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Ardnamurchan, Shielfoot, The Torr

Dun (Period Unassigned), Fort (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Ardnamurchan, Shielfoot, The Torr

Classification Dun (Period Unassigned), Fort (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 22514

Site Number NM67SE 4

NGR NM 6622 7018

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Ardnamurchan
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Lochaber
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NM67SE 4 6622 7018

(NM 5622 7018) Vitrified Fort (NR) (Site of)

OS 6" map, Argyllshire, 2nd ed., (1900)

A vitrified fort with outworks on a wooded, knife-edged ridge called The Torr. It survives as a heavily vitrified wall enclosing a sub-oval area measuring some 40m NNW-SSE by 17m. The interior consists of a natural hollow with a higher area to the SE isolated by a low cliff. No entrance is evident. Extending from it to the NNW along either side of the knife edge are two vitrified walls, the W more pronounced than the E. These terminate on a circular vitrifed structure set into the NNW shoulder of the ridge, and measuring about 8.0m in diameter between the centres of a wall about 3.0m thick. It is presumably a 'watch tower' as it commands an extensive view in all directions except the SSE. No entrance is evident. No wall faces are visible in the whole of this complex, and the vitrifaction is most evident on the outside of the walls.

Attached to the S arc of the main fort is another stone-walled structure which may be either an outwork or part of an earlier fort. It is defined by a tumbled stone wall, showing no trace of vitrifaction, in which the outer face can occasionally be seen. The entrance, in the SW, is visible as a dip in the turf-covered wall, with an approach to it from the SSE by means of a natural shelf in the slope, about 5.0m wide, which ascends from the base of the ridge.

Surveyed at 1:10,000.

Visited by OS (A A) 3 June 1970.

Fort and Dun (probable), The Torr, Shielfoot: This remarkable group of prehistoric fortifications comprises a univallate fort, whose wall appears to be heavily vitrified for most of its course (IA on RCAHMS plan), an outwork, which displays no evidence of vitrifaction whatsoever (IB), and a small oval enclosure, also heavily vitrified, which is probably to be identified as a dun (II). The precise relationship of these three elements is uncertain, however, as the entire summit (just over 50m OD) is covered with dense scrub, and the remains themselves are masked by a thick carpet of heather, moss, and bilberry. The spine of the ridge, aligned NNW and SSE, consists mainly of jagged outcrops, while the flanks are steeply inclined and rock-studded, the only relatively easy approach being from the SSW. The fort, which is of irregular oval plan, occupies the highest part of the ridge and measures internally 17m in greatest width by at least 90m long; the NNW end is obscured by enclosure (II). It was defended by a single stone wall (IA), which was originally timber-laced but now appears, for the most part, as a band of vitrified core-material, up to 4.5m thick, in which a few stretches of outer facing-stones survive, as shown on the plan. The wall is best preserved near the N end of the SW side, where the outer face stands as much as 0.5m high in three courses,and huge masses of vitrifaction, some about 2.7m high, protrude through the grass and heather. For a distance of about 17m on the SSE the wall-core does not appear to have been vitrified, and further to the N a large section of the wall has collapsed down the steep flank of the ridge. The position of the entrance is uncertain, but it probably lay on the SSW, near the foot of the rock-face that bisects the SE lobe of the interior. The internal width of the NW half of the fort can rarely have exceeded 4m. Further protection was provided by an outlying wall (IB), which was drawn for 35m along the outer edge of the terrace of the SSW, at an average depth of 10m below the level of the summit, continued thence obliquely up the flank of the ridge, and then returned along the rocky spine that slopes gently up to the SE end of the fort. For most of its course the wall has been reduced to a low band of stony debris, and it does not appear to have been vitrified at any point. It would be reasonable to assume that wall IB was not timber-laced, and may therefore have been added to the fort some time after work on the main wall was completed - a possibility which is heightened by the irregular course it follows and the degree to which it diverges from the line of the inner work. Several stretches of outer facing-stones and two stones of the inner face can stil be seen in position, the wall being particularly well preserved where it runs along the crest of the rocky spine. Its thickness in this sector is 2m, but elsewhere, especially lower down the slope, it probably approaches 4m. The position of the entrance is indicated by a narrow gap in the wall-debris near the middle of the terrace of the SSW.

The oval enclosure (II) measures 7m by 5.5m within a single stone wall which survives as a bank of vitrified rubble, 2.5m thick, so dilapidated and overgrown that neither its precise relationship with wall IA nor the position of the entrance can be determined without excavation. However, the most likely interpretation of the evidence is that the remains are those of a small dun with a timber-lace wall, which has been constructed on top of the ruins of the univallate fort.

RCAHMS 1980, visited 1973.

Scheduled as The Torr, fort, dun and enclosure, Shielfoot.

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document daed 25 October 2001.


Note (21 November 2014 - 31 August 2016)

This remarkable fortification encloses the spine of a narrow ridge from which boulder-studded slopes fall away steeply in every direction. Three elements in the defences may be discerned: a small dun-like enclosure measuring no more than 7.5m in diameter within a heavily vitrified wall at the NW extremity of the ridge; a long narrow enclosure with a heavily vitrified wall extending back down the crest of the ridge to the SE to enclose the summit; and an outer annexe at the SE end, with an entrance opening onto a sloping terrace that provided the only easy line of access up the SW flank of the ridge. While it is assumed that the dun overlies the vitrified wall enclosing the summit, the stratigraphic relationship is uncertain. The main enclosure measures some 90m in length from NW to SE by a maximum of 17m in breadth at its SE end, tapering back NW to little more than a narrow strip 4m broad. Several short runs of outer facing-stones can be seen and in places the vitrified core stands 2.7m high. The rocky and uneven interior is featureless and the position of the entrance is not known, though it is likely to fall at the foot of a rock-face that bisects the southern end of the interior, on its SW flank. On this side an outer wall, now reduced to a band of rubble with several runs of outer face, drops down to take in a lower terrace and return along the spine of the ridge on the E. Unlike the main enclosure, the wall of this outer enclosure shows no trace of vitrifaction, raising the possibility that either it was an addition to the fort built entirely in drystone masonry, or that it represents part of an earlier fortification taking in an larger area.

Information from An Atlas of Hillforts of Great Britain and Ireland – 31 August 2016. Atlas of Hillforts SC2537


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