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Dun Ara, fort, castle, harbour and depopulated settlement

A Scheduled Monument in Oban South and the Isles, Argyll and Bute

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.64 / 56°38'23"N

Longitude: -6.198 / 6°11'52"W

OS Eastings: 142702

OS Northings: 757675

OS Grid: NM427576

Mapcode National: GBR CC25.9SW

Mapcode Global: WGYBS.RCRK

Entry Name: Dun Ara, fort, castle, harbour and depopulated settlement

Scheduled Date: 11 November 2003

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM10679

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Industrial: dock, harbour, lock; Prehistoric domestic and defensive: fort (includes hill and promont

Location: Kilninian and Kilmore

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Oban South and the Isles

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Description

The monument comprises Dun Ara, fort, castle, harbour and depopulated settlement, which is prehistoric and medieval in date visible as upstanding remains and earthworks. The monument is situated at about 10m O.D. on and around the summit of a prominent outcrop on Mull's N coast, 1.3km WNW of Glengorm Castle.

The monument consists of a broad curtain wall delineating the platform which constitutes the outcrop summit, 1.3m-1.8m in thickness and surviving to a maximum height of 1.8m on the NE side, enclosing the remains of four substantial buildings. The remains of a further eight buildings survive to the E beneath the outcrop whilst a harbour was artificially constructed along the shore to the SW. The monument currently stands in pasture though the outcrop summit is not grazed.

The medieval curtain wall was probably constructed over the remains of an Iron Age fort. A fragmentary drystone wall survives to the immediate N of the entrance to the castle complex on the E and further E at the base of the outcrop there is a possible revetment; these may represent defensive outerworks.

The curtain wall is of stone and lime construction, as is the largest of the interior buildings which measures 12.3m by 5.7m over walls 1.3m in thickness with opposing entrances. The remaining buildings seem to have been constructed without lime mortar and may have had a subsidiary function to the main building which most probably formed the hall of the castle. Dun Ara was probably the stronghold of the MacKinnons who held lands in Mull by 1354. It seems to have fallen out of use by the late medieval period.

The sub-rectangular buildings to the E are associated with cultivation strips and field clearance heaps. This settlement may have originated during the time at which the castle was in use. Most survive as turf-covered footings and none of the walls survive to a greater height than 1m. The harbour to the SW may have been augmented in the Modern period, however, it is likely that it was originally constructed to serve the castle. A quay and boat-landing, a small jetty and two boat noosts are associated with the harbour.

The area proposed for scheduling comprises the remains described above including an area around them within which related archaeological material may be found. It is irregular on plan, with maximum dimensions of 250m NE-SW and 165m NW-SE, and is marked in red on the accompanying map extract.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as a well-preserved example of a medieval defended stronghold with an associated settlement and contemporary harbour. Its early abandonment adds to its archaeological potential and the lack of documentary sources increases the importance of the physical remains. Its significance is increased by its rarity and its potential to contribute to our understanding of power structures and social organisation of the medieval period.

The survival of its associated harbour and settlement adds to its significance with the potential for the study of such a discrete coastal site of the medieval period. Traces of a later prehistoric defended settlement is also preserved which is important as an example of Iron Age monuments of this type and allows for compartive study.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the monument as 'Mull, Dun Ara', NM45NW 1.

References:

Duns J (1883) 'Notes on North Mull', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 17, 88.

Fairhurst H (1960) 'Dunara', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT, 22.

Miller H B and Kirkhope J (1964) 'Dunara, Mull', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT, 10-11.

RCAHMS (1980a) ARGYLL: AN INVENTORY OF THE MONUMENTS VOLUME 3: MULL, TIREE, COLL AND NORTHERN ARGYLL (EXCLUDING THE EARLY MEDIEVAL AND LATER MONUMENTS OF IONA), Edinburgh: HMSO, No. 340, 199-202.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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