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Achnaclach, fort 680m north west of

A Scheduled Monument in South Kintyre, Argyll and Bute

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.3785 / 55°22'42"N

Longitude: -5.651 / 5°39'3"W

OS Eastings: 168798

OS Northings: 615458

OS Grid: NR687154

Mapcode National: IRL XF.T0RR

Mapcode Global: GBR DGFH.GBB

Entry Name: Achnaclach, fort 680m NW of

Scheduled Date: 1 August 1975

Last Amended: 10 May 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3692

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Campbeltown

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: South Kintyre

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Description

The monument comprises a prehistoric fort, dating probably to the Iron Age (between 500 BC and AD 500). It survives as a substantial turf-covered wall enclosing an area approximately 100m by 37m, which occupies the whole of the narrow top of an elongated ridge running NW-SE. The fort is located to the N of Conieglen Water at 170m above sea level, with a predominantly southerly aspect. The monument was first scheduled in 1975, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled 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, 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 fort takes advantage of the natural protection afforded by the steep-sided ridge and is defended by a single wall built around the irregular margin of the summit area. The only easy access to the summit is by way of a gentle ascent from a saddle at the NW end. A gap in the NW arc of the enclosing wall marks the likely position of the entrance. The enclosure wall was solidly built, with a core of rock rubble faced with large boulders, but has been heavily robbed and is obscured by vegetation. The most visible surviving section is in the N half, where it survives to an average height of 1m. Where the sides of the ridge are least stable, it is likely that some of the wall and occupation debris has collapsed downslope. The fort interior has been bisected by a low cross-bank running NE-SW, dividing it roughly in half, but it is unclear whether this feature was original or a later addition. The interior is uneven and overgrown, and there are no visible remains of buildings or structures. The fort survives in a stable and relatively good condition in an area of rough grazing, although its setting has been affected by the presence of an adjacent disused quarry to the NW.

Achnaclach fort is of particular interest because of its unusually large size and the possibility that it fulfilled a variety of functions, perhaps serving as a central place for a community or wider area. The 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 construction of the fort, assess the duration of its use and ascertain 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. The site therefore has high potential to enhance our understanding of the date, nature and development of large defensive sites in western Scotland.

Contextual characteristics

This type of defended settlement is generally thought to date to the second half of the first millennium BC, although some have been shown to have been in use earlier (in the Bronze Age) and others have a construction or re-use date into the first millennium AD. This site is one of the largest forts in Argyll and may also have been in use over a longer time-frame. There are over 500 enclosed and defended settlements in Argyll, including brochs, crannogs, forts, duns and hut circles, of which about 10% are classified as forts. Forts probably represent the remains of strongholds occupied by larger groups of people, either permanently or on a temporary basis.

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- or route-ways. In Argyll, forts are mainly a coastal phenomenon, but this example is positioned inland. Nonetheless, its location was undoubtedly significant. It sits at a strategic point on a natural route-way leading northwards and overlooks the approach from the S along Conie Glen, which suggests that it may have been meant to be seen from afar. Researchers have suggested that forts and duns were deliberately positioned to be inter-visible and formed part of a network of broadly contemporary settlements. A dun is located only 470m SSW of Achnaclach fort, with a clear line of site over the southward approach. Further study could help to refine our understanding of the context and significance of forts and duns, the use of defensive sites, and the settlement pattern in general in the later prehistoric period.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance as a substantial prehistoric fort on a steep-sided ridge in a strategic inland location. It has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular of the defensive sites of western Scotland and the Irish Sea region. This site is of particular importance because of unusually large size. It has high potential for the survival of well-preserved archaeological remains 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 NR61NE 5. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service SMR reference is WOSASPIN 2929.

References

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 1971, Argyll: an inventory of the monuments, volume 1: Kintyre, p 65, no 155. Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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