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Islay, Am Burg, Coul

Fort (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Islay, Am Burg, Coul

Classification Fort (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 37270

Site Number NR16SE 1

NGR NR 1911 6492

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Kilchoman
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

(NR 1911 6492) A fort (RCAHMS) mentioned by Pennant as being named 'Burg-coul' and being asociated with Fingal. He could see 'vestiges of various habitations'. It is an isolated, and, at high tides insulated promontory cut off by two adjoining chasms, and accessible by only one narrow, steep, rock, worn path near the SE corner. The promontory is surmounted and encircled by a narrow but defensive wall enclosing about 2 1/2 acres. The approach is guarded by a re-entranct angle in the wall which forms a pennannular expansion at the SE overlooking the juncture of the two gullies to which a steep walled-off slope gives access from the 'mainland'.

T Pennant 1772; 1774; F Newall and H E Newall 1961

Am Burg promontory, as stated, is isolated from the mainland by two deep inlets on the NE and SE sides. Utilized as a fort, (no local name) it has an occupiable area of approximately 2 hectares.

The only artificial defences are two short lengths of low and overgrown rubble walling, 0.5m high along the top of the cliff edge flanking each side of the approach path on the SE side. This steeep path appears partly rock-cut and in places worn smooth. Elsewhere, the cliff line precludes the need for further defensive walling.

The interior is largely of outcrop and is featureless except for the foundations of a divided rectangular structure, 16.0m by 6.0m, with crude walling up to 0.6m high which is probably of relatively recent date.

Surveyed at 1:10,000.

Visited by (JRL) 31 May 1978

On a precipitous headland, situated 900m WNW of Coul farmhouse and measuring 200m from E to W by 120m at its

widest point, there are the slight remains of a stone-walled fort, with evidence of later occupation. The site is a strong

one, since it is cut off from the mainland by two converging dry gullies which run up from narrow inlets to the SW and N, and almost the only feasible access to the summit is up a narrow rock-path which cuts obliquely across the SE flank.

Here the cliff stands 9m above the gully, but elsewhere rises several times this height.

The fort wall is visible along only the SE side of the headland, appearing as a low band of rubble up to 3m broad,

with several stretches of outer facing-stones still in position, standing up to 1m in height in seven rough courses at its sw end. At its E end the wall is built on the very edge of the cliff, turning slightly inwards at the point where the access-path passes through it, which probably marks the position of the original entrance. Farther W, the wall leaves the outer cliff to follow the line of a higher cliff separated from the lower by a grassy terrace; after crossing the SE end of a wide transverse gully, it returns to the edge of the outer cliff and continues intermittently almost as far as the extreme sw tip of the headland. No traces of walling can be seen round the seaward perimeter. The summit of the headland is very uneven, consisting of large expanses of bare rock with limited areas of turf between them.

Evidence of later occupation is provided by a wall, built mainly of turf and standing up to 0.5m in height, which

overlies the inner edge of the debris of the fort wall in its E sector and extends beyond the point where the fort wall ends, and continues along the top of the cliffs on the NE side of the headland. It crosses the presumed site of the original entrance without a break and, like the similar turf wall at Dun Bheolain, appears to have had no defensive function. Probably associated with it are the foundations of a two-roomed rectangular building which measures 17m by

7m over roughly coursed drystone walls about 1m thick; the larger room has two opposed doorways 1m wide, with a narrower opening giving access to the smaller room. To the N of the building, and on level patches elsewhere, there are traces of former cultivation. Pennant, who visited the site in 1772, remarked on the 'vestiges of ancient habitations' (Pennant 1772).



Note (24 September 2014 - 4 August 2016)

The SE flank of a precipitous headland on the W coast of the Rhins of Islay WNW of Coul is defended by a single wall facing onto a deep gully that separates the promontory from Carn Mor to the SE. The wall extends from NE to SW along the lip of the gully, in the NE and SW sectors forming a band of rubble with several runs of outer-facing stones, and though it cannot be traced in this position in the central sector, there is another band of rubble here linking the outcrops at a higher level. The entrance was probably in the NE sector, but is blocked by a later turf bank which extends along the rear of the wall to turn back along the N margin of the promontory; it may be associated with the ruin of a rectangular building at this end of the interior. The interior is rocky and uneven and measures a maximum of 200m from NE to SW by 125m transversely (1.5ha), though additional areas lie beyond a crevice that forms a boundary on the SW and extend the overall area of the promontory to about 1.8ha. Apart from the rectangular building, which measures 17m by 7m over drystone walls, and traces of cultivation rigs, it is otherwise featureless.

Information from An Atlas of Hillforts of Great Britain and Ireland – 04 August 2016. Atlas of Hillforts SC2067


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