vitrified stones. This part of the promontory extends to about 0.3ha, much of it apparently bare outcrop.

Information from An Atlas of Hillforts of Great Britain and Ireland – 25 November 2016. Atlas of Hillforts SC2727


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