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Dun, Stac a' Chaisteil

A Scheduled Monument in , Na h-Eileanan Siar

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Latitude: 58.3083 / 58°18'30"N

Longitude: -6.7784 / 6°46'42"W

OS Eastings: 120220

OS Northings: 945468

OS Grid: NB202454

Mapcode National: GBR 96NR.VC2

Mapcode Global: WGX17.VFCL

Entry Name: Dun, Stac a' Chaisteil

Scheduled Date: 13 May 2024

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13786

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: dun (with post-prehistoric use)

Location: Uig

County: Na h-Eileanan Siar

Traditional County: Ross-shire


The monument comprises a coastal promontory enclosed by a monumental stone wall, the remains of a dun or fort dating to the Iron Age (800 BC – AD 800). Three sub-rectangular buildings are visible on the enclosed promontory and are probably later medieval structures. A post-medieval corbelled structure is likely to represent a final phase of activity on the site. The monument is located on a sea stack partially attached to the mainland by a fallen and degraded promontory spine and surrounded by high vertical cliffs and broken bays.

Most of the summit of the promontory, an area measuring around 30m by 15m overall, is covered in short grass with exposed stone foundations of structures embedded within the turf. Also on the promontory are the remains of ruined, but upstanding stone structures. The most substantial is the remains of a stone wall that is similar in construction to monumental Iron Age structures such as brochs and duns. This wall extends east-west across the southern limits of the stack for around 13m, curving slightly to the north at the west end to follow the edge of the cliff. The western half of the wall survives as earth fast foundation stones, while the eastern part is more upstanding and measures 6m by 4m in plan. The wall has an entrance passage measuring just over 1m in width with large lintel stones forming its roof. The passage is partially obscured by the collapse of the upstanding eastern section.

Within the area enclosed by the wall there are two sub-rectangular buildings with rounded ends on their north sides. These measure about 4m by 5m internally and have walls around 0.5m thick. The stone footings of a third sub-rectangular structure occupy a small grassy terrace on the north slopes of the summit. Possibly the most recent structure on the summit lies just to the north-east of the outer wall. This is a drystone corbelled structure measuring around 4m by 4m in plan. It stands to about 0.5m in height, and the walls corbel inwards to form a partial roof, although now collapsed. It has an entranceway on the west side and a short passageway leading to the north which may have led to a second structure, now collapsed. A series of revetted terraces, on which are the faint remains of other structures, lead to the steep slopes of the seaward side of the stack.

The scheduled area is irregular. It 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.

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 past as a dun, dating from the Iron Age (800 BC – AD 800). The presence of later structures has the potential to increase our understanding of the re-use of this monument and similar sites.

b.   The monument retains structural remains and complex archaeology which can make a signficant contribution to our understanding of the past. Although not complete, the plan of the monument remains understandable. There is also the significant potential for the survival of buried archaeological deposits within and beneath the surviving structural elements.

e.   The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding or appreciation of the past. In particular, stratified archaeological deposits are likely to survive which can provide material for environmental analysis and radiocarbon dating. Stone, metal and ceramic artefacts may also survive which can tell us above the lifestyle, wider society and economy of the inhabitants.

f.   The monument makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the historic landscape as it appears relatively undisturbed as a settlement site within what is now a remote and sparsely populated rural area.

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 monument is an Iron Age structure, of a type known as a dun. It is similar in construction to the other brochs and duns which are found across the Western Isles and is therefore likely to date to the Iron Age. It displays characteristic features of these monuments including drystone construction and a stone lintelled entrance passage. A stone hammer, of uncertain date, was recovered during survey work in 2004 from the east side of the entrance passage. This suggest that artefacts associated with the occupation and use of the monument may survive in situ.

At least two bow-ended rectangular structures and a corbelled structure are also present on the promontory. The presence of these structures is indicative of a potential later period of reuse, which is commonly found on other Iron Age sites, such as at Dun Mara (Canmore ID: 4379) and Dun Othail (scheduled monument SM 5455). The later reuse of promontory may date to the medieval or post-medieval periods and further study of the site may provide a clearer understanding of the purpose and date of the later use.

There is good potential for the survival of archaeological deposits, including occupation and abandonment debris, artefacts and environmental remains such as charcoal and pollen within, beneath and around the remains of the monument. Such remains and deposits can help us understand more about prehistoric domestic and agricultural practice, and the significance of materials, technology and craft in a domestic-agricultural context. This monument has the potential to add to our understanding of settlement, land-use and environment during later prehistory. It can provide information about the economy, diet and social status of the occupants and the structure of contemporary society.

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

Duns are a relatively common monument type and are widespread across Scotland. The National Record of the Historic Environment records over 1700 examples entries for duns, around 180 of these are in the Western Isles. There are other examples of promontories that have been used either as promontory forts or as a location for a broch or dun. The National Record of the Historic Environment records around 140 such sites. Many of these sites were reused after the abandonment of the Iron Age structure or fortifications.

There are few comparable examples to Stac a' Chaisteil in the Western Isle; it is unusual because of its multiperiod phasing and very remote location. There is potential for comparative study of these sites on a local and national scale to better understand the function of such monuments, their interrelationship and the significance of their placing within the landscape, in particular in relation to our understanding of Iron Age social hierarchy, changing settlement patterns and systems of inheritance.

The monument is located on a difficult to access coastal promontory to the northeast of Na Gearrannan/ Garenin. The monument uses the natural topography as part of its defences and in the past this location may have been chosen also to give access to the sea.

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

There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to this monument's national importance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 4207 (accessed on 09/02/2024).

Western Isles HER Reference 251 (accessed on 12/02/2024).

Barrowman, C. (2004a) 'Sea Stack Survey, Lewis (Barvas; Uig parishes), survey', Discovery and Excavation in Scotland, vol. 5, 2004. Page(s): 133-4

Lock, G. and Ralston I B M (2022). Atlas of the Hillforts of Britain and Ireland. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.

MacLeod Rivett, M (2021). The Outer Hebrides. A Historical Guide. Birlinn, Edinburgh.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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