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Low Glenramskill, dun 600m ENE of

A Scheduled Monument in South Kintyre, Argyll and Bute

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.4134 / 55°24'48"N

Longitude: -5.5636 / 5°33'49"W

OS Eastings: 174532

OS Northings: 619048

OS Grid: NR745190

Mapcode National: IRL Y3.LJ58

Mapcode Global: GBR DGND.LC5

Entry Name: Low Glenramskill, dun 600m ENE of

Scheduled Date: 1 October 1970

Last Amended: 15 March 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2921

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: dun

Location: Campbeltown

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: South Kintyre

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Description

The monument comprises a dun, a prehistoric defended settlement dating primarily to the Iron Age (between 500 BC and AD 500), but probably continuing in use into the early medieval period. The dun is visible as the upstanding remains of a substantial, roughly circular, stone-built structure, approximately 25m in diameter. The monument survives within the landscaped grounds of a modern fuel storage facility. It is located about 270m from the SE shore of Campbeltown Loch, on a rocky knoll at 85m above sea level, with commanding views over the loch and the surrounding area, and over Kilbrannan Sound and Arran to the NE. The monument was first scheduled in 1970, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan and 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. The scheduling extends up to, but does not include, a field drain located immediately E of the monument. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground remains of a post-and-wire fence to allow for its maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

This impressive monument retains much of its structure and architectural form. The dun is roughly circular and comprises two arcs of walling cut by two entrances (in the WNW and ESE). The walling is 5m thick in places and best preserved on the NW side where it stands approximately 1.5m tall. Many of the dun's architectural features are visible, including the wall core, inner and outer facings, the two entrances, intra-mural spaces, prepared surfaces, a stone lined-shaft, hearth space, and post holes likely to indicate the ground plan of internal structures. Limited archaeological investigation in the 1960s indicated that the dun went through at least two phases of construction and re-use, evidenced by modifications to its layout (for example, the blocking of the entrances and changes to the arrangement of internal space). In the first period of use the occupants mainly used the natural rock surface as their floor; later on, the interior was levelled up with earth, clay and stones, and large parts of the levelled surface were paved. A remarkable range of artefacts was recovered from the excavations, including a Neolithic polished axe (possibly indicating much earlier use of this same site), a rare Roman brooch, a bronze spiral finger ring, an iron pin with a glass-bead head, bone pins, fragments of cannel-coal bracelets, an antler weaving comb, a shell midden, domestic animal bones and various types of coarse pottery.

Overall, the monument is in good condition. Much of its architectural form survives and is clear to see, despite previous archaeological investigations and the proximity of modern landscaped ground surrounding the dun. There is high potential for the survival of buried deposits and features beneath and beyond the visible walling, both within the dun interior and in the ground immediately outside and around the dun, as has been confirmed by limited archaeological investigation.

Further examination of the dun could enhance our understanding of occupation and activities on the site before the dun was built, the construction of the dun and its development sequence, how its use changed during the several hundred years that it was occupied, and its abandonment. The rich assemblage of artefacts recovered so far demonstrates the high potential for a range of further objects of various dates to survive in undisturbed layers. Deposits within and around the dun are likely also to contain palaeoenvironmental evidence, which can contribute to our understanding of the environment and vegetation at the time the dun was built and while it was in use. Overall, this site has considerable potential to contribute to our understanding of the nature of Iron Age settlement and the design and development of these defended enclosures.

Contextual characteristics

This type of defended settlement characterises the coastal occupation of Argyll and Atlantic Scotland in later prehistory. It belongs 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. There is a larger, broadly contemporary fort only some 500m to the S of the dun, and the relationship between the two monuments would be an important area for future research, potentially elucidating the different dates and functions of forts and duns.

The dun now has an incongruous immediate setting, since its surroundings were developed as a fuel storage depot by the Defence Estates in the early 1960s, but its wider setting is intact and it is possible to appreciate its original position in the landscape. The dun occupies a relatively flat area on a N-facing slope, overlooking Campbeltown Loch. This is not a naturally well-defended position and the dun builders may have relied upon the steep ground to its immediate N, as well as its architectural form, for protection. It has extensive views in all northerly directions and overlooks the sea to the E. The topography here (and westwards along the neck of land separating the Mull from the rest for Kintyre) facilitates sheltered and relatively easy access from the E and W, and probably accounts for the dun's location here. Its siting on a rocky knoll with uninterrupted views northwards suggests that it may also have been intervisible with other broadly contemporary sites to the N. The range, quantity and quality of the artefacts recovered indicate that the occupants of the dun were well connected, with trading links well beyond the boundaries of modern Argyll.

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, 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

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as NR71NW 11. West of Scotland Archaeology Service records the site as WOSASPIN 3300.

The dun was partly excavated in 1963-64 by a local schoolteacher, Mr Bigwood, with the agreement of the Ministry of Defence, but somewhat to the displeasure of the then Ministry of Public Building and Works. The case reveals changing attitudes by government departments towards protection, excavation and development in the vicinity of important monuments.

References

Bigwood, W F L, 1964, Dun at Glenramskill, Campbeltown, Discovery Excav Scot

Clarke, D V, 1971, Small finds in the Atlantic Province: Problems of approach, Scot Archaeol Forum, vol 3

MacKie, E W, 1971, English migrants and Scottish brochs, Glasgow Archaeol J, vol. 2

RCAHMS 1971, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the ancient monuments: volume 1: Kintyre. Edinburgh

Robertson, A S, 1970, Roman finds from non-Roman sites in Scotland, Britannia, vol. 1

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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