Ancient Monuments

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Dun Cuilein, dun 210m south west of Frackersaig

A Scheduled Monument in Oban North and Lorn, Argyll and Bute

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Latitude: 56.5033 / 56°30'11"N

Longitude: -5.5358 / 5°32'8"W

OS Eastings: 182498

OS Northings: 740178

OS Grid: NM824401

Mapcode National: GBR DCQJ.F2V

Mapcode Global: WH0FY.YS2X

Entry Name: Dun Cuilein, dun 210m SW of Frackersaig

Scheduled Date: 18 March 1957

Last Amended: 7 February 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM237

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: dun

Location: Lismore and Appin

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Oban North and Lorn

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument is a dun (a prehistoric defended settlement), likely to date from the Iron Age (between 500 BC and AD 500) or earlier. It comprises a circuit of low, turf-covered drystone walling which encloses an irregular-shaped central area measuring about 25m by 14m. The walling is most obvious in the northern half, where it is reduced to a spread of rubble 2-3m in width. The traces of walling are much slighter in the southern half, where a bank cuts across the interior. The dun is situated on the highest part of a substantial ridge of rock outcrop, within an area of rough grazing, on the W side of the island of Lismore and towards its southern end. The dun is approximately 55m above sea level and about 350m from the sea. It has a southerly outlook overlooking Morvern to the W and the Firth of Lorn to the S and SE. The monument was first scheduled in 1957, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan and is bounded by the base of the rock outcrop on which the dun is sited. The scheduled area includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The dun survives as a low earthwork wall-circuit, which broadly follows the topography and perimeter of the rock outcrop. The visible wall is likely to have been an external enclosing wall, rather than representing the remains of a roofed structure. Today the interior has an uneven surface and contains no visible features other than the later field bank, but it is likely to have contained one or more buildings in antiquity. The land immediately N of the enclosing wall is less steep and may have been the route of approach, but no entrance is visible today; it may have been obscured by walling collapse. Several of the outer facing stones have previously been recorded on the W side. Several detached facing stones have been noted below the dun on the E side, suggesting that the natural shelf at the NE end of the outcrop may once have been enclosed by an outer wall. In the southern half of the interior, the earthen bank running NNW-SSE across the interior may represent the remains of an internal division or a later insertion.

The footprint of the monument is intact and it survives in reasonably good condition. Despite the relatively slight appearance of the perimeter wall today, there is high potential for the survival of buried deposits and features, both beneath and beyond the enclosing wall and within the dun interior. Future examination of the dun could provide detailed information about its date, form and construction, and investigation of the interior could contribute to our understanding of how it was used and how this may have changed over time. Buried artefacts and palaeoenvironmental evidence can contribute to our understanding of how people lived and worked, the extent and nature of trade and exchange, and the nature of the agricultural economy. Pollen and other environmental analyses can indicate the character of the contemporary landscape and provide evidence for how the inhabitants managed and farmed the land. The monument has the potential to contribute to our understanding of the nature of Iron Age settlement and the design and development of these small defended enclosures.

Contextual characteristics

This type of relatively small, defended settlement characterises much of the coastal occupation of Argyll and Atlantic Scotland in later prehistory. There are eight known duns on Lismore and almost 50 in the Lorn area. They belong to a much broader category of later prehistoric settlement, which includes brochs, forts, crannogs, duns and hut circles. Altogether, over 500 later prehistoric settlements are known in Argyll. It is believed that duns represent the remains of the living spaces of small groups or single families. They are largely a coastal phenomenon and tend to be located on locally high ground, along prominent coastal routes or within easy reach of the coast, as in this case.

The duns of Lismore are all sited on rock outcrops and take advantage of the natural prominence and defence they afford. The location of Dun Cuilein appears to have been selected as much for its visibility to and from the seaward approaches as for its defensive qualities. Its relationship with the other duns in the island merits further research, but it is likely to have formed part of a network of similar sites in the area. It is probably also broadly contemporary with the substantial broch at Tirefour, just over 5km to the NE. Dun Cuilein has high potential to enhance our understanding of the Iron Age occupation of Lismore and further afield.

Associative characteristics

The dun is clearly shown on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map as a manmade sub-rectangular enclosure at the N end of the rock outcrop. It is labelled as 'Fort (Dùn Cuilein)'.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the design and construction of later prehistoric, small defended settlements in western Scotland, and their place in the wider economy and society. There is good potential for well-preserved archaeological remains to survive within and immediately outside the dun. These buried remains can tell us much about the people who built and lived in the dun and the connections they had with other groups. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the occupation of Argyll in the later prehistoric and early historic periods.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as CANMORE database reference 23106. West of Scotland Archaeology Service records the site as WOSASPIN 1294.


RCAHMS 1975, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the ancient monuments: volume 2: Lorn, p. 86, no. 173. Edinburgh.

Stoddart, S, 2005, Data Structure report. Version 2.0. Lismore Landscape Project, July-August, 2004. Circulated typescript report.

Stoddart, S, 2003, Lismore: Preliminary GIS work. [Draft] Circulated typescript report.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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