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Treshnish Isles, Cairn Na Burgh Beg Castle

Castle (Medieval), Lazy Beds, Naust(S) (Medieval)

Site Name Treshnish Isles, Cairn Na Burgh Beg Castle

Classification Castle (Medieval), Lazy Beds, Naust(S) (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Cairn Na Burgh, Cairnburgh Beg Castle; Cairnburgh Castle

Canmore ID 21823

Site Number NM34SW 2

NGR NM 3087 4499

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Kilninian And Kilmore
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NM34SW 2 3087 4499

(NM 3087 4499) Castle (NR) (rems of)

OS 1:10000 map (1975).

See also NM34SW 1 (Cairn na Burgh More).

Cairnburgh Castle occupies the adjacent islands of Cairn na Burgh More and Cairn na Burgh Beg. (For notes on the history of the castle and a description of the remains on Cairn na Burgh More, see NM34SW 1).

Cairn na Burgh Beg extends to 1.2 ha (3.05 acres) and comprises two distinct parts. The W portion, or lower bailey, is a fairly level low-lying patch of ground partially surrounded by a narrow rim of rock which skirts the foreshore. The E portion, or upper bailey, however, is a gently-sloping rock summit only a little lower in height than that of Cairn na Burgh More and similarly bounded, on all but its W side, by sheer sea-cliffs.

The lower bailey appears to have been enclosed by a dry-stone wall some 2.4m in thickness, now for the most part reduced to a grass-grown mound about 1.0m in height. The entrance seems to have been on the NW side, where there is a sheltered gully suitable for beaching small boats. At the head of the gully there may be seen two small oval depressions (B on plan) which probably served as boat-noosts, while overlooking the gully there appears to have neen a small defensive outwork (A), reached from the bailey wall. Immediately to the W of the entrance the remains of a dry-stone building of sub-rectangular plan (C) stand against the inner face of the bailey wall; this measured about 9.7m by 8.5m over walls 1.2m in thickness. Much of the ground within the bailey has been cultivated, and lazy'beds can be seen on the N side and stone clearance-heaps on the slopes leading up towards the upper bailey.

The upper bailey can be approached only from the SW, where it was defended by a curtain-wall some 0.65m in thickness. The wall is built of random rubble masonry laid in coarse, shelly lime-mortar, the external face in places rising from a roughly-formed plinth. Towards the NW end of the curtain rock-cut steps lead up to an entrance (D), which is flanked by a return in the adjacent wall. The curtain now rises to a height of only about 1.4m above the level of the upper bailey, and it is doubtful whether it was ever intended to be more than a breastwork. The only buildings now to be identified within the upper bailey are the guard-house (E), which measures about 7.3m by 6.1m over all, and an oblong building of similar size situated near the centre of the summit area. Both were probably of dry-stone construction. A mid-18th century Board of Ordnance plan shows a well situated in the SE portion of the bailey, but the only feature of this nature identifiable today is a nettle-grown hollow (G) on the N side, which may have been utilised as a catchment pool. Near the N corner of the bailey there are slight traces of an enclosure wall similar in character to the curtain-wall on the SW side, but there is no evidence to suggest that the entire summit was ever enclosed.

RCAHMS 1980, visited 1973

Surveyed at 1:10,000.

Visited by OS (DWR) 6 May 1974.

Scheduled (with NM34SW 1) as 'Cairn na Burgh Castle, Cairn na Burgh More & Cairn na Burgh Beg [comprising] Cairn na Burgh Castle, which occupied the two adjacent islands of Cairn na Burgh More and Cairn na Burgh Beg, situated in the Treshnish Isles archipelago. The monument comprises substantial curtain walls on both islands, dating probably to the 15th or 16th century.'

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 19 July 2011.


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