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Islay, Loch Lossit, Eilean Mhic Iain

Island Dwelling (Medieval)

Site Name Islay, Loch Lossit, Eilean Mhic Iain

Classification Island Dwelling (Medieval)

Canmore ID 38111

Site Number NR46NW 18

NGR NR 4099 6526

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Killarow And Kilmeny
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll


Field Visit (August 1975)

NR46NW 18 4099 6526

This island is situated about 100m from the NE shore of Loch Lossit. It is composed of vertically bedded slates, visible at several points around the shore, and is heavily wooded as the result of ornamental planting of sycamores, but there is little undergrowth. The island measures 56m N-S by 42m transversely, rising to a maximum height of about 3m, and it is encircled by a massive drystone wall having an average thickness of about 3.5m. This originally rose directly from the water, and the outer kerb of boulders is visible in several places, although overlain elsewhere by tumbled stone. The masonry is roughly constructed of igneous rubble, with occasional blocks of limestone; these materials are not native to the island, and must have been transported from the adjacent shores of the loch. The perimeter wall returns inwards at the N to form a boat-landing, protected on the E by a breakwater, but there is no evidence for a causeway, and the water separating the island from the shore is of considerable depth.

The perimeter wall is overlain for much of its length by an inner wall 1.2m thick, which stands in places to a height of about 1m. A well-formed opening in the inner wall is sutuated about 10m W of the boat-inlet, but its purpose is not apparent. Within the enclosure there are the remains of three rectangular buildings, two of which comprise an L-shaped block, although their chronological relationship is uncertain. One, measuring 6m by 2.4m within 0.8m walls, preserves a single cruck-recess in the E wall, but is so ruinous that the position of its entrance cannot be identified. The second building measures 8.4m by 3.4m internally and has a single entrance in the S, while the third building, whose NE angle is situated about 1.5m from the end-wall of the previous one, is slightly larger, but its side-walls are fragmentary. None of these buildings appears to be of great age, but at some points they overlie older footings.

The name Eilean Mhic Iain (MacIan's island) appears in a feu-charter of the early 1570's. Since the perimeter wall is probably of late medieval date, it is possible that the island takes its name from John MacIan of Ardnamurchan, who in the 1490's became bailie of Islay and received large grants there.

However, 'Lossit with the island' was grouped among church lands in the crown rental of 1509, and the feu-charter mentioned above was granted by John, Bishop of the Isles, as commendator of Iona Abbey, to Hector, son of ?Allan MacLean, bailie of ?the Rinns. The grant comprised the extensive Iona Abbey lands of Moychilis, including 'Lossett with the ile their of callit Ellan Moyborg alias ellan Vekkayne', and Loch Lossit can therefore be identified with Monro's 'Loch Moyburg, quhairin thair lyis an Ile pertaining to the Bishops of the Iles'. The surviving buildings on the island are probably of 17th- or 18th-century date, and the inner perimeter wall may have been constructed at the same period.

RCAHMS 1984 (visited August 1975).

Field Visit (19 April 1979)

A minor deserted settlement comprising the ruins of three rectangular buildings, the largest 9m by 3.3m, which survive to a maximum height of 0.9m. The island, which is natural, has a wall drawn around its periphery.

OS field visit (NKB) 19 April 1979.


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