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Loch Lomond, Elan-rossdhu

Castle (Medieval), Crannog (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Loch Lomond, Elan-rossdhu

Classification Castle (Medieval), Crannog (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Rossdhu House Policies

Canmore ID 42461

Site Number NS38NE 3

NGR NS 3595 8937

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2021.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Luss
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Dumbarton
  • Former County Dunbartonshire

Archaeology Notes

NS38NE 3 3595 8937

For Rossdhu House (NS 3619 8950) and associated buildings, see NS38NE 17.

(NS 3597 8940). On the small island of Elan-Rossdhu are the remains of buildings, and large masses of fallen masonry, probably a predecessor of the 16th century castle of Rossdhu (Dunbar 11 SW 3).

Little is known of the early history of the castle, but the island is mentioned in charters of 1541 and 1602.

W Fraser 1869

The island is c.15.0m in diameter and is covered by a large quantity of worked stones and fallen masonry. It is not possible to identify any foundations.

Visited by OS (DS) 2 October 1956

NS 359 894. A castle, probably of pre-16th century date, stood on the small island of Elan-Rossdhu in Loch Lomond. The only visible remains of the castle are large quantities of worked stone and fallen masonry.

W Fraser 1869; RCAHMS 1978

Little is known of this island which may be a crannog in origin. It was granted to Maldouen First of Luss by Alwyn, Second Earl of Lennox before 1220 and confirmed by Maldouen, Third Earl of Lennox to Gillemore second of Luss in or just after 1225. The island is called Inchfreithillane in the 1541 charters of the Barony of Luss and is called Rosdew in the 1602 charters of Barony.

The castle on the mainland had been built by 1541, perhaps in 1457, and was abandoned by the 1770s when the Colquhouns moved into Rossdhu House. Although no foundations may be discerned on Ellan Rossdhu it is possible that the earliest Luss / Colquhoun castle stood here.

FIRAT (September 1995); NMRS, MS/993/2

The island is a crannog in origin although it is possible there is a natural glacial moraine or islet underlying the artificially constructed island. On the south side of the stone crannog a natural tail of silt, sand and gravel has built up and it is likely this part of the island floods when the loch is high. The island is quite heavily wooded and overgrown and the sand and gravel bar to the south is overgrown with tall grasses, rushes and reeds.

The northern part of the island is an oval stone mound measuring c. 18m N-S by 20m E-W and the southern part of the island measures c. 21m N-S by 15m E-W. The stone mound consists of both angular and rounded sandstone boulders and cobbles and rises to a height of c. 1.5m - 2m.

The island lies c. 30m out from the shore and is closest to the shore at its SE end. An old fenceline represented by wooden posts sticking up out of the loch runs to the W side of the island from the mainland. There is a fine view N up the strait between Inchtavannach and the mainland

The N part of the island is quite wooded and overgrown and some trees are established on the ruins. Monitoring and the removal of some trees is advised. The southern part of the island appears to represent a natural build-up of sand, silt and gravel. The grasses and rushes on the southern tail of Ellan Rossdhu stood over 1.5m tall when the island was surveyed but no archaeological features were noted. There is a noticeable hollow towards the N end of the southern tail but this feature appears to be natural although visibility was severely restricted by the vegetation.

A broken fragment of slate with a pierced hole in it was found on the W shore of the crannog. This slate, presumably from the nearby Camstraddan Quarries, measures 0.48m x 0.18m and is 0.03m thick. It is possible that this large slate is the remains of an anchor rather than a large roof slate.

The remains of a substantial square building with mortared masonry are present on the crannog and it is likely these are the remains of the castle reputed to have stood on the island prior to the construction of the now-ruined castle on the mainland. The castle on the mainland had been built by 1541, perhaps in 1457, and it went out of use in the 1770s when the Colquhoun Family abandoned it is favour of Rossdhu House. It is likely the ruins on Ellan Rossdhu are the remains of the first castle of the Lairds of Luss.

Ellan Rossdhu was granted to Maldouen First of Luss by Alwyn Second Earl of Lennox before 1220 and was confirmed in charter by Maldouen Third Earl of Lennox to Gillemore Second of Luss in or just after 1225 and again confirmed to Gilliemore's son Maldoven. The island is referred to as Inchfreithillane in the 1541 Charters of the Barony of Luss and is called Rosdew in the 1602 Charters of Barony.

