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Upper Gylen, fort 700m ENE of, Kerrera

A Scheduled Monument in Oban South and the Isles, Argyll and Bute

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.3857 / 56°23'8"N

Longitude: -5.537 / 5°32'13"W

OS Eastings: 181753

OS Northings: 727103

OS Grid: NM817271

Mapcode National: GBR DCQV.0K3

Mapcode Global: WH0GJ.XRJJ

Entry Name: Upper Gylen, fort 700m ENE of, Kerrera

Scheduled Date: 9 January 1979

Last Amended: 15 August 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM4210

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Kilmore and Kilbride

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Oban South and the Isles

Traditional County: Argyllshire

Description

The monument comprises a prehistoric fort likely to date to the Iron Age (between 500 BC and AD 500). It survives as a substantial turf-covered enclosure wall and associated buried remains, occupying the level summit of an isolated rocky hillock on the E shore of Kerrera, overlooking the Sound of Kerrera. The fort is roughly oval in shape and the interior measures approximately 36m NE-SW by 27m transversely. It sits in an area of improved grassland at around 15m above sea level. The monument was first scheduled in 1979, but the documentation did not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The scheduled area is an irregular polygon on plan and includes 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. Its boundary extends 5m beyond the base of the rock outcrop on which the monument is sited.

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The fort is stable and survives in reasonably good condition. It takes advantage of the natural defences offered by the steep-sided rock outcrop, though access is possible up steep grass-covered slopes to the NW and NE. The enclosure wall is solidly built and stands over 1m high around the SW arc, where a gap marks the position of the entrance. Elsewhere the wall is much reduced, but it can be traced around the whole circuit. It appears to have been 2.5m to 3m wide in average thickness, but was up to 3.6m wide on either side of the entrance The entrance itself was approached from outside by slight cleft in the rock, which has been widened by the fort-builders. To the NE of the fort, beyond the enclosure wall, a thin band of stony debris around the edge of a terrace is likely to be the remains of an outwork. This terrace also extends E and SE of the fort, but there are no visible remains of further outworks. The ground within the fort and on the terraces is featureless. Despite the lack of visible structures on the ground surface, it is highly likely that buried features and deposits survive that could provide important information about the design, construction and use of the fort.

Significant structural remains and finds have been recovered from other forts where excavation has taken place. In some cases, excavation has demonstrated that forts could be occupied over a long period, from the Bronze Age through to the Iron Age, or even into medieval times, but they are generally of Iron Age date. Future investigation of this fort could provide detailed information about its date, construction and development, and examination of the interior could contribute to our understanding of how this rocky outcrop 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 and the extent and nature of trade and exchange. The monument's generally good condition suggests there is high potential for the survival of structural, artefactual and environmental evidence below ground.

Contextual characteristics

Much of the occupation of Argyll and Atlantic Scotland in later prehistory and the early historic period is characterised by defended settlements on promontories or rocky outcrops along the coast, as in this case. Upper Gylen fort is less than 50m from the shore, immediately S of a sheltered bay called 'The Little Horse Shoe', and overlooks the Sound of Kerrera and the Argyll mainland only 650m to the E.

The visible remains here are part of a much broader category of later prehistoric settlement, which includes brochs, forts, crannogs, duns and hut circles. Altogether, over 500 defended settlements are known in Argyll. Researchers have suggested they were positioned in places visible from far afield and from other contemporary sites; and that this was just as important as having good visibility from a monument. As well as having excellent views over the sea and along the coast, Upper Gylen would have been intervisible with a corresponding fort on the mainland coast to the E. Further study could help us refine our understanding of the context and significance of forts such as this, and the settlement pattern and the use of defensive sites more generally, in the later prehistoric period. Overall, Upper Gylen fort has high potential to enhance our understanding of later prehistoric settlement and life in Kerrera and Argyll.

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 and construction of later prehistoric defended settlements in western Scotland, and their place in the wider economy and society. It survives as a good example of a later prehistoric fortification, defined by a substantial enclosure wall, with excellent visibility overlooking the Sound of Kerrera and towards the Argyll mainland. There is good potential for the survival of well-preserved archaeological remains within and immediately outside the fort. These buried remains can tell us much about the people who built and lived in the fort and the connections they had with other groups. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand early Scottish communal fortifications in Argyll and further afield in the later prehistoric period.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

On 23 March 2012 Andrew Fulton wrote to the owners. We received a reply confirming the correct owner details and on 10 May 2012, Richard Heawood and John Malcolm visited the site where they met the occupier and the owner's agent separately. On 27 June 2012 Richard Heawood wrote to the owners and their agent confirming our intention to proceed with this rescheduling. No issues have been raised.

RCAHMS records the site as NM82NW 4. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service SMR reference is WOSASPIN 1139.

References

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 1975, Argyll: an inventory of the monuments, volume 2: Lorn, p. 73, no. 142. Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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