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Dun Borodale, dun 160m WSW of Old Free Church Manse, Raasay

A Scheduled Monument in Eilean á Chèo, Highland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.3518 / 57°21'6"N

Longitude: -6.0666 / 6°3'59"W

OS Eastings: 155477

OS Northings: 836344

OS Grid: NG554363

Mapcode National: GBR C9D9.40P

Mapcode Global: WGZ8H.SGBX

Entry Name: Dun Borodale, dun 160m WSW of Old Free Church Manse, Raasay

Scheduled Date: 31 March 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12900

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: dun

Location: Portree

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Eilean á Chèo

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a fortified settlement site of Iron Age date, visible as upstanding remains. The monument is situated in a commanding position at the S end of a steeply sided natural knoll, which is located on the SE brow of a hill, at a height of around 80m above sea-level.

The dun has an oval plan, and the interior court measures 11.6m N-S by 8.3m transversely. The walls, of dry stone construction, measure around 4.2m wide at the base. The outer face of the wall, comprising regular, large, worked and faced stone blocks, slopes inwards as it rises upwards and the upper portions of the wall measure around 3.2m thick. Portions of the wall are significantly tumbled, particularly into the interior, but a considerable height of interior face has survived. The exterior wall is most complete on the S side where externally it stands to an impressive height of around 2.6m. An entrance, checked for a door, is located in the E side of the dun, the steepest side of the knoll, and measures 0.9m in the external face of the wall, widening to 1.5m internally. A ledge is visible on the inner face of the wall around the southern arc and is interpreted as a scarcement. The ledge is horizontal and would have formed a level support contrary to the bedrock beneath which is projected to rise to the north. An intramural cell, now collapsed, is located to the S of the entrance, with access through the interior wall. Traces of a lintelled entrance are visible in the interior side of the W arc, possibly leading to another cell or gallery, although this is obscured by rubble. Traces of a boulder-faced outwork cross the end of the knoll around 12m to the N of the enclosing wall. From the NNW of the knoll upon which the monument sits traces of a rubble-built boundary can be seen heading off in a NNW direction. Traces of another rubble boundary run from the base of the knoll to the SSW. These may be outworks associated with the dun, or they may represent a later re-use. Around 15m to the W of the base of the knoll is a semi-circular structure, surviving as 1-2 courses of stone and around 7m across. This is thought to be later in date than the dun's initial construction and use.

The area to be scheduled is irregular in plan, to include the remains as described, and an area around them within which evidence relating to the dun's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Specifically, the scheduled area extends 15m from the base of the knoll in all directions.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is a good example of an Iron Age defensive domestic structure, with marked field characteristics and good survival of upstanding remains. It is located in a typical position for such a monument, intended to utilise and augment a naturally defensive situation. The monument has traditionally been interpreted as a dun, but the dry stone structure contains many features typical of brochs: more substantial structures usually of a greater height. These features include intramural galleries, a scarcement for the support of a floor or roof, and an entranceway checked for a door. Historical records indicate that the walls may once have stood much higher, up to at least three storeys, strengthening the argument that the monument may be more broch-like in character. The classification of monuments as brochs or duns may be over-simplistic given the complexity and diversity of such structures. The presence of the sub-circular structure to the W of the monument, and records indicating that the monument was partially dismantled in the 18th century, indicate a high possibility that the structure was used and re-used into the historic period.

Although the structure is recorded as more complete in earlier records, there is little evidence to suggest that the monument has been excavated or disturbed by antiquarian endeavours. The upstanding features have the potential to inform our knowledge of the architecture of the enclosing wall, associated outworks and any associated structures and their function. The monument has the capacity to provide more information for the study of Iron Age defensive structures and inform the ongoing debates as to their origin and possible chronologies of development and diversification of form. There is a good probability for the preservation of archaeologically significant material in the northern area of the knoll, which may have functioned as an outer courtyard. This area has a high potential for associated structures and traces of activities relating to the main structure. It is likely that the upstanding features overlie buried soils containing information relating to the environment and associated land-use practices within which the monument was constructed. Excavations at similar monuments have shown how cut features, such as post-holes and pits, can also contain archaeologically significant deposits and important artefactual evidence relating to the use of the monument, including the social, ritual and economic life of its occupants. These deposits could also inform our understanding of the date of construction of the monument and the length of occupation, its functions and the daily lives of its inhabitants, as well as any subsequent re-use.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is located in a defensive position on a natural knoll in the lee of the hill and sheltered from prevailing winds. The monument is 305m N of the Inverarish Burn and 640m E of the west coast of Rassay. Though now situated within a forestry plantation, it is clear from its elevated position that, were the trees not present, the views to the S and SW, across the Sound of Raasay to Skye, would be spectacular.

