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Arran, Torr A' Chaisteil

Dun (Prehistoric)

Site Name Arran, Torr A' Chaisteil

Classification Dun (Prehistoric)

Alternative Name(s) Torr A'chaisteal, Corriecravie

Canmore ID 39674

Site Number NR92SW 2

NGR NR 9219 2326

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/39674

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

Administrative Areas

  • Council North Ayrshire
  • Parish Kilmory
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Cunninghame
  • Former County Buteshire

Archaeology Notes

NR92SW 2 9219 2326.

(NR 92172326) Torr a' Chaisteil (Fort) (NR)

OS 6" map (1924)

A dun (E W MacKie 1975) crowns Torr a' Chaisteal, a former headland, which M'Arthur alleges is artificial. It is now largely buried. The walls, 10ft-12ft wide between massive sandstone blocks filled with rubble, enclose an area 45 ft in diameter. The entrance, in the NE, is defended by a curved earth and stone rampart, 66ft long and 10ft thick. McArthur, digging around the mound, and within the ruins, found large quantities of animal bones and shells, embedded in a dark fetid loam. Human bones are also said to have been found among the ruins. Balfour, who states that local informants say that the court had been dug into twice prior to his excavations, found the top stone of a quern and pieces of haematite iron.

McArthur quotes a local tradition that a battle was fought here (see NR92SW 13).

S Piggott and W D Simpson 1970; J McArthur 1873; 1859; J Balfour 1910;

R McLellan 1970

NR 9219 2326. Torr a' Chaisteil (name confirmed on Department of the Environment nameplate) is a dun generally as described in the previous information. The turf-covered walling is 0.5m high abnd has an average width of 4.0m. The entrance appears to have been in the south-east rather than the north-east.

There is a level area 3.0m below the dun on the east which is the area of easiest approach. It measures 25.0m across and may have been used in association with the dun.

Surveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (BS) 17 October 1977.

Activities

Aerial Photography (1970)

Oblique aerial photographs of Torr A' Chaisteil dun, Arran, taken by John Dewar in 1970.

Publication Account (1985)

This dun is typical of the many hundreds of similar small iron-age defensive structures to be found along Scotland's western seaboard. Characteristically, it makes use of a small natural knoll to give added defence but, like so many others, it overlooks agricultural land which its occupants would have farnled. Whereas some duns take in the whole summit on which they are built, and are therefore of rather irregular plan, Torr a'Chaisteil was deliberately laid out to be a near true circle measuring 14m in diameter over a wall up to 3.7m thick. The wall is now much reduced in height (it may originally have been about 2m high), but considerable stretches of the outer face can still be seen standing up to two courses high. The entrance is on the east and was protected by an outer bank which crosses the knoll from north to south; such outworks are a common occurrence and give a degree of extra protection to the weakest part of the dun (although it is difficult to imagine that the dun-dwellers were able to withstand anything more than a rather desultmy attack). Ton- a'Chaisteil has been dug into on at least three occasions, but title additional structural information was recovered and the finds, as is normal on duns, were restricted to the top stone of a rotary quem and the bones of domesticated and wild animals.

Duns of this type were occupied by a single family, who held, and farmed, the surrounding land. The family was almost certainly of noble status and the dun, although it was a defensive structure, was probably built to impress and dominate as much as to function as a stronghold.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Clyde Estuary and Central Region’, (1985).

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