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Lime kilns, quarry and quay, Port Ramsay, Lismore

A Scheduled Monument in Oban North and Lorn, Argyll and Bute

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Latitude: 56.5544 / 56°33'15"N

Longitude: -5.4439 / 5°26'38"W

OS Eastings: 188436

OS Northings: 745576

OS Grid: NM884455

Mapcode National: GBR DCYD.753

Mapcode Global: WH0FT.BJW6

Entry Name: Lime kilns, quarry and quay, Port Ramsay, Lismore

Scheduled Date: 14 November 2023

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13777

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Industrial: dock, harbour, lock

Location: Lismore and Appin

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Oban North and Lorn

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument comprises the remains of 19th century lime works consisting of a pair of kilns, quarry and a quay. The site, located north of the village of Port Ramsay, was known originally known as Park limekilns, and sits on the limestone coastal edge of Lismore, located across 0-10m above sea level. 

The kilns, quarry and quay are depicted on the Ordnance Survey First Edition map, surveyed in 1871. However, it is known that the works were in operation at least as early as the second quarter of the 19th century. At the centre of the site, stand a pair of lime kilns that together measure around 12m across and up to 4m high. Both kilns are constructed from roughly dressed masonry and rubble, with some dressed granite quoins. Their form suggests the northern kiln is earlier than the southern. Both have a single draw hole used to extract and collect the burnt lime (quick lime). The southern kiln has a segmental arch above its draw hole. The pot of each kiln, where the quarried limestone was filled and stacked for burning, is open at the top. From the top of the kilns, a level section of stone-edged and revetted track adjoins and leads south-southeast towards the quarry. The remains of a substantial limestone quarry, with a sunken track entrance, lies to the south of the kilns. From the front of the kilns, a graded earth track leads down to the quay on the shore.

The scheduled area is irregular and includes the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. All fences, gates and signs are specifically excluded from the schedule. The top 30cm of the roughly surfaced track, running east-west across the scheduled area, is also excluded from the schedule.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):

a.  The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the industrial heritage of Scotland, in particular the history of 19th century lime production and the exploitation of its natural resources. Lime production was a significant industry to Scotland in the pre-industrial and industrial revolution periods. Lismore has a unique place within the heritage of the Scottish lime industry due to the unusually high concentration of industrial scale sites on the relatively small island. Port Ramsay was one of these key industrial sites that contributed to lime production on the island.

b.   The monument retains structural, architectural, decorative or other physical attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past. The surviving elements help us understand the functions and processes of lime works operating in 19th century Scotland.  

d.   The monument is a good example of an important extractive industry that had a key role in the local, regional and national economy of 19th century Scotland and is therefore an important representative of this monument type. Lime was a crucial component in many aspects of construction and as a soil improvement in agriculture.

e.   The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding or appreciation of the past. The remains reflect the development and peak of the Scottish lime production industry.

f.   The monument makes a significant contribution to today's landscape and/or our understanding of the historic landscape by serving as a physical reminder of the importance of lime production in 19th century Scotland and its role in society and the economy. The monument is part of a wider nation-wide lime production effort, that is still visible, on the island of Lismore. The limestone coast of the island sits in a wider, generally granite, coastal landscape so the exploitation of lime on Lismore was highly concentrated and an important resource in the 19th to early 20th century. There was a large market for lime on the nearby west coast of Scotland and Lismore was ideally located to meet this demand. The intensive lime production industry flourished due to the ready supply of the raw material (limestone) and the convenient location of the island.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The lime works at Port Ramsay, consisting of a pair of kilns, large landward facing quarry and stone-built quay are depicted on the Ordnance Survey First Edition map, based on a survey made in 1871. However, there is evidence for lime works on Lismore from the later 18th century and the first confirmed date of a kiln on the island is from 1804. The Port Ramsay kilns were established and in use during the first half of the 19th century. The kilns are located on the lands of Park farm.   A record from 1834  shows a payment to Duncan Black of Big Park for supplying lime to Campbell of Barcaldine. Indicating that the lime works on the Park estate were fully operational by 1834.

