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Sron Uamha, fort 170m NNW of Sron Uamha cave

A Scheduled Monument in South Kintyre, Argyll and Bute

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.2904 / 55°17'25"N

Longitude: -5.7627 / 5°45'45"W

OS Eastings: 161199

OS Northings: 606042

OS Grid: NR611060

Mapcode National: IRL WR.V8WF

Mapcode Global: GBR DG4Q.R5Z

Entry Name: Sron Uamha, fort 170m NNW of Sron Uamha cave

Scheduled Date: 27 April 1964

Last Amended: 14 June 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3748

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Southend

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: South Kintyre

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Description

The monument comprises the impressive remains of a multivallate fort, likely to date to the Iron Age (between 500 BC and AD 500) or earlier. It survives as a substantial, stone-built monument, defended by three concentric walls on the landward side, enclosing an irregular shaped area measuring 32m in length by 13.5m in width (maximum). The fort is sited on a rocky knoll at the most southerly point of Kintyre, at 100m above sea level, with a sheer cliff edge to the SW. The fort has commanding views southwards over the North Channel and to the coast of Ireland, as well as to the Ayrshire coastline, Ailsa Craig and Sanda. The monument was first scheduled in 1964, but the documentation did not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The scheduled area is an irregular polygon on 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.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The fort survives in excellent condition. It takes advantage of a remote coastal location, with the adjacent cliff edge providing exceptionally strong, natural defence along its NW-SE edge. The three concentric drystone walls are largely intact and provide a strong defence around the fort's inland circuit. In the E, a break in the circuit marks the site of the only entrance. At this point, a track leads obliquely through the outermost wall and then directly through the other two walls, giving access to the interior. All the walls are solidly built, but they become progressively wider and more massive towards the interior: the outer wall is approximately 1.5m wide; the middle wall, 2.1m wide; and the inner wall, over 3.5m wide (including a spread of wall material at its base). The walls are built from boulders and roughly dressed stone and survive to a marked degree, standing over 1.5m high in many places. The inner wall follows the irregular shoulder of a natural knoll and, at its NW corner, surmounts a rocky outcrop which rises to a height of over 4.5m above the rest of the interior. The only visible feature in the interior is a later wall that encroaches on the inner fort wall, just S of the entrance. However, given the excellent state of preservation of the fort, it is highly likely that substantial buried remains survive, including structural, artefactual and environmental evidence.

This fort is of exceptional interest because of its size, impressive survival and its relatively uncommon multivallate form. It appears substantially intact and retains significant architectural and structural details. Archaeological excavations at some other forts have sometimes indicated a longer period of use than expected, in some cases from the Bronze Age through to the medieval period. Although the precise dates of its construction and occupation are unknown, this fort may also have functioned over a long time-frame. Future investigation of the fort could provide detailed information about its date, form and construction, and development sequence. The buried deposits, features and structures can provide information about the people that used the site and perhaps help us understand more about the economy, contacts and social status of these groups, and whether occupation was of short or long duration. Examination of the interior could contribute to our understanding of how this exposed and remote fort was used, and how this may have changed over time. Buried artefacts and palaeoenvironmental evidence can contribute to our understanding of how its occupants lived and worked, the extent and nature of trade and exchange, and the nature of the agricultural economy. Overall, the site has considerable potential to enhance our understanding of the date, nature and development of large defensive sites in western Scotland and on the Atlantic seaboard.

Contextual characteristics

This fort is one of the most complete forts in Argyll and an impressive construction. Its cliff-edge location at the southernmost tip of Kintyre, with its commanding views south and westwards, makes it all the more impressive. Altogether there are over 500 broadly contemporary strongholds in Argyll, including duns, brochs, forts, crannogs and hut circles. Forts are a relatively small group, comprising only some 10% of the total number of Iron Age defensive enclosures in this part of Scotland. Forts are thought to represent the remains of strongholds occupied by communities or larger groups of people and may have had a wider range of functions than the generally smaller duns. This fort would certainly have required considerable resources of labour and materials in its construction. It occupies a sentinel position at the junction of seaways which connect the islands and coast of W Scotland with Ireland, the Isle of Man and NW England, and it is likely that it was meant to be visible from a seaward approach. This, combined with its multivallate structure, may indicate that this fort had some special significance for the group and wider population that built and used it.

The fort at Sron Uamha also has landward connections and was part of a network of broadly contemporary sites along the coastal and inland routes on the Mull of Kintyre. There is a single hut circle and a dun 300m and 1300m to the E respectively, while further N are the remains of other duns and forts. While the relationship between Sron Uamha and the two nearby sites is unclear, it demonstrates there may have been connections between the many defended settlement sites on the Kintyre peninsula and further afield. Further study of these monuments in their wider landscape context could enhance our understanding of site location and settlement patterns, as well as the connections between similar and other types of broadly contemporary sites in later prehistory.

Associative characteristics

The site is marked on the 1st edition OS maps as an unnamed fort. Local knowledge suggests it was once known as Rhu Varkie or Mharkie.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance as an example of an exceptionally well-preserved prehistoric fort defined by three concentric stone walls. It has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the defensive sites of western Scotland and those in the Irish Sea region. This is a particularly interesting monument because of the scale of its defences and its relatively unusual structural form, as well as its position at the southernmost tip of the Kintyre peninsula. It has high potential for well-preserved archaeological remains to survive within and immediately outside the fort. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand early Scottish communal fortifications.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as NR60NW 1. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service SMR reference is WOSASPIN 2900.

References

Fleming, J, 1903, 'Notices of three stone forts in Kintyre', in Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol. 37, p. 360-5.

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 1971, Argyll: an inventory of the monuments, volume 1: Kintyre, p. 76-7, no. 176. Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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