Ancient Monuments

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Lurabus House, dun 370m ENE of, Islay

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

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Latitude: 55.6121 / 55°36'43"N

Longitude: -6.2219 / 6°13'18"W

OS Eastings: 134235

OS Northings: 643474

OS Grid: NR342434

Mapcode National: GBR CF0W.BWB

Mapcode Global: WGYHT.D6FK

Entry Name: Lurabus House, dun 370m ENE of, Islay

Scheduled Date: 3 March 1994

Last Amended: 31 May 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM5937

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: dun

Location: Kildalton

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Kintyre and the Islands

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument comprises the remains of a coastal dun, a prehistoric defended settlement likely to date to the Iron Age (between 500 BC and AD 500). The dun survives as the low earthwork remains of a wall and outwork. The walling is up to 4m wide in places and encloses a sub-rectangular space of approximately 20m E-W by 15m N-S. The dun is located at 10m above sea level on the summit of a rocky knoll on the SE coast of Islay in an area of rough grazing. This position affords extensive views to the E, along the Islay coast and further afield, to the W Kintyre coastline and across the North Channel. The monument was first scheduled in 1994, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan and extends beyond the base of the rock outcrop on which the monument is sited. Its seaward extent is defined as the mean high water spring mark. The scheduled area includes the remains described above, 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 dun occupies a site of natural strength, on the summit of a knoll surrounded on the S and W sides by near vertical rock faces. The defences are enhanced by an enclosing wall which is still visible and survives as coursed stonework up to 1m high, most evident in the NNE arc. A 2m wide gap in the northern arc probably represents the position of an entrance. An additional section of walling, located across the natural access route to the dun from the NE, is thought to be a reinforcement or outwork providing additional defence. The interior of the dun is uneven and obscured by vegetation, but is likely to contain structural remains and evidence for occupation.

Overall, the footprint of the monument is intact and survives in reasonably good condition. Despite the relatively slight appearance of the perimeter wall today, there is high potential for the survival of buried deposits and features beneath and beyond the wall, within the dun interior and between the dun and its outwork. In addition, occupation debris is likely to have accumulated at the bottom of the slopes and around the base of the outcrop. Future examination of the dun could provide detailed information about its date, form and construction, and the wider development sequence of the dun and its outwork. Investigation of the interior could contribute to our understanding of how it was used and how this may have changed over time. Buried artefacts and palaeoenvironmental evidence can contribute to our understanding of how people lived and worked, the extent and nature of trade and exchange, and the nature of the agricultural economy. The monument therefore has the potential to contribute to our understanding of the nature of Iron Age settlement and the design and development of these small defended enclosures.

Contextual characteristics

This type of defended settlement characterises much of the coastal occupation of Argyll and Atlantic Scotland in later prehistory. It is a relatively large example of a single defended settlement or dun, where a family or small community may have lived. These duns belong to a much broader category of later prehistoric settlement in Argyll, which includes brochs, forts, crannogs, duns and hut circles. Altogether, over 500 later prehistoric settlements are known in Argyll. Duns are largely a coastal phenomenon and tend to be located on locally high ground, along prominent coastal routes or within easy reach of the coast, as in this case.

This example is particularly interesting because of its extensive views along the E and SE coast of Islay, across the North Channel and to the Kintyre peninsula. The dun's prominent knoll-top position suggests that defence and visibility were the chief reasons for its siting here (rather than proximity to agricultural land, for instance). Researchers think that duns such as this were also meant to be visible from the sea, to those making a seaward approach. It is thought that individual duns such as this functioned as elements of a broader, contemporary network of similar sites. In this case there are contemporary settlements elsewhere on Islay's coast, including Dun an Rudha Bhuide, An Dun, and Mullach Ban further to the N near Ardmore. It is also possible that there were direct links between the duns strung set along the Islay and W Kintyre coastlines. Contextually, therefore, Lurabus House dun has high potential to contribute to our understanding of the Iron Age occupation of Islay, western Argyll and further afield.

National Importance

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. There is good potential for well-preserved archaeological remains to survive within and immediately outside the dun and its outwork. These buried remains can tell us much about the people who built and lived in the settlement 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 and early historic periods.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland




RCAHMS 1984, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the ancient monuments: volume 5: Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay, p. 119, no. 223. Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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