The key component for producing lime is limestone which needs to be quarried and broken down.  It is then burnt to transform it from calcium carbonate to calcium oxide or quick lime. The burning takes place in a kiln, or series of kilns. The kilns at Port Ramsay are of a 'draw kiln' design. The kiln is typically constructed against the sloping ground, the front face has a draw opening where the lime is collected at the end of the burning. The top of the kiln has a round opening, this is the access to the pot where alternate layers of limestone and fuel, usually coal, would be stacked. Draw kilns had a permanent grate fixed over the hearth and limestone and fuel was stacked above this. As the fuel burned the calcified limestone dropped down and was raked out, while new layers of fuel and limestone were added at the top of the kiln. The fire in the pot could be kept burning for long periods, . This industrial method of production was most commonly used from the late 18th century onwards. Once the quick lime was produced it had to be stored and kept dry before being exported. At Port Ramsay, export was by sea and the lime works had a dedicated quay for shipping. Only a short distance from the kilns is the low stone-built pier to allow for quick and easy exportation of the produced lime.

The most prominent remains of the site are the pair of kilns. The conjoined kilns measure around 12m across their front faces, stand up to 4m high at the front and the sides project around 8m back into the slope. They are both of typical 19th century draw kiln design, constructed in rubble masonry using local stone, with  dressed granite quoins. Construction evidence suggests the northern kiln is earlier than the southern; it has slightly rougher stonework and the access arch above the draw hole is of simple corbelled design. The southern kiln features slightly better stonework with neatly dressed granite quoins on the southern corner. It also has a segmental arch above the draw hole and brick lining. The southern kiln is slightly set back at the front and abuts the northern kiln, with quoins and an instep ledge and face on the front and side. These details indicate the phasing of these kilns.

The pot of each kiln, where the quarried limestone was stacked for burning, is open at the top and are around 2.5m in diameter. The northern pot has suffered some collapse but a stone lining is still visible and the southern pot is more intact with evidence for a brick lining. From the top of the kilns, a level section of stone-edged and revetted track adjoins and leads south-southeast towards the quarry. The substantial limestone quarry, with a sunken track entrance, lies to the south of the kilns with the main working face pointing inland. This is unusual for a limestone quarry on Lismore as most were worked from the seaward face. From the front of the kilns, a graded earth track can be traced which leads down to the quay on the shore. A low stone pier, up to 7.5m wide and projecting for around 18 to 19m from the shore, survives and was used for the import of materials, such as coal for fuel, and the export of processed burnt lime.

The physical remains at Port Ramsay represent the lime production process from beginning to end. The remains of the tracks and revetted access to the kiln pots show the process and flow of materials on site. From the quarry a sunken track exits towards the kilns. The stone revetted access ramp immediately follows and provided level access to the kiln pots for the loading and stacking of the broken limestone and fuel. At the foot of the kilns, the graded track can be traced leading from the draw holes down towards the quay and stone pier.

Study of the remains of the lime works can help provide understanding for the design, processes and functions of such industrial sites that were key to local, regional and national trading economies for agricultural improvement and urbanisation.  The plan form and upstanding remains are highly visible and provide a tangible link to the industrial past of the lime industry on Lismore.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

Lime works flourished in the 18th and 19th century to produce lime and meet the increasing demand for the product. Lime was used to improve arable land and also for mortar and plaster in the construction of buildings. Good quality lime was also used in lime-wash to help waterproof walls and brighten interiors, for bleaching paper, preparing hides for tanning, as a disinfectant and in medical applications.The dramatic spike in urbanisation of 19th century Scotland, spurred by the industrial revolution, increased demand for lime and sites such as Port Ramsay were established.

The lime industry was active on Lismore from the late 18th century, the Statistical Account of 1791 states 'burning of lime for sale has been begun… in Lismore and Appin'. The first documented kiln is dated in 1804 with the last in production in the 1930s. At Port Ramsay, the remains pre-date 1834 and the evidence of phasing between the kilns, with different architectural details and construction, indicates a potentially long history of site development and expansion in production.

