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Ardhallow Battery and Defences

A Scheduled Monument in Dunoon, Argyll and Bute

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Latitude: 55.9248 / 55°55'29"N

Longitude: -4.9436 / 4°56'37"W

OS Eastings: 216177

OS Northings: 674106

OS Grid: NS161741

Mapcode National: GBR 04.ZRDY

Mapcode Global: WH2MF.1B5T

Entry Name: Ardhallow Battery and Defences

Scheduled Date: 24 September 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13683

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: 20th Century Military and Related: Battery

Location: Dunoon and Kilmun

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Dunoon

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument comprises a coast artillery battery and landward defences built between 1901 and 1905 with alterations during the First and Second World Wars. It is visible as the remains of three gun emplacements with subterranean magazines, a battery observation post, trenches, dugouts and the earthworks of a number of blockhouses. The battery and defences are located on the east-facing slopes of Corlarach Hill, around 3km south of Dunoon, on the Firth of Clyde.

Ardhallow Battery was one of five coast artillery batteries used during the First World War to defend the Clyde from attack by naval vessels. It was constructed with the aim of concentrating heavy armament in the Dunoon-Cloch Point area and was paired with Cloch Point battery, located further north, on the opposite shore. Ardhallow battery initially comprised three heavy guns, two magazines, a command post and a battery observation post. During the First World War, trenches were added immediately downhill from the battery to provide landward protection and ten blockhouses were constructed in three groups on higher ground. The battery and its associated defences were used and modified through both World Wars until the site was decommissioned in 1956.

There are twelve scheduled areas. The first is irregular to cover the battery and magazines, battery observation post and adjacent trenches. The other eleven areas, each circular with a diameter of 20m, are centred on each blockhouse and the command post. The scheduling includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction and use is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling excludes modern post and wire fences, the top 30cm of existing tracks and above-ground elements of the modern workshop/store located within the eastern gun emplacement at the battery.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic Characteristics

The remains at Ardhallow are very well preserved and there is high potential for the survival of archaeological evidence both within and around the battery and associated defences, which can increase our understanding of the construction and use of the battery and the daily lives of the men who built and served on it in order to defend the important port and ship-building centre on the Clyde.

The battery survives to a high degree. It was constructed mainly from concrete in standardised form with three rounded aprons on the seaward side of the guns. Two subterranean magazines were infilled after 1956. At the time of this assessment (2017), the 9.2" gun emplacement was clearly visible with details such as the metal gun-mounting bolts, a mechanical shell lift and inset storage niches identifiable. The two 6" gun emplacements are partly buried under soil but are still identifiable above ground with some sections of concrete visible.

The battery observation post is located immediately northwest of the gun emplacements. Constructed in two or three phases, this tower provided a lookout and command centre for the operation of the guns. The tower is well preserved and still has original glazed brick tiling, electrical conduits, wall mounts for controls and remains of shelving and instrument mounts. North-northwest of the battery is the remains of the command post; the structure is shown as being surrounded by an enclosure on War Office plans. Downhill from the battery lies a network of very well preserved trenches and dugouts offering sentry and machine gun posts. Sections of the trench network measure approximately 1.5m in width and 1m in depth. These defences were to address the threat of an attack from the coast and also the main road below the battery.

The remains of the ten blockhouses now lie within forestry, high above the battery. These were small timber towers surrounded by earth and sandbag walling that housed up to ten soldiers, and provided a defensive stronghold. At time of assessment they were visible as earthen mounds and some display evidence of a curving earth-walled entranceway. The internal area of the blockhouse earthworks are approximately 4m to 5m square. Blockhouses were recognised as valuable forms of defence during the Boer War by the British Army. The survival at Ardhallow of what is essentially a Victorian form of defence used in connection with First and Second World War defences is of historical and archaeological interest.

