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Islay, Lurabus

Head Dyke (Post Medieval), Kiln (Period Unassigned), Rig And Furrow (Medieval), Township (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Islay, Lurabus

Classification Head Dyke (Post Medieval), Kiln (Period Unassigned), Rig And Furrow (Medieval), Township (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 37623

Site Number NR34SW 15

NGR NR 3379 4354

NGR Description Centred NR 3379 4354

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Kildalton And Oa
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes

NR34SW 15 centred 3379 4354

Manuscript annotation on RCAHMS working map notes 'fairly well-preserved. Gable-ended buildings of stone + lime + stone + clay'. Lurabus is noted as the largest and best preserved settlement in the area; some buildings have cruck-slots'.

(Undated) information in NMRS

(All letters in brackets refer to RCAHMS plan in published Inventory)

Lurabus is probably the largest surviving and best preserved of the numerous deserted townships on the E coast of the Oa peninsula, and is a good representative specimen of this category of settlement on Islay. It stands at a height of just

over 75 m OD on ground sloping towards the S and SE. The site overlooks the entrance to Kilnaughton Bay but, although the township stands only about 300m from the shoreline, access along this cliff-bound stretch of coast was probably much restricted. The remains of a track which linked all the settlements on the E side of the peninsula from Kilnaughton to Stremnishmore runs around the lower or southern edge of the site where it is joined by a second track leading in the direction of Upper Cragabus. Unlike some of the neighbouring townships, Lurabus does not appear to have been closely associated with a natural watercourse, but the positions of three wells or springs shown on earlier Ordnance Survey maps can still be seen.

The majority of the buildings (A-G) are clustered around the W end of the site, with a lesser group (K-L) to the E.

Except for building L, which has been erected on a terraced platform cut into the slope of the hillside, they are aligned to take advantage of natural drainage and tend to follow the fall in ground level. The buildings are associated with enclosures of various sizes, the walls of which are of drystone or stone-and-turf construction. There is clear evidence of rig-cultivation to the S of the settlement and within one of the larger enclosures, while aerial photography has shown traces of further ploughing on the higher ground to the N.

The buildings themselves are rubble-built, gable-ended and mainly square-angled; the random-rubble masonry has a

predominantly thin, slab-like quality, and some of the quoins are formed by large slabs placed on end. The stone is

presumably of local extraction from metamorphic rocks of Dalradian age, and there are a number of small quarry-

scoops around the site, especially close to the track on the N. Many of the walls appear to have been built with clay mortar, subsequently leached by weathering, but buildings B, D and L also exhibit traces of lime pointing and plastered internal wall-surfaces. Some walls still survive to their original heights, as for example at the lower end of building A, where the side-walls and gable stand to external heights of 2m and 3.7m respectively. Others, such as buildings Fand J, are now reduced to the level of the footings, and some of the enclosure-dykes, as for instance that which runs between

buildings D and G, also appear to incorporate vestiges of earlier building-foundations.

Almost all the buildings show evidence of alteration, the most recent changes having been effected for the purposes of

sheep-farming. Building A, which measures 17.5m in length by 5.3m transversely over walls 0.7m in average thickness,

may have originated as a cruck-framed byre-dwelling, but it has subsequently undergone at least two major

modifications resulting in a confused pattern of window- and doorway-openings and the removal of all except one cruck-slot in the NE side-wall. Buildings B, D, K and L are identifiable as dwellings with attached ancillary units, and

preserve remains of chimneyed fireplaces. There are mural aurnbries in the lower N side-wall of building B, whilst

building D has a cupboard with slab-stone shelves in its N side-wall and, adjacent to the chimney-breast, there is an

aurnbry, divided into quarters. Building L, which was probably the most recently erected and occupied dwelling on

the site, had loft accommodation above the SW room. There is a low-level lintelled opening of uncertain purpose in the

cross-wall of this building, and outside the SW angle there is a small mortar or knocking-stone.

The remains of a corn-drying kiln (M) occupy a detached bankside position nearby. It has a short, lintelled flue on the

lower side, and the bowl measures about 2m in diameter at a height of some 1.3m above the base of the.flue. The rounded upper end-wall of building H may have formed part of a similar structure at an earlier date, but there is no internal evidence to corroborate this identification. An arc of boulders demarcates a rounded platform of unknown

purpose adjacent to the SE gable-wall of building G. The buildings are linked by a network of paths, while the major

tracks that skirt the s and E edges of the township are bounded by substantial dykes and have the appearance of

hollow-ways, especially in the vicinity of building K.

None of the surviving remains can be ascribed to a period before 1800, and for the most part they appear to belong to

the first half of the 19th century. The place-name, however, is of Norse origin, and the lands of Lurabus have been on

record since the later Middle Ages, forming part of the possessions of the lordship of Dunivaig and, subsequently,

the estate of Kildalton. (Islay Book; McDougall's map) A rental of 1733 shows that the farm was held jointly by eight tenants, and from the evidence of a mid 18th-century survey and map it appears that its lands comprehended the whole of the coastal and moorland area to the E and N as far as Cragabus and Kilnaughton, thus incorporating the neighbouring settlements to the NE.(Islay Book; Mcdougall's map) A detailed account of the population of the township in 1839 ('Description of the population of Oa' in Kildalton Papers [microfilm in SRO RH4/92/2). A tombstone at Kilnaughton commemorates John Campbell 'late tenant Lurabus' who died in 1816. showed that at that date there were eight tenants who, together with the cottar families, formed a total population of 120 persons, and their stock included fifteen horses. There was one weaver and a slate-quarrier, who had a son and lodger also recorded as quarry-workers. A printed rental of 1848 ('Description of the population of Oa' in Kildalton Papers [microfilm in SRO RH4/92/2]. A tombstone at Kilnaughton commemorates John Campbell 'late tenant Lurabus' who died in 1816. (Kildalton Papers, loc. cit.) referred to the fact that the Lurabus leases had expired during the previous year, and thenceforward were being renewed only on a yearly basis. It is thus likely that most of the buildings were abandoned during the third quarter of the 19th century.

RCAHMS 1984, visited May 1981.

Cruck-slots noted.

G Stell 1981

A township comprising nine unroofed buildings, two of which are long buildings, one partially roofed building, one unroofed circular structure, four enclosures and a system of head-dykes, which are partially shared with the farmstead to the NE (NR34SW 24), is depicted on the OS 1st edition 6-inch map (Argyllshire 1882, sheet ccxxxix). Nine unroofed buildings, three enclosures, a disused kiln in the same location as the unroofed circular structure on the 1st edition, and the head-dykes are shown on the current edition of the OS 1:10000 map (1981).

Information from RCAHMS (SAH), 9 December 1998.


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