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Comar Wood

Building(S) (Post Medieval), Galleried Dun (Iron Age)

Site Name Comar Wood

Classification Building(S) (Post Medieval), Galleried Dun (Iron Age)

Alternative Name(s) Strath Glass

Canmore ID 314324

Site Number NH33SW 42

NGR NH 32509 31008

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Kilmorack
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Inverness
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Archaeology Notes (October 2014)

NH 32509 31008 Post-excavation analysis was undertaken in October 2014. The excavations revealed that Comar Wood Dun had been constructed during the second half of the 1st millennium BC. Evidence for two burning events was uncovered, after both of which the site was rebuilt and reused for several centuries before abandonment. Posthole alignments in the entrance passage and interior courtyard showed evidence for the construction of timber structures inside both areas. Other structural evidence uncovered included later interior walling used to constrict the courtyard space and two successive central slab-built hearths, the last of which contained broken quern fragments. Opposite the

dun entrance on the W side, was an entrance recess through the outer enclosure wall, while on the E side of the dun evidence for an opposing entrance passage was uncovered.

The poorly constructed walls revealed inconclusive evidence for intramural gallery spaces and only a small amount of artefactual material was recovered. The results of both the faunal and palaeoenvironmental

assessments revealed the use of local woodland resources and the presence of domesticated livestock on the site. Oak appears to have been the main timber used for internal structural support posts, while birch and hazel were also probably utilised for structural purposes. Analysis of the small finds, which included no ceramics, concluded that although many of the items could be associated with manufacturing activities, the scarcity of material recovered could reflect limited occupation of the site, possibly suggesting it had a specific non-domestic use.

The chronology for the dun use falls within a period of c600 years, and evidence for various phases is demonstrated by the sequence of radiocarbon dates falling in the Middle to Late Iron Age. Analysis of the dates suggests that occupation may have taken place during two distinct periods in the Iron Age: the 4th–2nd centuries BC and 1st–3rd centuries AD. Interestingly, the only evidence for earlier occupation or activity is a Mesolithic date derived from pine charcoal, probably the result of forest


Although poorly built walling and significant tree root disturbance caused difficulty for excavation, the results of this keyhole evaluation have provided useful dating information and have expanded the understanding of this site type.

Report: Highland HER, OASIS and RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Forestry Commission Scotland

Mary Peteranna, Steven Birch, Lynn Fraser – Ross and Cromarty

Archaeological Services

(Source: DES)


Field Visit (16 September 1943)

On 16 September 1943, A Graham (RCAHMS) wrote the following note:

'There is said to be a fort near the north end of Comar Wood, and somewhere to the west of the footpath that rises from the Cannich-Fasnakyle road to the Cannich-Glencannich road and near its junction with the latter. The fort could not be found, but when the Inventory survey is made it should be looked for again - if possible at a season when the bracken is down'

This note probably refers to the dun identified by Forestry Commission staff in 2010, since the path referred to is situated only about 500m to the NE (OS Inverness (Mainland) Sheet XXVII, 1876), and there are no other likely candidates in the local area.

Information from RCAHMS (GFG) 13 December 2013.

Typescript - Emergency Survey, Inverness-shire p53.

Measured Survey (2010)

NH 32509 31008 A well preserved enclosed galleried dun was

identified by Forest District staff in 2010. The dun is 11m in

diameter within a massive dry stone wall c4.8m thick and

up to 1.8m high. It is situated on a knoll on a slight terrace

on the lower SE-facing slopes of Strath Glass, above and to

the NE of the River Glass. The dun is well preserved, with

several stretches of wall courses visible both externally and

internally. There is a c1.8m wide entrance on the W and

several possible galleries are visible as depressions in the

wall. A defensive outwork is visible enclosing the dun on its

N, S and W sides. This wall is c2.5m thick and up to 1.5m

high and it has an entrance on its NE side. The ESE-facing

leading edge of the terrace is defined by steep rock outcrops.

Two small post-medieval buildings have been built into the

spread tumble from the dun and its outwork.

The dun is situated within thinned mature conifers, due for

clear felling within the next few years. There is also visible

wind blow occurring upon the wall of the outwork and in

the enclosure. In order to inform future forest management a

detailed measured survey of the dun was undertaken using

plane table and alidade.

Measured Survey (29 August 2013 - 6 November 2013)

A prehistoric enclosed dun was discovered by Forest District staff in Comar Wood, Strathglass, 1km southwest of Cannich, during a pre-felling check on the woodland in the Inverness, Ross and Skye Forest District in 2010. The site was interpreted as a galleried dun with an unusually well-defined defensive outwork. Later buildings of probable Post Medieval date have been built into the rubble of the dun and outwork. The dun and the area around it were felled in 2013 in a manner which has avoided structural

damage to the site.

