Ancient Monuments

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Ardanstur, dun 345m west of Top Ardanstur

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

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Latitude: 56.2661 / 56°15'57"N

Longitude: -5.5211 / 5°31'16"W

OS Eastings: 182049

OS Northings: 713753

OS Grid: NM820137

Mapcode National: GBR DDR4.V37

Mapcode Global: WH0H4.5R4Q

Entry Name: Ardanstur, dun 345m W of Top Ardanstur

Scheduled Date: 24 December 1974

Last Amended: 15 March 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3794

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: dun

Location: Kilninver and Kilmelfort

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Oban North and Lorn

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument comprises the remains of a dun, a prehistoric defended settlement dating probably from the Iron Age (some time between 500 BC and AD 500). The monument is located on a steep-sided rocky promontory, except on the E side where the approach is more gradual. The dun is located at a height of 100m above sea level on the NE shore of Loch Melfort. The monument was first scheduled in 1975, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present scheduling rectifies this.

The promontory on which the dun sits is divided by a gully into two pronounced ridges aligned NE and SW, with the dun situated on the SE edge of the higher ridge. The dun is roughly oval in shape and its wall broadly follows the topography of the outcrop. The dun measures about 16.7m N-S by 11.6m E-W, within a wall about 2.4m thick which survives as a turf-covered bank of stony debris. This may represent the remains of a single roofed structure, rather than the enclosing wall of a larger settlement. The less steep ground immediately E and NE of the dun wall is likely to have been the route of approach, but no entrance is visible today. Beyond the wall, the remains of two outer enclosing banks and ditches run across the eastern part of the outcrop, protecting this approach. The remains of four small rectilinear structures are located N and E of the dun, each roughly 6m by 4m in size; these may represent the footings of post-medieval shielings.

The area to be scheduled is rectilinear on plan, measuring 75m WNW-ESE by 65m NNE by SSW, 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.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

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 beneath and beyond the 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, specifically, the design and development of defensive structures.

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 230 duns recorded in Argyll. Those with a smaller internal diameter, of which this is an example, might have resembled large stone built roundhouses rather than small enclosed homesteads. 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 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.

Many of the duns of Argyll are sited on rock outcrops and take advantage of the natural prominence and defence they afford. The location of Dun Ardanstur appears to have been selected for as much for its visibility to and from the seaward approaches as for its defensive qualities. Its relationship with the other duns in the vicinity merits further research, but it may have formed part of a network of similar sites in the area. A similar site, Dun Beag, is located only 170m to the SE; an Iron Age fort lies some 650m to the SSE on the banks of Loch Melfort; and another dun, Rubh' an Tighe Loisgte, lies 1.6km to the SE, on the other side of Loch Melfort. These sites are at least broadly contemporary and they are all inter-visible. These duns and forts, together with others in the area, have high group value and high potential to contribute to our understanding of the Iron Age occupation of Argyll and further afield.

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 surviving 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 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 NM93NW 2. It is named as Ardanstur 2 by RCAHMS, to distinguish it from Ardanstur 1 (Dun Beag) . West of Scotland Archaeology Service records the site as WOSASPIN 1399.


Harding, D W 1997, 'Forts, duns, brochs and crannogs: Iron Age settlements in Argyll', in Ritchie, G, The archaeology of Argyll, Edinburgh, 118-140.

RCAHMS 1975, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the ancient monuments: volume 2: Lorn, 78 (no. 153), Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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