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Red Cove, dun 215m north of Beachmenach

A Scheduled Monument in Kintyre and the Islands, Argyll and Bute

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.6252 / 55°37'30"N

Longitude: -5.6731 / 5°40'23"W

OS Eastings: 168851

OS Northings: 642969

OS Grid: NR688429

Mapcode National: GBR DFCV.B62

Mapcode Global: WH0L4.TWP0

Entry Name: Red Cove, dun 215m N of Beachmenach

Scheduled Date: 20 July 1973

Last Amended: 15 March 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3291

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: dun

Location: Killean and Kilchenzie

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Kintyre and the Islands

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Description

The monument comprises a prehistoric dun likely to date to the Iron Age (between 500 BC and AD 500), together with a shallow cave at the base of the rock on which the dun is sited. The dun survives as the remains of a low, turf-covered wall enclosing an oval area measuring around 15m NE to SW by 9m transversely. It is situated on the coastal strip of west Kintyre at 15m above sea level, on the summit of a distinctive knoll of red sandstone, which rises to a height of 4.5m above the surrounding coastal plain. The rock is located on the shoreline in an area of rough grazing and scrub, and is connected to higher ground on the E by a narrow col. The monument was first scheduled in 1973, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, defined by the base of the rock on which the monument 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. Specifically excluded from the scheduling are the above-ground elements of an electricity transmission support pole, an associated cable and a wooden fence that closes off the cave in the W side of the rock, to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The dun occupies the summit of a prominent knoll which has steep or sheer sides on all but its NE side, where the approach and entrance may have been located. Traces of walling are visible around the E, N and S of the summit in the form of a band of rubble and boulders, and some external facing-stones can be seen on the W side. The low outline of a secondary sub-rectangular building is visible in the interior. Otherwise, the interior is uneven and without visible features. Given the exposed setting of the dun, it is likely that soil erosion has taken place on the knoll which suggests that occupation and midden material is likely to have been dispersed on the approach slope and at the foot of the knoll.

A shallow cave occurs at the base of the W side of the knoll, measuring around 7m across and 3.5m deep. A quantity of human bones and sea shells was recovered in 1845, reportedly from several apertures in the back wall of the cave formed by water action on faults in the sandstone. The discovery of sea shells might indicate occupation, but the dating, duration of use and function of the cave and its contents are unknown.

Overall, the footprint of the monument is intact and it survives in reasonably good condition, despite the relatively slight appearance of the enclosing wall. There is high potential for the survival of buried deposits and features beneath and beyond the wall and within the dun interior, as well as beneath the floor of the cave. Future examination of the dun could provide 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 in this vicinity. Future investigation of the cave could ascertain the date of its use as a repository for human remains and the date, nature and duration of any occupation. The monument has the potential to contribute to our understanding of the nature of Iron Age settlement, the design and development of these small defended settlements, and the use of natural caves in antiquity.

Contextual characteristics

The dun is a type of defended settlement that characterises much of the coastal occupation of Argyll and Atlantic Scotland in later prehistory. Duns 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 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.

Researchers have suggested that duns are often positioned for their seaward views, their visibility to seafarers, and sometimes their inter-visibility. This example undoubtedly favours a seaward outlook and would have been visible from the sea. It may have formed part of a network of broadly contemporary, similar sites along the western coastline of Kintyre: for example, Dun Beachaire lies only some 400m to the NE, and Dun Domhnuill lies just over 2km to the S. This monument has high potential to contribute to our understanding of the Iron Age occupation of Kintyre and further afield. The cave is an intriguing and rare feature of unknown date and function, but adds to the value of the monument overall.

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 settlement and the connections they had with other groups. The cave has the potential to add to the time-depth of the site and to enhance our understanding of the use of natural caves in antiquity. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the occupation of Argyll in the later prehistoric and possibly other periods.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as NR64SE 25 and 19. West of Scotland Archaeology Service records the site as WOSASPIN 3157 and 3164.

References

RCAHMS 1971, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the ancient monuments: volume 1: Kintyre, p 92, no 232 (dun); p 51, no 83 (cave). Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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