An archaeological measured survey and evaluation were carried out between August and November 2013 to record the site and establish both the nature and extent of any surviving archaeological deposits and any

damage caused by afforestation; securely date the site and understand its form and function; enhance the historic environment record and Forest Design Plan and contribute to the Scottish Archaeological Research


Ross and Cromarty Archaeological Services

commissioned by the Forestry Commission

Archaeological Evaluation (9 September 2013 - 31 October 2013)

NH 32509 31008 An evaluation and measured survey were undertaken, 9 September – 31 October 2013, on a dun in Comar Wood, located 1km SW of Cannich in Strath Glass. The site was discovered during a pre-felling check on the woodland by Forestry Commission Scotland foresters. Located on a prominent knoll with extensive views over Strath Glass, the site consists of a dun with a well defined enclosure or defensive outwork. Later buildings of probable post-medieval date have been built into the rubble of the dun and outwork.

The main aims of the survey and evaluation were to: (i) record the site and to establish both the nature and extent of any surviving archaeological deposits and any damage caused by afforestation; (ii) securely date the site and better understand its form and function; (iii) enhance the historic environment record and forest design plan; and (iv) contribute to the Scottish archaeological research framework.

The dun consists of a massive stone-built sub-circular structure at least 21m in diameter over tumbled walls, up to 4m wide. The inner wall face of the dun would not have exceeded 1.5–2.0m in height and some sections of the exterior wall face must have stood to between 3–4m high. However, the walls of the dun have failed and collapsed, with the best-preserved sections now standing to a maximum of 0.8m high. Extensive damage from tree roots contributed greatly to the poor preservation of walling, with the outer wall face only partially surviving and no visible inner wall faces.

Excavations in the dun’s entrance passage recorded substantial postholes, some complete with packing stones, forming a roofed porch, a main post ring and an inner post ring to the structure. Deposits associated with the postholes and entrance portal provided evidence for intense burning, including some large fragments of vitrified stone. Sections of burnt roof timbers were also recovered along with ash deposits relating to the burning of peat or turf, which may provide evidence of a turf roof for the dun. The lowest course of stones in the entrance passage, substantially damaged by tree roots, indicated that the passage was lined with upright slabs.

The dun walls were evaluated and a trench on the E side of the structure, placed to investigate the walling and a possible intramural feature, revealed a well built outer wall face surviving up to 0.75m high. On the interior side of the trench, no clear evidence survived for an inner wall face or second wall. Although the deposits had been disturbed by tree root growth and movement, there did appear to be a possible intramural cell within the rubble-built walling. On the inside of the dun wall and overlying an earlier posthole, there also appeared to be an inner bank of stone relating to a secondary phase of use and restructuring.

A trench on the S side of the dun uncovered a surviving section of the outer wall, where an entrance through the wall had been blocked. The outer wall alignment on both sides of the entrance curved inward to this passage. There was also evidence for a possible outer wall or external structure around the blocked entrance, with steps leading to it. Further trenches evaluated the site’s outer enclosure wall and two of the post-medieval structures built into the W side of the dun.

Two clear phases of use were identified. An internal hearth consisted of a well-built stone setting with upright edge stones overlying two earlier hearth features. The earliest being a scoop in the natural subsoil that had been baked hard through use (and was filled with a reddish-coloured peat ash). This was overlain by the partially robbed out remains of a slab-built hearth and associated charcoal-rich deposits, over which had been built the final hearth. Some of the kerb stones surrounding the large upper slab-built hearth appeared to relate to the underlying robbed out hearth, while small post and stakeholes to the side of the hearth probably related to hearth 'furniture' for suspending cooking pots.

Few small finds were recovered and there was no pottery. A lower rotary quern stone had been incorporated into the slab construction of the upper hearth setting, along with a flat, polished rubbing stone; while a fragment of an upper rotary quern stone (including a central hopper-hole and off-set handle hole) was recovered from a linear stone setting to the S of the hearth. The remaining small finds consisted of one small fragment of sheet bronze with a small perforation hole and several small pebble tools. Samples suitable for radiocarbon dating, including charcoal and burnt bone were recovered. The dun appears to have been destroyed by fire during two phases of use, with areas of the underlying subsoil partially vitrified through the intense heat. Post-excavation analysis of the data and samples recovered will be undertaken prior to final reporting.

Archive: RoCAS. Report: Highland HER and OASIS (intended)

Funder: Forestry Commission Scotland

Steven Birch, Lynn Fraser, Cathy MacIvor, Mary Peteranna, Ross and Cromarty Archaeological Services, 2013

(Source: DES)

Note (8 March 2016 - 18 May 2016)

A dun is situated within a larger enclosure on a hillock forming the summit of a minor spur above the steep hillside dropping down to the NW bank of the River Glass SW of Cannich. Survey and invasive evaluation of the dun has shown that it is oval on plan, initially measuring about 18m by 15m within a wall about 2.2m in thickness, and that it underwent a complex history of occupation, with two phases of burning and reconstruction in which the wall was increased in thickness to a maximum of 4.4m. Two successive central hearths were recorded in the interior and the entrance incorporated a substantial timber structure and lies on the W, facing towards the entrance into the larger enclosure, which measures about 50m from NW to SE by 45m transversely (0.2ha) within a wall largely reduced to a stony bank 2m to 3m thick. Radiocarbon dates place the first burning event in the 4th to 3rd centuries BC; the second occurred in the 1st to 3rd centuries AD, though the date of the outer wall and its relationship to the central dun remain unknown.

Information from An Atlas of Hillforts of Great Britain and Ireland – 18 May 2016. Atlas of Hillforts SC4212


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