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Talatoll, shielings 1400m south east of, Kintyre

A Scheduled Monument in Kintyre and the Islands, Argyll and Bute

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Latitude: 55.7195 / 55°43'10"N

Longitude: -5.5429 / 5°32'34"W

OS Eastings: 177585

OS Northings: 653031

OS Grid: NR775530

Mapcode National: GBR DFPL.PVB

Mapcode Global: WH0KT.THQP

Entry Name: Talatoll, shielings 1400m SE of, Kintyre

Scheduled Date: 17 March 1976

Last Amended: 13 June 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3817

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: shieling

Location: Kilcalmonell

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Kintyre and the Islands

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument comprises two groups of shieling huts of pre-Improvement date. The huts represent the remains of temporary dwellings used on a seasonal basis by farm-workers who migrated to upland pastures with their cattle during the summer months. It is likely that these dense concentrations of features represent the remains of seasonal activity that took place over a considerable period of time. This monument occupies an upland location on three small hillocks in forestry clearings at approximately 140m above sea level. The monument was originally scheduled in 1976, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The westernmost group of shieling huts consists of an extensive cluster of at least 42 small foundations, varying from approximately 2.7 by 2.1m to about 6.1 by 4.9m, within walls up to 0.9m thick. The foundations appear to be composed mainly of turf and stone. The majority of the huts are grouped around two small hills near an unnamed stream. In the SW section of the group lie the remains of a probable prehistoric roundhouse, about 12m in diameter. A later shieling hut constructed inside the roundhouse made use of its SE side. The easternmost group is located 180m to the SE, on the other side of the stream, and consists of the remains of at least 25 shieling huts located on a small hill. These again vary in size from around 2m by 2m to about 8m by 5m, within walls up to 0.9m thick. At least half of the hut foundations are built on small mounds, which themselves probably represent the remains of successive earlier huts.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan and consists of two separate polygons 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. The scheduling specifically excludes the post-and-wire fence on the W side of the westernmost group of shielings.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

By their very nature, shieling huts tend to be less substantial than other types of structure and, therefore, less likely to survive. Overall, this group of shieling huts survives in reasonable condition, with the stone and turf-covered footings of the hut walls clearly visible. This cluster of features testifies to the practice of transhumance (seasonal agricultural activity) in the medieval and later period, which occurred over many decades and, possibly, centuries. Given the presence of so many huts in these two areas, the site may represent a larger summer settlement than usual, with a long duration of occupation and re-occupation. Many of the turf footings are sited on small mounds, which suggests that shieling huts may have been built and re-built on the same spots, in which case this site may have a longer and more complex development sequence than at first appears. Some of the huts have two 'rooms' and two seem to have three conjoined 'rooms'; these either represent multi-roomed huts or they may indicate different phases, with later huts built next to, rather than on top of, earlier structures. Future investigation of the site could enhance our understanding of the origins, use and re-use of seasonally occupied places and associated agricultural practices over a considerable length of time.

It is likely that important archaeological deposits survive in and around the shieling huts, which could contribute towards our understanding of rural transhumance practices in Argyll and more generally in Scotland during the medieval and later period. Archaeological evidence for the internal layout of the huts, the remains of any fittings and furniture, and for the construction, use and re-use of the shieling huts is likely to survive below ground. As an example, excavated shieling huts elsewhere have produced accumulated deposits of ash near their entrances, resulting from the periodic cleaning out of internal hearths. Scientific analysis of such remains could greatly enhance our understanding and appreciation of the dating and occupation sequence of the site. The probable prehistoric roundhouse is likely also to preserve important information about the nature of domestic life and agricultural practices carried out on this same hillside a thousand years or more before it began to be used for summer shielings.

Contextual characteristics

The monument represents the remains of an important group of shieling huts, which can be compared with other examples in Argyll. Shieling huts and the use of summer pastures were part of a long-lived seasonal practice in parts of rural Scotland. Occasionally, whole villages would relocate from their 'winter town' to the shielings or 'summer town'. Because of their function and seasonality, shielings are often located in remote upland regions. The huts were normally sited on small hills near fresh water, in good positions for monitoring the whereabouts and wellbeing of cattle and carrying out dairying activities. The huts themselves were built of wood or stone, and covered in turfs dug from the hill. They often contained a room with a hearth on one side and a sleeping area on the other; a separate room or cupboard was often used to store dairy produce and supplements, such as fish bones for the cattle. Textual sources suggest that children and young women primarily carried out these activities, and that time spent at the shieling was often welcomed as the occupants were away from the watchful eye of parents and village elders.

Shieling traditions and, specifically, hut construction seem to vary regionally, which at least partly reflects the availability of different building materials. The shieling huts at Talatoll survive as stone and turf footings, which suggests they were constructed primarily from timber and turf. Typically, they are grouped on a small hill in a wide valley and located next to a stream. Comparative study of the form, construction and location of this group of shieling huts with others across Argyll and further afield can enhance our knowledge and understanding of regional and national variations in transhumance practices and the range of vernacular buildings.

National Importance

The 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 positioning, function and construction of upland shielings, their place in the social and economic organisation of the time, and changes in rural land-use and agricultural practices from the medieval period to the early 19th century. The relatively good state of preservation of this group of shieling huts enhances this potential. The probable inclusion of a prehistoric roundhouse within the shieling group adds to the archaeological interest and importance of the monument. The loss of the monument would affect our ability to understand rural settlement and land-use from the pre-Improvement period in both Argyll and Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as NR75SE 4. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service SMR reference is WoSAS PIN 3817.


Boyle S 2003, 'Ben Lawers: An Improvement-period Landscape on Lochtayside, Perthshire', in Govan S (ed), Conference Proceedings. Medieval or Later Rural Settlement 10 years on, Historic Scotland: Edinburgh, 17-30.

Raven J 2012, 'The Shielings Survey: Central South Uist', in Parker Pearson M (ed), From Machair to Mountains: Archaeological Survey and Excavation in South Uist, Oxbow Books: Oxford, 160-179.

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

Thomas F L W 1870, 'On the Primitive Dwellings and Hypogea of the Outer Hebrides', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 7 (1866-68), 153-95.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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