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Loch Dornal

Building(S) (Period Unassigned), Island Dwelling (Medieval)

Site Name Loch Dornal

Classification Building(S) (Period Unassigned), Island Dwelling (Medieval)

Canmore ID 62458

Site Number NX27NE 5

NGR NX 2942 7622

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council South Ayrshire
  • Parish Colmonell
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Kyle And Carrick
  • Former County Ayrshire

Archaeology Notes

NX27NE 5 2942 7622.

(NX 2942 7622) A fort or castle of drystone construction on this island is noted by Smith (1895), and is named 'Castle Dornal' by MacCrimmon (1924). No boat was available at the time of visit, but inspection from the shore, at a distance of circa 15m, confirmed the existence of a building although its exact nature could not be established, its being considerably obscured by vegetation.

Visited by OS (JLD) 10 November 1955

The level of Loch Dornal is at present high, and the island still inaccessible and obscured by vegetation. A crumbling drystone wall, about 0.5m high, forming a probable rectangular structure of indeterminate size is visible; it appears domestic in purpose and of doubtful antiquity.

Visited by OS (JRL) 7 April 1977

Listed among 'Medieval and Later Settlements'. No further information.


Two unroofed buildings, which lie on a small island in Loch Dornal and are annotated Ruins, are depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Ayrshire 1857, sheet lxxii), but they are not shown on the current edition of the OS 1:10000 map (1978).

Information from RCAHMS (SAH) 12 January 2000

NX 2942 7622 The island is shown as containing a settlement in Blaeu's Atlas Novus of 1654, and it is likely that the information came from a survey of Scotland by Pont in the 1580s and 1590s. In 1925 MacCrinnon referred to it as 'Castle Dornal'. It sits on the boundary between Colmonell parish, South Ayrshire, and Penninghame parish, Dumfries and Galloway.

The island is largely circular, around 23m in diameter, and it stands in 3m of water, just 15m S of the nearest point of the shore. Two drystone rectilinear buildings occupy a plateau to the NE of the island. The westernmost structure, which runs roughly N-S, is well built with straight walls up to 1.5m thick and measures 8.5 x 6m. Its walls remain to a maximum height of 1.5m. The eastern building runs nearly parallel, with walls of similar thickness but is less well constructed, and measures 10.5 x 6.5m at its greatest extents. The E wall is curved to the edge of the plateau and drops to tumble close to the edge of the water. The island is presently covered in trees and is occasionally flooded at high water.

Three 1m wide trial trenches were opened in a line through the remains. Trench 1, in the E building, revealed a cobbled floor and one sherd of 15th- to 16th-century Scottish redware was recovered. A small flint scraper was found in Trench 2, between the two buildings. Trench 3, in the W building, revealed two distinct levels of flooring, including one of good-quality flagstones. There were also the remains of a poorly built wall running N-S around 60cm from the W wall. Scorched earth, burnt bone and fire-cracked stones were found. All the surfaces were heavily affected by root action. A clay capping found in Trenches 1 and 2 may be man-made, but equally may have been formed by a combination of root damage and periodic flooding.

An underwater inspection indicated that the island is a natural feature which has been substantially modified.

M Shelley and J A Raven 2004


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