Dun Borodale belongs to a class of monument recognised across Scotland, predominantly in the north and west, and relates to other dry stone defensive Iron Age structures such as brochs, forts and stone roundhouses. There are 159 monuments classed as duns in the Highland region alone and 340 brochs. On Raasay a further dun is located 2.7 km to the SE and, further west, on Skye, a large group of 60 duns and 30 brochs have been recorded. These mostly have a coastal distribution, though whether this is a function of differential survival is unclear. Of particular note is the proximity across the water of Dunan an Aisilidh, another broch/dun, 2.3 km away on a small peninsula and possibly intervisible with Dun Borodale. Other comparable sites on Skye also show evidence of later re-fashioning: a good example is that of Dun Ringill. This was adapted probably in the 14th century and used as the primary residence of the Mackinnon chiefs. This evidence of late medieval re-use could provide a possible comparison to the later activity implied at Dun Borodale. Other excavated examples have demonstrated periods of spasmodic use as well as later re-use.

The monument therefore belongs to a significant group of Iron Age monuments in the immediate area, all occupying commanding positions and all defensible. The study and comparison of these sites has the potential to inform our understanding of the nature of any relationships between them, their functions, the number of phases of use and their duration and the patterns of their distribution, as well real or potential differences in classification. Artefact assemblages from the few excavated examples have been small, but these include culturally significant finds, such as Roman material. At Dun Fiadhairt, a broch located on the west side of Skye, excavated finds included a terracotta model which probably originated from somewhere in Roman Britain. The study of any associated artefacts therefore has an inherent capacity to further our knowledge of the potential networks between indigenous groups and those outside the area, such as the Romans.

The presence of associated outworks, often seeming to relate to extra defence on more easily accessible sides, and other features outside the monument, are known from several other comparative sites across Scotland. Elsewhere, archaeologists interpret these duns as forming the core of relatively small, defended farming settlements, other elements of which may be expected to survive in the immediate vicinity. There is also evidence to suggest the use of such sites prior to the construction of the dun: traces of earlier timber structures have been noted beneath duns in some cases, as well as episodes of later re-use. This monument has the potential to inform and refine these interpretations further and to contribute to the body of knowledge on this monument type and its function. It also has the potential to inform the ongoing debate as to the relationships between, and specific functions of, duns, brochs, forts and stone roundhouses.

Associative characteristics

The monument is possibly described by Martin Martin who visited Raasay in 1703 and wrote: There are some forts in this isle, the highest is in the south end; it is a natural strength, and in form like the crown of a hat; it is called Dun-Cann, which the natives will needs have to be from one Canne, cousin to the king of Denmark. The other lies on the side, is an artificial fort, three stories high, and is called Castle Vreokle. In 1773 James Boswell recorded: The old tower of three stories, mentioned by Martin, was taken down soon after 1746, and a modern house supplies its place. By the time of the First Edition Ordnance Survey the monument is noted as 'Dun'. It has also been called 'Voradel' and 'Voradale'. These sources show a longevity of appreciation of the antiquity of the monument and its associations with the history of the Isle of Raasay.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent capacity to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular later prehistoric settlement and defensive sites. This monument specifically has a high potential to inform us about a settlement type that characterised the wider Iron Age defended domestic landscape, forming an intrinsic element of the later prehistoric settlement pattern on and around the Isle of Skye. Domestic remains and artefacts from such monuments have the potential not only to tell us about prehistoric architecture, but also about wider society, how people lived, where they came from, who they had contacts with, and may also offer insights into the function of such sites. The ground surfaces sealed by the enclosing wall may provide information about the nature of the contemporary environment and the use made of it by prehistoric farmers. Spatial analysis may inform our understanding of patterns of landholding and the expansion of settlement. The loss or damage of the monument would impede our ability to understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape, both within the Inner Hebrides and across the country, and diminish its potential to contribute to our knowledge of Iron Age social structure, economy and building practices.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

The monument is currently situated within forestry. It also lies within the Inventory and is part of the Designed Landscape known as 'Raasay House'.

RCAHMS records the monument as Raasay, Dun Borodale, NG53NE 1. The Highand Council's Sites and Monuments Record identifies the monument as MHG5732.

References

Judd, J. M. 1875. Note of a broch at Dun Voradale, Isle of Raasay. Proc Soc Antiq Scot. Vol 10 pp 308-9

MacKie, E. 2007. The Roundhouses, Brochs and Wheelhouses of Atlantic Scotland c.700 BC-AD 500: architecture and material culture, the Northern and Southern Mainland and the Western Islands, BAR British series 444(II), 444(1), Oxford pp 844-6

Martin, M. 1703. A Voyage to St. Kilda. A Description of The Western Islands Of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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