There are eight industrial lime works sites on the island of Lismore. All have a similar location and set up. They are all coastal with kilns located below a quarry on higher ground so the process was gravity fed. Most have a quay for the unloading of coal and export of the lime. The grouping of these lime production sites is highly significant and of relatively high concentration. The underlying geology of Lismore is mainly limestone and the island sits in a sea loch basin with mostly granite coastal edges. Therefore, processed lime from Lismore had a ready market on the west coast of Scotland. Seven of the eight lime production sites on the island have their own quay and pier for importing coal to fuel the kilns and then to export the lime to the mainland. The lime produced on Lismore was used for major developments such as the Caledonian Canal and private constructions such as Kinloch House on Rum. It is highly likely lime from Lismore was used in the construction of houses and streets in west coast villages and for urban expansion in the area, such as at the booming harbour town of 19th century Oban.

The lime production remains visible at Port Ramsay represent one of the key industrial sites on the island of Lismore. There are seven other industrial lime production sites of similar date on the island; Alisra (NGR NM 871 458, Canmore ID 152299), Port Kilcheran (NGR NM 825 386, Canmore ID 264638), Port na Moralachd A and B (NGRs NM 867 449 and NM 865 448, Canmore ID 152293), Salen A and B (NGRs NM 834 412 and NM 836 414, Canmore ID 152316 and 152317) and Sheep Island (NGR NM 901 468, Canmore ID 281489). The finer architectural and construction details of the southern kiln at Port Ramsay sets it apart from these other examples - it is arguably the architecturally most sophisticated kiln on the island. We can compare the remains at Port Ramsay to these other lime works, all being roughly contemporary at some point in their history, to better understand the lime production processes and functions of structures and workings.  

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

The remains of the kilns, quarry and quay at Port Ramsey are significant for our understanding of socio-economic context of lime production in the area. The demand for lime increased dramatically with greater urban expansion in the west of Scotland. Expanding industry and commercial markets drove growth of villages, towns and cities. Tied to this urban expansion was the increased development of infrastructure such as roads, canals and railways, and a need to feed this growing urban population. This spurt of development required vast quantities of lime to allow for construction and to improve land for crop production. Transport by water was still the fastest and most economical method to move bulk goods and close proximity to resources was a key factor in the location on many industries. The geology and location of Lismore made it ideal for the growth of  a concentrated and highly productive lime industry to serve the west of Scotland.

The island has an unusually high number of industrial lime works, especially for such a small geographic area, and it would have been a major employer on the island. The industry would have supported many families on Lismore and provided income for the estates and landowners too. Lime production would have allowed for a more varied income stream and employment option that many parts of rural Scotland did not benefit from. Port Ramsay lime works is a physical reminder of an important era in the socio-economic history of Lismore.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE IDs 155560 and 171238 (accessed on 08/08/2023).

English Heritage – Introduction to pre-industrial Lime Kilns: (accessed on 08/08/2023)

Hay, R. (2015). Lismore: The Great Garden. Birlinn, Scotland.

Lismore Gaelic Heritage Centre – The Story of the North Ends, Parts 2 and 3: (accessed on 29/08/2023)

Martin and Martin, C and P. (2005). 'Port Ramsay, Lismore (Lismore & Appin parish), lime kiln complex', in Discovery and Excavation Scotland, vol. 6. Page: 34

Martin and Martin, C and P. (2006). Lismore Limekilns: Report for Historic Scotland. Self-published.

McNicol D. (1791). First Statistical Account of Scotland. Volume 1. LII. United Parishes of Lismore and Appin.

Skinner, B.C. (2014). 'The Archaeology of the Lime Industry in Scotland', in Post-Medieval Archaeology, vol. 9. Pages: 225-230.


Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1871, published 1875) Scotland, Argyllshire and Buteshire, Sheet 56. 6 inches to the mile. 1st Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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