9.3.2.2 Western Highlands

In the area of the Lordship of the Isles there is little evidence of structures with the exception of Strath Suardal on Skye. Three roundhouses test pitted in the survey of the site yielded medieval dates. All had slightly different construction styles. One (LS88) had random stones for the base, and may have had a timber or turf wall. The second one (LS116) had a double-skinned wall and the interior wall face was revetted. The third (LS66) was much disturbed by a later building, but appears to have had a boulder-faced wall (Wildgoose 2016). They survey team suggest either reuse of earlier round houses or possibly a continuation of the use of round house architecture in this area of Skye in the medieval period.

Test pits at sites on the west coast of Wester Ross and Skye show that cave and rock shelter occupation continued into the post-medieval period. Without further investigation, the nature of this occupation, whether seasonal or more permanent, is not clear.

At Site 6 on the road between Arisaig and Morar, a large amount of mineral sediment was encountered, and this was interpreted as possibly the remains of turf huts or shielings. The lack of artefacts from Site 8 has led to the interpretation the site was a temporary shelter (Carter et al 2005, 13, 17).

The survey at Rubh’ an Dùnain suggests the presence of possible medieval maritime buildings, an aspect of Highland settlement generally lacking from investigations. A boat timber from a clinker built vessel was dated to the medieval period. Further survey explored the canal and identified docks with nousts, quays and possible associated buildings (MHG4895; Martin 2014; Martin and Martin 2018; Case Study Rubh’ an Dùnain). Further work with dating evidence would be useful.

Looking south down the tidal canal at Rubh’ an Dùnain showing remains of possible medieval maritime buildings in the landscape. ©Martin Wildgoose
SiteAreaDatingCommentsRefs
Toscaig 9WR1039-1220 1317-1444Rock shelter and midden, with post-medieval occupation as well.MHG58718; Hardy and Wickham-Jones 2009, 2.2.77, SFS 41; AA-50678; AA-50676
Ard Clais Salacher 2WR1442-1640Rock shelter and midden. Dates from test pit in shell midden. Fish bone, animal bone, shellfishMHG37251; Hardy and Wickham-Jones 2009, 2.2.9, SFS 66; AA-50684
Creag na h-UamhaWR1289-1403  Rock shelter and midden. Dates from test pits show Iron Age and medieval occupation.MHG37315; Hardy and Wickham-Jones 2009, 2.2.27, SFS 49; AA-50679; AA50680
Crowlin 1WR1401-1468 1470-1650Rock shelter and midden. Dates from test pits. multi-period useMHG34256; Hardy and Wickham-Jones 2009, 2.2.28, SFS 2; OxA-9252; OxA-9253
Fergus’ Shelter, ApplecrossWR1300-1420Inland rock shelter and midden. Dates from test pit with undated structures. most-medieval artefacts also.MHG37257; Hardy and Wickham-Jones 2009, 2.2.38, SFS 114; AA-50696; AA-50697
Clachan ChurchWR1320-1615Test pit in midden near church. Post-medieval date as wellMHG57778; Hardy and Wickham-Jones 2009, 2.2.22, SFS 99; AA-50694
AshaigSkye1193-1289
1211-1285 1224-1383
Midden with shell, animal bone, slag. Located near to graveyard and chapelMHG35894; Hardy and Wickham-Jones 2009, 2.2.11, SFS 6; OxA-9277; OxA-9278; OxA9279
Home Farm, PortreeSkye12th -14th century
11th – 13th century
3 Pits and 1 ‘micro-souterrain’ which also had Iron Age pottery. One pit with metalworking debrisMHG51648; Suddaby 2013
Ben SuardalSkye1170-1273Roundhouse with hearth. Double-skinned wall, with interior wall face revettedMHG6701; Wildgoose 2016 LS116; SUERC-33758
Strath SuardalSkye1205-1280Roundhouse with hearth, charcoal, pottery sherd, lithics, burnt bone fragments, burnt hazelnut shells.MHG6416; Wildgoose 2016 LS88; SUERC-33762
Strath GlebeSkye1161-1262Roundhouse, with boulder-faced wall. Hearth, charcoal, pottery sherd, saddle quern fragment. Beneath post-Medieval houseMHG59564; Wildgoose 2016, LS66
TungadalSkye1169-1384Roundhouse, built on Iron Age site included find of 14th century Bronze mirror caseMHG5106; Miket 2002; Armit 1996, Appendix ; GU-3807
Airidh na Creige, TorrinSkye1020-1211 1286-1612Shielings. 2 excavated.MHG5158. Armit 1996, Appendix ; GU-3491; GU-3490
Uamh an DòbhrainSkye1421-1615Midden in caveHardy & Estevez 2014; GU-20359
Camus BeachSkye1270-1400Midden in front of caveHardy & Estevez 2014 ; GU-24358
Between Arisaig and Morar (Site 6)L1040-1290 1418-1488PitsMHG58041; Carter et al 2005, Site 6 ; SUERC-2445
Between Arisaig and Morar (Site 8)L1440-1640RockshelterMHG37955; Carter et al 2005, Site 8
Rubh’ an DùnainSkye1060-1280Survey revealed nousts, canal, quays, possible buildings. Dating from boat timberMHG4895; Martin and Martin 2018; Case Study; Rubh’ an Dùnain ; SUERC-4334
Table 9.2 Settlements and occupation in the Norse or Lordship of the Isles areas (excluding castles) with dating evidence
All dates cal at 95.4% probability. For full details of dates, see Datasheet 2.1

 

Case Study: Rubh’ an Dùnain

Leave a Reply