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Tom an Iasgaire, fort

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

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.407 / 56°24'25"N

Longitude: -5.1708 / 5°10'14"W

OS Eastings: 204461

OS Northings: 728373

OS Grid: NN044283

Mapcode National: GBR FCMS.69S

Mapcode Global: WH1HV.J7Y4

Entry Name: Tom an Iasgaire, fort

Scheduled Date: 31 January 1979

Last Amended: 10 May 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM4034

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: fort (includes hill and promontory fort)

Location: Glenorchy and Inishail

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Oban North and Lorn

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Description

The monument is a prehistoric fort, dating probably from the Iron Age (between 500 BC and AD 500). The fort occupies the summit of Tom an Iasgaire, a conspicuous isolated hill at the NW end of the Pass of Brander, at approximately 185m above sea level. The fort is naturally defended by precipitous rocky slopes to the N, S and E, but there are faint traces of an enclosing wall around the less well-defended western and southern margin of the summit. The monument was first scheduled in 1933, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is irregular in 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. Specifically excluded from the scheduling are the above-ground elements of an iron memorial and a relay transmitter box.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The enclosed area of the fort is an irregular oval in shape, measuring around 40m by 25m internally. The wall now appears as a grass-covered band of stony debris, 3m wide. A gap in the WSW, over 2m wide, may represent an entrance. There are no visible features in the interior. The fort is approached from the SW up a gentle slope where, about halfway, a level shelf of ground may represent an annex to the fort. No features are visible above ground on this shelf, except for a relatively recent structure. Beyond the western fort wall, access to the summit was further restricted by an outer wall which commenced at the edge of the precipitous drop on the N and may originally have continued along the flank of the hill immediately above the shelf on the SW. This outer wall is also now visible only as a low band of grass-covered stony debris, 1.5m to 2.5m wide, and it has been removed to the S, possibly to construct the secondary rectangular structure which can be seen on the shelf.

Despite the intrusion of a relay transmitter box and associated cables in the S part of the fort, Tom an Iasgaire fort appears to be largely undisturbed and it is likely that important archaeological deposits survive below ground. Excavations on forts elsewhere in Argyll have revealed structural and artefactual evidence which suggests that a range of domestic and agricultural processing activities would have taken place within the fort. Future investigation of the fort and buried remains may allow researchers to date the construction of the fort and its annex, assess the duration of its use and any development sequence. In addition, the buried remains have good potential to enhance our understanding of the use and function of forts and associated structures and of the daily lives of the people who occupied them. There is potential for the recovery of artefacts and ecofacts that may illuminate the diet, economy, and social status of the occupants, and the extent to which this varied over time. It is also possible that a buried ground surface may survive beneath the walling, which may preserve information about the local environment, climate and vegetation when the fort was constructed.

Contextual characteristics

This type of defended settlement is generally thought to date to the second half of the first millennium BC, although some have a construction or re-use date into the first millennium AD. There are over 110 enclosed and defended settlements in mid-Argyll, variously known as enclosures, forts and duns. Most of these structures were built most likely to offer protection to individual families or small groups, although some of the larger examples could possibly have had a variety of functions, perhaps serving as a central place for a community or wider area. Defensive structures of this type often reveal long periods of use and reuse and, despite the difficulties of classification of forts and duns, they do reflect the distribution of later prehistoric communities.

Forts and duns are often located on rocky knolls or hills with strong natural protection and in strategic locations, where they dominate the landscape and overlook important sea- and route-ways, as in this case. Tom an Iasgaire is situated on a hill dominating the NW end of the Pass of Brander and is only accessible by the gentle slope to the SW. The level area of ground on the SW approach has been interpreted as a possible annex; similar annex features have been noted elsewhere, as at Ardencaple, where outworks also appear to protect the approach to the settlement. The strategic location of this fort was undoubtedly also important. It commands spectacular views along the Pass of Brander, overlooking the important communication and transport routes along the valley floor and along the River Awe which connects the Airds Bay estuary and the inland water of Loch Awe.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance as a well-preserved example of a fort or defended settlement of Iron Age or later date, with high potential for the survival of important archaeological remains. The site has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the construction, use and abandonment of defensive sites of this period, and the nature of their occupation and reuse over time. The positioning of the fort is also of interest and further study could improve our understanding of the positioning of defended settlements in relation to each other and to the wider landscape. The loss of this monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand early Scottish communal fortifications.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

References

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the ancient monuments: volume 2: Lorn, p 74, no 144. Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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