The duns

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dun an Sticir (Dùn an Sticer)

This circular and galleried fort was built on a islet in Loch an Sticir, North Uist (Uibhist a Tuath). There are two causeways connecting it to another islet, Eilean na Mi-chomhairle, and from there to the north shore of the loch.

The remains of the fort are 3.6m high and about 18m in diameter. Its entrance faces the causeway and there are traces of a guard-cell and a gallery within the 3.5m thick wall.

There is a Medieval house built inside the fort. Tradition says that around 1600 Hugh MacDonald, who failed to overthrow his cousin Donald Gorm as 8th clan chief, hid there for a year. Then he was captured and left to die horribly in the dungeon at Duntulm Castle in Skye with a plate of salt beef and an empty jug.

Characteristic of western Scotland from Galloway to Lewis is a dense concentration of small stone-walled forts called duns. Circular or oval in plan, they have exceptionally thick walls enclosing an area of up to 375 sq.m. (448 sq. yd) which contains timber buildings. The layout of the dun was often determined by its location on a rocky knoll or promontory, an island in a loch or occasionally on flat ground (plate 50). The walls were usually solid and stood about 3 m. (3.3 yd) high, often with an inward sloping batter on the outside. Sometimes they had timber lacing to give them extra stability. The only break was an entrance passage, often with door-checks and bar-holes. There might be a cell built into the thickness of the wall which acted as a guard chamber.

On top of a long ridge on the island of Luing (Argyll), near Leccamore farm, stands a well preserved dun measuring some 20 m. by 13 m. (22 yd×14.2 yd), enclosed by a wall 5 m. (5.5 yd) thick and still standing 3 m. (3.3 yd) high. It is slightly unusual in having two opposing entrances, that on the south-west with well-preserved door jambs and a bar-hole and slot for securing a heavy wooden door. On either side of the north-east entrance are guard cells. The western one is carefully corbelled and contains a stair that allows access to the wall-head. To give the dun extra strength it is protected by an outer wall and two rock-cut ditches.

Dun excavations have not been particularly helpful in revealing details of interior structures but there is some evidence for timber buildings placed against the inner stone walls. A ledge or scarcement 1.5 m. (1.6 yd) above the floor of a dun at Ardifuar (Argyll) is seen as evidence for the anchoring of such constructions. Although we know next to nothing of their economy it seems almost certain that duns were fortified homesteads eking a fragile living from a difficult environment, and each jealously guarding its own immediate territory. The earliest duns may have originated in the seventh or sixth centuries BC but their type persisted until at least the third century AD. It should be pointed out that this part of Scotland was not occupied by the Romans and so an Iron Age way of life persisted into the first millennium AD.


jenkins said...

An excellent timber merchant can provide wonderful wooden gates and railings. To learn more about Wooden Security Gates|Wooden Garden, Side & Security Gates Dublin, Louth & Nationwide, visit on hyperlinked site.

Broch, Crannog and Hillfort - by Templates para novo blogger