Ancient Monuments

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Dun Mor, motte 380m WNW of Balure Cottage

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

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Latitude: 56.4432 / 56°26'35"N

Longitude: -5.2253 / 5°13'31"W

OS Eastings: 201284

OS Northings: 732553

OS Grid: NN012325

Mapcode National: GBR FCGP.K8Y

Mapcode Global: WH1HM.P9YY

Entry Name: Dun Mor, motte 380m WNW of Balure Cottage

Scheduled Date: 16 November 1965

Last Amended: 7 February 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2527

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: motte

Location: Ardchattan and Muckairn

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Oban North and Lorn

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument comprises the remains of a motte, dating probably to some time between 1050 and 1300 AD. It is a large, artificially enhanced glacial mound, which occupies an area of low, level ground at the mouth of the River Awe, on the southern side of Loch Etive. It stands 10m above sea level within rough grazing land. The monument was first scheduled in 1965, but the area included was inadequate to protect the archaeological remains and the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The monument is visible as a large grass-covered mound with steep sides, a single broad rampart and external ditch, and a trapezoidal-shaped summit. The summit is on two levels, separated by a bank running across the centre, but is otherwise featureless. The summit area measures approximately 14.6m NW-SE by 10.7m transversely. The rampart survives as a grassy bank and stands up to 4.5m above the base of the ditch and up to 0.5m above the motte interior. The ditch is flat-bottomed and approximately 12m wide. A rampart or possible route-way runs around the SE edge of the mound and is abutted by a lower mound. There is no evidence for an entranceway, but it is likely that the access was originally from this direction where the approach is easiest. A 19th-century memorial stone stands on the summit.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include 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. The scheduling excludes the above-ground elements of an electricity pylon on the lower mound.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monuments cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The overall form of the monument survives to a good degree and it is in fair condition, despite slight erosion and encroachment of vegetation on and around the site. The rampart is clearly visible and the monument retains its impressive profile. The monument has the potential to contain important archaeological information relating to its date, form, construction and function. Investigation of the interior could contribute to our understanding of how such structures were used and how this changed over time.

A sherd of green-glazed medieval pottery was found by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) in the ditch, which may indicate the date of the monument's occupation. It also suggests there is good potential for the survival of buried archaeological deposits, including artefacts. Such archaeological assemblages and buried soils can contribute to our understanding of how people lived and worked, the extent and nature of trade and exchange, the organisation of society, and the nature of the agricultural economy. There is also good potential for the survival of environmental remains within the fill of the ditch, which could contribute to our understanding of the contemporary environment and land-use and how this may have changed over time. The place-name, 'Dun Mor', suggests that the site may have been used as a defensive location from later prehistory onwards. If so, this site could have a longer development sequence than most mottes and may contain archaeological evidence spanning the later prehistoric and medieval periods.

Contextual characteristics

Mottes are a form of medieval fortification, comprising an artificial or artificially enhanced mound, surmounted by a timber-built castle. Mottes are a rare monument class in Argyll (they are more typically found in lowland Scotland) and, of the 14 possible examples recorded in Argyll, most are in Cowal. This monument therefore has the potential to broaden our understanding of the nature and chronology of defensive settlement in Argyll.

The monument is positioned at a strategic point in the landscape and takes advantage of a prominent glacial mound, which occupies an otherwise relatively flat area of land at the mouth of the River Awe. The mound is a good defensive location, rising steeply above the low-lying ground and surrounded on its N and W sides by the River Awe and Loch Etive. From the top of the mound there are extensive views to the W, N and E. The motte is also sited at a safe crossing point and on an important route-way within the landscape. Its position within the landscape can enhance our understanding of the status of the site, the occupants' communications and relationships with other territories, and the nature of land ownership in the medieval period. Future study of Dun Mor has the potential to further our understanding of the role of mottes in western Scotland, and comparison with similar sites elsewhere could contribute towards a greater understanding of settlement and land-use in medieval times.

Associative characteristics

The monument is depicted on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map as Dun Mor, Law. The place-name 'Dun Mor' may be misleading as the nature and form of the monument today suggest it is a motte, rather than a dun. The name, however, may indicate that the site has its origins as a defensive location during later prehistory.

The area has continued to be of significance as a strategic location throughout history. To the SW of the monument is the 18th-century military road, visible as a raised bank, which appears to lead towards and respect the site. It is possible that the site was re-occupied by Hanoverian troops, possibly for use as a gun-emplacement. This spot is also a well-established ferry crossing point, indicated on the 1st and 2nd edition Ordnance Survey maps. The erection of a 19th-century memorial stone on the summit suggests the monument has continued to be valued for its prominent location and views and has a significant place in the local consciousness.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance as a rare example of a motte in Argyll, especially in this part of Argyll. The site has considerable potential to enhance our understanding of the nature of medieval lordship, landownership and the organisation of territories in this area. The site has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular of defensive sites in western Scotland and the Irish Sea region. There is good potential for the survival of archaeological remains within and immediately outside the motte; the external ditch, in particular, may contain important archaeological deposits, including artefacts and environmental information. The site has the potential to add to our understanding of the nature of defensive settlements and the structure and organisation of society during the medieval period.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as NN03SW 4. West of Scotland Archaeology Service records the site as WOSASPIN 1675.


The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 1975, Argyll: an inventory of the monuments volume 2: Lorn. Edinburgh

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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