Contextual Characteristics

The monument forms part of the strategic defence of the Firth of Clyde, a vital component of a national defensive system that extended from Shetland to Cornwall. Together with the other four batteries of the Clyde defences: Fort Matilda (Canmore ID 185530), Portkil Battery (Canmore ID 119886), Dunoon Battery (Canmore ID 106362) and Cloch Point Battery (Canmore ID 106364), Ardhallow was part of a network used to defend the navigation channel of the Clyde from attack by enemy naval vessels. The defences at Cloch Point were paired with Ardhallow Battery and they offered joint cover of that immediate area of the Clyde where the channel is around 4km wide.

During the First and Second World Wars, the Firth of Clyde was a priority for defence in Scotland. As a result, it has a high concentration of gun batteries and coastal defences. As clearance was conducted on many military sites following the end of the wars, the well-preserved site of Ardhallow battery and its associated defences is a rare survival. Ardhallow is also highly unusual by the fact that the battery was operational from around 1905 until 1956. The pair of 6" guns were in constant service during this period which is testimony to the high defensive value of this battery.

Ardhallow also is a very rare in having a set of surviving blockhouse defences: the only other example of a well-preserved series of blockhouses in Scotland is at Portkil, also on the Clyde. However, there are fewer blockhouses remaining at Portkil and they are of a slightly different design being circular on plan.

The War Office purchased land at Ardhallow in 1899 and construction of the battery began in 1901. The three guns, a 9.2" and two 6", were mounted in 1904 with the battery completed in 1905. War Office plans dated to 1908 show the layout of Ardhallow battery at that time (WO 78/5186). The records show that the 9.2" gun was removed in 1911 as it was deemed unnecessary and was so powerful that it shattered nearby house windows during test firing in 1905. One of the 6" guns was replaced in 1930 and new shields were fitted to both guns in 1931. The Fortress Record Book describes these operations in detail, with photographs.

Associative Characteristics

The physical remains of sites from the First and Second World Wars such as Ardhallow have become places to visit, remember and commemorate the men who served on wartime sites such as this. Their relatives and descendants visit the Clyde from across the globe for this reason. The monument is a highly visible reminder of the considerable efforts made to defend the British Isles during two World Wars, key defining events of the 20th Century.

Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance as a well-preserved example of pre-First World War coast artillery battery in Scotland, used and modified during the First and Second World Wars when it formed part of a wider network of coastal batteries to defend the important port and ship-building centre on the Clyde. Key structural elements of a coast battery survive to a marked degree at Ardhallow, including the gun emplacements, magazines, command post and battery observation post. The site is also notable for a very rare surviving network of landward defences in the form of trenches and blockhouses. There is extensive documentation for the site which adds significantly to our understanding of the monument and its development.  The well preserved physical remains and extensive documentation means that the monument offers considerable potential to study the relationship between the various elements of the site, and to enhance our understanding of the Firth of Clyde defences. These imposing concrete structures and associated defences are a tangible and powerful reminder of two of the defining events of the 20th Century. If this monument was to be lost or damaged, it would significantly affect our ability to understand the nature and scale of the efforts made to defend Britain against enemy naval threats in the early 20th Century and during the First and Second World Wars.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE IDs 106363, 331614, 331660, 352855, 352857, 352919, 352920, 3523954, 352955 (accessed on 06/02/2018).

Barclay, G. (2013). The Built Heritage of the First World War in Scotland. HS and RCAHMS. Edinburgh.

Brown, I. (2002). 20th Century Defences in Britain: an Introductory Guide. Council for British Archaeology, York.

Dorman and Guy, J and J. (2010). The Coast Artillery Defences of the Firth of Clyde.

National Archives. (WO 78/5186) War Office and predecessors: Maps and Plans. Great Britain. Scotland. Ardhallow Battery.

Palmerston Fort Society (unpublished). Fort Log. The Clyde: Ardhallow Battery. (PDF version document and plans accessed via on 06/02/2018).

Redfern, N I. (1998). Twentieth century fortifications in the United Kingdom, 5 V. V.1 Introduction and sources; V.4 & 5 Site gazetteers: Scotland. York.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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