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Kildonan Museum, shielings 460m ENE of

A Scheduled Monument in Barraigh, Bhatarsaigh, Eirisgeigh agus Uibhist a Deas, Na h-Eileanan Siar

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Latitude: 57.2229 / 57°13'22"N

Longitude: -7.3882 / 7°23'17"W

OS Eastings: 74926

OS Northings: 827560

OS Grid: NF749275

Mapcode National: GBR 894M.QQC

Mapcode Global: WGV3X.HQ15

Entry Name: Kildonan Museum, shielings 460m ENE of

Scheduled Date: 9 March 1992

Last Amended: 12 October 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM5332

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: shieling

Location: South Uist

County: Na h-Eileanan Siar

Electoral Ward: Barraigh, Bhatarsaigh, Eirisgeigh agus Uibhist a Deas

Traditional County: Inverness-shire


The monument comprises the remains of four shieling huts that have evidence of occupation from the medieval period onwards. The huts are visible as a cluster of four mounds, each with the remains of a small rectangular structure on their summits. Shieling huts were temporary dwellings, used seasonally by farm-workers who migrated to upland pastures with their cattle during the summer months. The monument occupies the northwest side of Bein Mhuilinn, at approximately 20m above sea level in an area currently used for rough grazing.

The remains of the huts on the mounds vary from approximately 2 by 3m to about 5 by 3m in extent, with the wall-banks standing up to 0.5m high. The hut walls appear to have been built mainly of turf, but with stone foundations. Three of the huts were built on large mounds, while the fourth hut occupies a smaller mound. The mounds varying from approximately 5 by 5m to about 18 by 12m in extent, standing up to 2m high. The mounds themselves represent the accumulated remains of earlier huts indicating a long period of successive use of this location as a shieling site. A modern post and wire fence crosses the site from east to west.

The scheduled area is rectangular and measures 50m east-west by 40m north-south, 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 above ground elements of the post-and-wire fence for its upkeep and maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

By their very nature, shieling huts tend to be less substantial than other types of settlement structure and, therefore, less likely to survive or be identified. Overall, this group of shieling huts survives in very good condition with the 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 or centuries. The substantial nature of the mounds together with the evidence of medieval origins for the group is rare.

The turf footings are sited on significant mounds. This indicates that shieling huts have been built and re-built at this location over an extended period. This site is therefore likely to have a complex development sequence. The size difference of the shieling huts is of interest as they may represent different functions perhaps relating to dairying activity and the others used as living space; or they may reflect different phases. Future investigation of the site could enhance our understanding of the origins, use and re-use of seasonally occupied places and agricultural practices over a considerable length of time.

Small-scale excavation at Kildonan has verified that important archaeological deposits survive in and around the shieling huts, which contribute to our understanding of rural transhumance practices in South Uist and more generally in Scotland during the medieval and later period. The excavation at Kildonan discovered medieval pottery indicating that this group of shielings have their origin in the medieval or possibly Norse period rather than post-medieval period as is typically suggested for shieling sites.

Archaeological evidence for the internal layout of the huts, the remains of any fittings and furniture, and for the construction and 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. This site is also likely to have evidence of a successions of huts being built and re-built in this location over an extended time period. Scientific analysis of such remains could greatly enhance our understanding and appreciation of the dating and occupation sequence of the site.

Contextual Characteristics

The monument represents the remains of an important group of shieling huts, which can be compared with other examples in South Uist. 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 of cattle and for 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.

Shieling traditions and, specifically, hut construction varied regionally, at least partly reflecting the availability of different building materials. The shieling huts at Kildonan survive as turf footings with stone slabs, which suggests they were constructed primarily from stone, timber and turf. Typically, they are grouped on a hillside overlooking a wide valley, in this case Gleann Chill Donnain. Comparative study of the form, construction and location of this group of shieling huts with others across South Uist and further afield can enhance our knowledge and understanding of regional and national variations in transhumance practices and the character of vernacular buildings.

Associative Characteristics

There are no known associative characteristics which significantly contribute to the cultural significance of this site.

Statement of national importance

The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the siting, function and construction of upland shielings, their place in the social and economic organisation of the time, and the changes in rural land-use and agricultural practices from the medieval period to the early 19th century. The good state of preservation of this group of shieling huts enhances this significance, as does archaeological evidence indicating medieval origins for this group of shielings. The loss of the monument would affect our ability to understand rural settlement and land-use from the pre-Improvement period in both South Uist and Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland

CANMORE ID 9840, 348293 (accessed on 23/08/2017).

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles) Sites and Monuments Record Reference 806 (accessed on 23/08/2017).

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.

Kupiec, P M 2016, Transhumance in the North Atlantic: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Identification and Interpretation of Viking-age and Medieval Shieling Sites, Unpublished PhD disertation, University of Aberdeen, 273-

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.

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


HER/SMR Reference

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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