Ancient Monuments

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Ardencaple, dun 430m SSW of Camuslaich, Seil

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

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Latitude: 56.3074 / 56°18'26"N

Longitude: -5.6048 / 5°36'17"W

OS Eastings: 177111

OS Northings: 718615

OS Grid: NM771186

Mapcode National: GBR DDJ1.KGZ

Mapcode Global: WH0GW.WQ6J

Entry Name: Ardencaple, dun 430m SSW of Camuslaich, Seil

Scheduled Date: 25 October 1977

Last Amended: 10 May 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3985

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: dun

Location: Kilbrandon and Kilchattan

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Oban North and Lorn

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument comprises a prehistoric dun likely to date to the Iron Age (between 500 BC and AD 500). It survives as a substantial oval enclosure, which measures around 17m NE-SW by 14m NW-SE internally, and has outworks on two sides. The dun is located at the SW end of a coastal ridge, in the NE part of the island of Seil, in an area of rough grazing with heather and bracken. It sits at 50m above sea level and overlooks the Firth of Lorn. The monument was first scheduled in 1977, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is rectangular on plan, measuring 80m by 50m. The scheduled area includes the remains described above, an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, and adjoining land essential for the monument's support and preservation, 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 ridge affords strong natural protection with steep grassy slopes on all sides, interspersed with sheer-faced rock outcrops, except on the NE where access is easier along the spine of the ridge. The remains of the dun itself comprise the oval wall, which now appears as a heather-covered stony bank 4.3m in average thickness and as much as 1.5m in height above the level of the interior. Several inner facing-stones are visible in the NW and a stretch of outer facing-stones can be seen on the SW. The entrance was probably on the ENE, where the wall is lowest. A large quarry scoop abuts the inner wall on the N side, adjacent to the entrance. A large earthfast boulder at the NW side of a path passing through the entrance may indicate one side of the entrance passage. Additional protection is provided by two outer walls within 10m of the outer face of the dun, one built around the end of the ridge SW of the dun, and the other drawn across the spine to the NE. The former is reduced to a low scarp and a single outer facing stone. The latter appears as a prominent stony bank in which short stretches of inner and outer faces survive, indicating a wall thickness of around 2.7m. A gap on the S probably marks the position of the original entrance.

Overall, the footprint of the monument is intact and, despite the extensive robbing of stone (which was recorded in antiquity), the monument survives in a relatively stable condition. There is high potential for the survival of significant archaeological remains within, beneath and beyond the enclosure wall. The presence of additional outworks (protective walls) beyond either end of the dun indicates that this dun was unusually well-defended and adds to the interest of the site. 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 here. The monument has high potential to contribute to our understanding of the nature of Iron Age settlement in Argyll and the design and development of these small defended enclosures.

Contextual characteristics

This type of defended settlement characterises much of the coastal occupation of Argyll and Atlantic Scotland in later prehistory. 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.

Researchers have suggested that duns are often positioned for their seaward views, their visibility to seafarers, and sometimes their inter-visibility. Ardencaple dun occupies a position on the western fringe of Argyll, with extensive views westwards over the Firth of Lorn, and would have been clearly visible from the sea atop the prominent rocky ridge. The additional protective outworks beyond either end of the dun indicate that this dun was unusually well-defended. It may well have formed part of a wider network of broadly contemporary, defended settlements in Kintyre: for example, Dun Aorain in Ellanbeich lies only some 2.75km to the WSW. This monument has high potential to contribute to our understanding of the Iron Age occupation of Kintyre and further afield.

Associative characteristics

The dun is known traditionally as 'Caisteal Ach-a-luachrach'. Macadam stated that in about 1845, during the extensive stone-robbing then taking place, 'a bar of gold ' a sword and other articles' were found in the ruins of the dun. These objects have not survived and no further details have been recorded.

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 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 1975, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the ancient monuments: volume 2: Lorn, p 81, no 160. Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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