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Dun (Middle Iron Age)

Site Name Balure

Classification Dun (Middle Iron Age)

Alternative Name(s) Kilmichael Of Inverlussa

Canmore ID 290103

Site Number NR78NE 36

NGR NR 78270 85750

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish North Knapdale
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NR88NW 10 NR 800 880

NR 800 880 A programme of fieldwork in January and February 2005 followed a desk-based assessment of sites and monuments within North Knapdale Forest, listed in the Forestry Commission heritage database. The survey concentrated on sites that had prehistoric potential or sites about which little was known. In total, 55 sites were visited and briefly recorded. Prehistoric sites of note include a prominent cup-marked boulder, and a probable burial cairn with possible associated cist. Four small defended structures or duns were identified during the survey. Two of these had previously been recorded as duns or forts, but had subsequently been dismissed as natural features, while the other two structures appear to be previously unknown. Of the sites belonging to the later historical period, a possible mill site was discovered, although the majority of the sites appear to relate to later agricultural settlement.

Prehistoric sites


Structures at Branagad (NR 79866 86794) and Balure (NR 78270 85750) have only recently come to light during forestry operations. The structures at Dunans (NR89SW 9) and Dun Buidhe (NR88NW 1) need to be reinstated as probable defended structures, as their nature had been questioned in more recent times; at both sites the remnants of walls were partially revealed during the survey.

Rock art sites

NR 76391 92882 Situated along Dounie ridge is a cup-marked rock with at least 16 cup marks on its upper surface. The site may hold more significance if the apparently heaped stones at the base of the rock prove to be the remains of cairn material. This is the second such site recently located along the eastern side of Dounie ridge; the other lying to the N, situated on a sloping E-facing natural outcrop, bearing several cups and associated rings. NR 80180 89340 What appears to be a rock-cut basin lies close to the possible dun site at Dun Buidhe, and may be related. However, its position at the edge of a large vertically sided rock suggests the basin was not very practical to use on a daily or domestic basis.


NR 78245 93085 An exception to the general pattern of clearance cairns uncovered during the survey was a cairn listed at 'Arichonan'. This appears to be a denuded burial cairn, possibly with a central cist.

Medieval/post-medieval sites

Clearance cairns, dykes and fields

Many of the sites visited appear to relate to former settlement sites that could be identified from the 1st and 2nd edition OS maps. Throughout the survey, the presence of enclosure dykes, clearance cairns and the general topography suggested former cultivated areas or fields.

Probable field areas were noted at Ardnackaig (NR 74200 90600), Sailean Mor (NR 74700 90950), Arinafad (NR 75841 89401), Barnluasgan (NR 79700 91600), Glen Sabhall (NR 76007 91272) and Glenyalavon (NR 77830 90960). An unusual form of dyke/enclosure was seen at Lagan (NR 79500 87200), where a series of large upright stones lined the old road to the settlement, the stones possibly keeping livestock from wandering into surrounding fields.

Groups of cairns were located at Sailean Mor, possibly associated with the deserted settlement of Tigh-na-t-sluichd. Several clearance cairns were also noted near the deserted settlement of Glenyalavon (NR 7827 90891) and at Achnamara (NR 78000 86980).

?Mill site

NR 78540 85290 A site located near the deserted settlement of Balure appears to be the remains of a culvert and possible dam embankment. The presence of a large broken millstone suggests this may be part of a mill complex utilising the outflow of Lochan Laraiche.


NR 76603 88944; NR 76617 88954 The former settlement of Oibmore appears to have been serviced by two jetties on Loch Caol Scotnish; these linked to the settlement by a track depicted on the 1900 2nd edition OS map.


Although numerous sites are listed as shielings in the Forestry Commission database, few were visited during this survey. Of these only one, located in Gleann Sabhall (NR 76007 91272), appears to be a 'classic' shieling structure.

Other sites

Several sites defy interpretation without further investigation. A drystone platform (NR 77097 89744) was located on the eastern bank of Caol Scotnish. This could represent a charcoal stance, although its relatively inaccessible position may mitigate against this interpretation. Also difficult to categorise was a previously unrecorded level circular spread of stones near the coast at Ardnackaig (NR 74191 90599). This feature could represent a collapsed circular structure or a denuded cairn.

Reports to be lodged with WoSAS SMR and NMRS.

Sponsor: Forestry Commission.

R Regan 2005


Excavation (April 2009 - May 2009)

NR 78270 85750 Following the first phase of work in 2008 excavation of the Dun structure continued in April–May 2009. The upper occupation deposits in the central enclosure appeared to have been badly disturbed, possibly during later wall robbing or tree planting. However, these sealed a series of superimposed hearths, associated floor deposits and rough cobbled surfaces that indicated several phases of occupation. Numerous stone tools including polishers, pounders and grindstones were recovered, along with schist-working waste.

Further sherds of coarse pottery were also recovered, while the recovery of a broken and reworked rotary quern suggests occupation in or after the Middle Iron Age. The recovery of a third glass bead (two of these dumbbell-shaped) hints at access to relatively exotic goods, while the presence of iron slag, crucible fragments and hammer-scale suggests metalworking within the Dun itself.

The presence of post settings in the two main enclosures (Enclosures 1 and 2) suggested roofed structures. The presence of midden-like material beneath the wall of Enclosure 2 indicated more than one phase of construction / occupation of the hilltop. The acidity of the soil prevented the recovery of any bone (apart from relatively few burnt bone fragments), although dating evidence should be secured from the charcoal in several of the midden/dump deposits.

Archive: Kilmartin House Museum (intended). Report: FCS, RCAHMS and WoSAS SMR

Funder: Dalriada Project

Roddy Regan – Kilmartin House Museum

Archaeological Evaluation

NR78NE 36 78270 85750

NR7827 0 85750 This site was recently discovered during forestry operations and trial work in September 2006 was designed to confirm the status and preservation of the site as a dun fortification along with further survey of any other previously unnoticed features. Trial excavation, within five trenches across the site, established the position of wall lines and the entrance-way to this interesting dun structure, while further survey work brought to light a series of outworks and enclosures to the S of the central/upper enclosure, with further outworks to the N. While the structure had possibly been robbed in the past, with further damage from recent forestry, the evaluation work would seem to indicate the preservation of internal surfaces. Given the relatively accessible nature of this structure excavation of the dun would considerably add to the existing body of knowledge of this type of structure in Argyll.

The archive will be deposited with Kilmartin House Museum

and copies of the report lodged with WoSAS and the NMRS.

Sponsor: The Dalriada Project

Roddy Regan, 2006.


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