Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Beinn a' Chaisteil, promontory fort and associated remains, Islay

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

We don't have any photos of this monument yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.


Latitude: 55.8533 / 55°51'11"N

Longitude: -6.4443 / 6°26'39"W

OS Eastings: 121962

OS Northings: 671171

OS Grid: NR219711

Mapcode National: GBR BFG7.R0C

Mapcode Global: WGYGJ.Z4GL

Entry Name: Beinn a' Chaisteil, promontory fort and associated remains, Islay

Scheduled Date: 5 December 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13213

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Kilchoman

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Kintyre and the Islands

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument comprises the remains of a substantial promontory fort and enclosed coastal settlement, occupying a distinctive coastal headland on the NW coast of Islay. The visible remains reflect at least two and probably more phases of use, the earliest of which is likely to be later prehistoric in origin (between 500 BC and AD 500). The site may include the remains of an early monastic settlement, as well as later structures.

The headland is surrounded by steep sea cliffs on all but the SE (landward) side, which rises towards the end of the headland, its highest point being 125m above sea level. A single stone wall measuring 3m thick and 0.4m high runs across the neck of the headland, cutting off a triangular area of land about 1.35ha in size. To the W, below the promontory of Beinn a' Chaisteil on the seaward side, are the remains of a series of massive drystone walls. The first wall, running E to W, is about 2m thick and 60m in length and incorporates an entrance passage which is 2m long and 0.75m wide. Directly behind the entrance are the foundations of two small stone-built enclosures which are the possible remains of cellular structures. The wall encloses the area to the NE of the inlet known as Alt Nam Bà, which contains a settlement consisting of the remains of at least 10 small oval stone-built structures. While most survive only as foundations, one survives relatively intact with a slab-corbelled roof; internally, this is roughly 2.5m long by 1m wide and stands 1.3m high. The structure resembles a stone shieling hut or cleat and is probably of a later date than the drystone walls at the site. It is possible that some of the buildings were used in the post-medieval period for fowling activities or summer grazing that was carried out in this area.

To the W of the inlet of Alt Nam Bà are the remains of another group of massive drystone walls; the largest and probably earliest encloses a small promontory. The wall is 2m in average thickness, stands up to 1.3m in height and is 50m in length. The wall contains small intermural chambers entered from the outer side of the area being enclosed by the wall. The chambers are oval and the best preserved measures 1.6m in length by 0.6m in width internally. A later stone wall runs from this wall to the SW and cuts the gully in half. At the base of the gully a small stone circular building and enclosure are constructed in the centre of the stone wall. These early massive stone walls enclose an area located below the promontory fort, which is difficult to access, both from its landward side and from the sea, and easy to defend. The area is also secluded and would not have been visible from a wide area. Because of these elements and the site's overall isolation, it has been suggested that this part of the site may represent the remains of an early monastic settlement.

The scheduled area is irregular 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 is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. On the SE side, the scheduled area runs up to but does not include the modern drystone wall. The scheduling also specifically excludes the above-ground elements of any post-and-wire fences to allow for their upkeep and maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

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, construction and use of large defended settlements and coastal headlands in western Scotland, and their place in the wider economy and society. It also has the potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of early monastic sites and later seasonal activities, such as sea fowling. There is high potential for the survival of well-preserved archaeological remains, both within the fort and in the associated enclosures and settlement. These buried remains can tell us much about the people who built these structures and used and lived on this headland, 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, early medieval and later periods.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NR27SW 5 and 13. The WOSAS Record reference is 2129. The site lies within a SSSI.


The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), 1971, Argyll: an inventory of the monuments, volume 1: Kintyre, no 131, 77-81. Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Other nearby scheduled monuments is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself. is a Good Stuff website.