The island was visited by OS surveyors on 2 October 1956 who reported, 'The island is c. 15.0m in diameter and is covered by a large quantity of worked stones and fallen masonry. It is not possible to identify any foundations'.

The castle: The northern part of the island is an oval stone mound measuring c. 18m N-S by 20m E-W and standing to c. 2m high. The southern part of the island measures c. 21m N-S by 15m E-W, is apparently natural in origin and stands to c. 0.5m above the loch. The stone mound consists of both angular and rounded sandstone boulders and cobbles and rises to a height of c. 1.5m. The northern part of the island is a crannog with a later structure built on top and a jetty of uncertain date is located on the NE side of the artificial island.

The obvious mound has the remains of a square building on it which measures 9m by 9m. This structure, which has been systematically demolished and robbed, contains dressed sandstone blocks in the walls and a chunk of masonry with lime mortar bonding lies on the N shore. As so little of this building remains it is logical to assume it was robbed to provide building material for the castle on the mainland. However, it is likely excavation would reveal a clear plan of the foundations.

It is difficult to see structural integrity in the ruins although a NNE - SSW wall is clearly visible with a return to the W. At the NE interior corner of the structure is a distinct rectangular foundation measuring 4m N-S by 3.5m E-W with 4 courses surviving in the wall. There are traces of three other walls inside the structure but archaeologically supervised clearance would be required in order to define these. The building remains stand to c. 1m in height and the stones used in its construction are up to a maximum size of 0.7m by 0.4m by 0.2m. The structure is very denuded along its W side and although the ground surface indicates foundations are probably present they are not visible.

The building has tumbled towards the N and it appears there may be a retaining wall along the N side although it is unclear if this is part of the earlier crannog or part of the castle. It is possible elements of the crannog have been incorporated into this later building. On the E side of the building there is a distance of c. 7m between the E wall of the building and the edge of the island where it appears the artificial stone mound extends under the water.

The crannog on which the castle is built is clearly visible but internal structural elements are obscured by the later building. The kerb forming the outer limit of the crannog is very clear particularly on the W and S sides of the island and the crannog measures c.18m N-S by 20m E-W. It is possible the E side of the crannog's outer defining wall was altered and built up in preparation for the construction of the building FEATURE 1 or that a structural element of the crannog has been incorporated into the later building's construction. There are many stones lying underwater around Ellan Rossdhu which may be part of the crannog and it is possible a causeway to the mainland is present. It is possible the crannog may extend over a larger area than is visible today. Underwater survey of the crannog will take place during Phase 3 of the survey.

FIRAT 1996; NMRS MS 993/3

The second of three phases was completed on the assessment of the islands and crannogs in Loch Lomond. Twenty-five islands were visited during the survey, the majority of which were found to be archaeologically sterile. The four islands in Argyll and Bute where sites were recorded have selected sites listed in abbreviated form below. Full reports will be deposited in the NMRS and Central Region SMR. See also separate entries in Stirling region under Buchanan parish, and West Dunbartonshire under Kilmaronock parish.

Ellan Rossdhu (Luss parish)

NS 3597 8940 Crannog with remains of mortared structure (castle).

Sponsors: Friends of Loch Lomond, HS A, Dunbartonshire Enterprise, SNH, Loch Lomond Park Authority

FIRAT 1996

This site is in a small enclosed bay which is relatively deep all over. The island is becoming part of the shore as severe silting takes place. On the S and SE it is marshy and it is possible to walk from the shore to the island. It is difficult on these sides to detect the original crannog edge. There are building remains on the raised, central area which were too overgrown to see clearly at this time.

On the S side, measurements were made of the existing muddy waterline and the original edge was postulated from the slight rise from water level and the firmness of the underlying subsoil. There is no doubt that the site is the remains of an artificial island.

STUA and FIRAT (February 1998); NMRS, MS 993/5.

Site recorded during the third and final phase of fieldwork of the Loch Lomond Islands Survey project which took place in September 1997:

NS 359 894 Ellan Rossdhu. Distance to shore 32m; diameter 38m; height 2.1+m; depth underwater ? above surface. No timbers located, extensive silting. Remains of a castle on the crannog.

Sponsors: Historic Scotland, Friends of Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire Enterprise, Loch Lomond Park Authority/SNH.

F Baker and N Dixon 1998


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