Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

SC2727: An Dun, Gairloch  

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HER:  Highland HER MHG7730

NMR:  NG 87 NW 6 (11959)

SM:  6234

NGR:  NG 8027 7534

X:  180270  Y:  875340  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

The defences of the small fortification on a rocky promontory extending N from the headland at the southern end of the bay at Gairloch comprises two elements: a small oval enclosure on the summit of the promontory; and a dug-out gully cutting off the landward approach from the SE. The inner enclosure measures about 17m from N to S by 15m transversely within the grass-grown remains of a wall about 0.6m high, within which vitrifaction has been observed on the N and adjacent to the entrance on the SE. The entrance opens onto a causeway across the gully, the bottom of which has been dug out to form a ditch some 3m wide by up to 2m deep. It is unclear whether the ditch is merely an outwork to the inner enclosure, or whether it is part of an earlier promontory work. Girt with cliffs along its sides and separated from the outer end of the promontory by a deep natural fissure, it is well-suited to defence and an area of about 0.09ha is cut off behind the ditch. Keith Blood of the OS also identified traces of a bank along the cliff-edge on the landward side of the ditch, possibly indicating an outer defence or an outer enclosure as was depicted by William Thomson in 1924 (1924, 135-9, fig 4); Thomson also believed that the outer end of the promontory beyond the natural fissure was enclosed with walls and marks several places where he identified vitrified stones. This part of the promontory extends to about 0.3ha, much of it apparently bare outcrop.

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed:  Conventionally the outwork of a dun, but the topographical position lends itself to use as a promontory fort.

Location

X:  -633486  Y:  7907483  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -5.690706  Latitude:  57.71403  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  Scotland

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Highland

Historic County:   Ross-shire

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Gairloch

Condition

Extant:  
Cropmark:  
Likely Destroyed:  

Land Use

Woodland:  
Commercial Forestry Plantation:  
Parkland:  
Pasture (Grazing):  
Arable:  
Scrub/Bracken:  
Bare Outcrop:  
Heather/Moorland:  
Heath:  
Built-up:  
Coastal Grassland:  
Other:  

Landscape

Hillfort Type

Contour Fort:  
Partial Contour Fort:  
Promontory Fort:  
Hillslope Fort:  
Level Terrain Fort:  
Marsh Fort:  
Multiple Enclosure Fort:  

Topographic Position

Hilltop:  
Coastal Promontory:  
Inland Promontory:  
Valley Bottom:  
Knoll/Hillock/Outcrop:  
Ridge:  
Cliff/Plateau-edge/Scarp:  
Hillslope:  
Lowland:  
Spur:  

Dominant Topographic Feature:  

Aspect

North:  
Northeast:  
East:  
Southeast:  
South:  
Southwest:  
West:  
Northwest:  
Level:  

Elevation

Altitude:  10.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  

Dating Evidence

In the absence of excavation, there are neither stratified artefacts nor radiocarbon dates to provide a chronology for the defences.

Reliability:  D - None

Pre 1200BC:  
1200BC - 800BC:  
1200BC - 800BC:  
400BC - AD50:  
AD50 - AD400:  
AD400 - AD 800:  
Post AD800:  
Unknown:  

Pre Hillfort Activity:  ✗  

Post Hillfort Activity:  ✓  Possibly a dun overlying an earlier promontory work

None:  No details.

Investigations

Also photographed by RCAHMS in 2011

1st Identified Map Depiction (1875):  Annotated 'Dun (Supposed Pictish Fort' on the 1st edition of the OS 25-inch map (Ross-shire 1881, sheet 56.4)
Other (1886):  Mentioned as a vitrified fort (Dixon 1886, 21, 24, 98)
Other (1924):  Sketch-plan and description by William Thomson (1924, 135-9, fig 4)
Other (1947):  A Mr C Gordon sends pieces of vitrified stone to RCAHMS (Graham 1947)
Other (1949):  Description and photographs (Graham 1949, 23-4)
Other (1965):  Surveyed at 1:2500 by the OS
Other (1995):  Scheduled
Earthwork Survey (1996):  Sketch-plan and notes in Highland HER

Interior Features

Featureless unless the dun overlies the promontory work

Water Source

None:  
Spring:  
Stream:  
Pool:  
Flush:  
Well:  
Other:  

Surface

No Known Features:  
Round Stone Structures:  
Rectangular Stone Structures:  
Curvilinear Platforms:  
Other Roundhouse Evidence:  
Pits:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  

Excavation

No Known Excavation:  
Pits:  
Postholes:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  
Nothing Found:  

Geophysics

No Known Geophysics:  
Pits:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  
Nothing Found:  

Finds

No Known Finds:  
Pottery:  
Metal:  
Metalworking:  
Human Bones:  
Animal Bones:  
Lithics:  
Environmental:  
Other:  

Aerial

The dun on the summit

APs Not Checked:  
None:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Pits:  
Postholes:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Other:  

Entrances

See main summary

Total Number of Breaks Through Ramparts:  1:  Incomplete and heavily degraded

Number of Possible Original Entrances:   

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Entrance 1 (Southeast):  Other Forms:  Causeway across the ditch

Enclosing Works

Ditch cuts off a promontory, but there is also a possible outer enclosure bounded by a bank extending along the cliff-edge.

Enclosed Area 1:  0.09ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  0.1ha.

Total Footprint Area:  0.1ha.

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✗  

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✗  This does not include the dun wall

Number of Ramparts:  1

Number of Ramparts NE Quadrant:  
Number of Ramparts SE Quadrant:  1
Number of Ramparts SW Quadrant:  
Number of Ramparts NW Quadrant:  

Current Morphology

Partial Univallate:  
Univallate:  
Partial Bivallate:  
Bivallate:
Partial Multivallate:  
Multivallate:  
Unknown:  

Multi-period Morphology

Partial Univallate:  
Univallate:  
Partial Bivallate:  
Bivallate:  
Partial Multivallate:  
Multivallate:  

Surface Evidence

Dun wall contains vitrifaction. Thomson claims traces of vitrifaction on the outer end of the promontory, but this remains unconfirmed

None:  
Earthen Bank:  
Stone Wall:  
Rubble:  
Wall-walk:  
Evidence of Timber:  
Vitrification:  
Other Burning:  
Palisade:  
Counter Scarp Bank:  
Berm:  
Unfinished:  
Other:  

Excavated Evidence

None:  
Earthen Bank:  
Stone Wall:  
Murus Duplex:  
Timber-framed:  
Timber-laced:  
Vitrification:  
Other Burning:  
Palisade:  
Counter Scarp Bank:  
Berm:  
Unfinished:  
No Known Excavation:  
Other:  

Gang Working

Gang Working:  ✗ 

Ditches

Ditches:  

Number of Ditches:  1:  Cutting off promontory

Annex

Annex:  ✗  

References

Dixon, J H (1886) Gairloch in north west Ross-shire: its records, traditions inhabitants and natural history with a guide to Gairloch and Loch Maree. Edinburgh

Feachem, R (1963) A guide to prehistoric Scotland. Batsford, London (p 149)

Graham, A (1947) 'New vitrified forts'. Proc Soc Antiq Scot.81 (1946-7), 182

Graham, A (1951) 'Notes on some brochs and forts visited in 1949'. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 83 (1948-9), 12-24

Thomson, W (1924) 'An Account of several Antiquities in Gairloch Parish, Ross-shire'. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 58 (1923-4), 131-9

Terms of Use

The online version of the Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland should be cited as:

Lock, G. and Ralston, I. 2017.  Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland. [ONLINE] Available at: https://hillforts.arch.ox.ac.uk.

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