Skye’s Hidden Heritage
Discover the lost settlement of Rubh’ an Dùnain
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Rubh’ an Dùnain

What the experts say …

Dave Cowley and Dr Colin Martin

(RCAHMS and Morvern Maritime Centre, in Current Archaeology, Sept 2011)

There is nothing like an image of longboats bristling with axe-waving Vikings to excite the popular imagination, and one of the most significant early harbours in western Scotland investigated in recent times has acquired this association. Rubh’ an Dùnain . . . though remote and uninhabited today . . . has been a place of intensive human activity since the distant past.

Martin Wildgoose

(Freelance Skye Archaeologist)

Rubh' an Dùnain offers the archaeologist and the interested visitor the chance to study the evolution of a defined landscape – a landscape which has been adapted and controlled to suit successive waves of settlement, a landscape where the homes, enclosure patterns and burial sites survive as visible monuments . . . [it] is an open time-capsule waiting to be examined.

Dr David Caldwell

(formerly Keeper of Scotland and Europe and Keeper of Archaeology, National Museums Scotland, now President, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland)

Having worked on the site with Colin Martin I can confirm that I think [Rubh' an Dùnain] is of the utmost importance in elucidating a lot of matters to do with the early history of Skye and the Isles. It is also a very beautiful spot.

John Phillips

(Senior Countryside Ranger, Ross, Cromarty, Skye and Lochalsh, Highland Council)

Rubh’ an Dùnain is a fascinating place. With 5,000 years of Skye’s diverse archaeology on show, it is high on my list of “must-sees” on a visit to the island. From the Neolithic, through the Iron Age to the Vikings and the abandoned MacAskill clachan there is a lot to take in. Allow plenty time to get round the sites and take care – some of the burns can be difficult to cross after heavy rain.

Professor Boyd Robertson

(Principal, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, University of the Highlands and Islands, Sleat, Isle of Skye)

We at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig are keenly interested in Rubh' an Dùnain from a number of perspectives. It is an important site in terms of what it tells us about our history and heritage, about our ancestors and their way of life, about the links between the Celts and the Vikings, about the sea routes and the origin of personal names and place names. The knowledge gleaned from Rubh' an Dùnain will inform courses such as our MSc in Material Culture and Gàidhealtachd History and the BA Honours course in Gaelic and Culture and it will afford research opportunities and collaborations across disciplines and educational establishments.

Coinneach Maclean

(Board Member, Historic Environment Scotland)

My father took me there as an archaeology-struck teenager and it had a lasting impact upon me. Nowhere before had I see such a concentration of well-preserved monuments that so strongly evokes the span of five millennia. With a direct family association to our ancestors, no place resonates for me more strongly with a ‘spirit of place’ than this lonely, deserted peninsula.

Scottish Natural Heritage

Special qualities of National Scenic Areas (2010)

The area is an SNH Search Area for Wild Land. However, in contrast to the generally minimal human influence inland, there is ample evident of previous use along the fringes of the mountains, particularly in the form of prehistoric hut circles and later shielings. One location Rudha an Dùnain, has exceptionally good evidence of settlement and field systems from the Neolithic period onwards, including a canal, reputed to be of Viking date.

Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

At the toe of this remote promontory, bounded by Loch Brittle and the Sound of Soay and reached only by a lonely track, lies a rich palimpsest of archaeological remains testifying to the former significance of Rubh' an Dùnain. Chambered cairn, probably 2nd or 3rd millennium BC, a Neolithic passage grave. To its south, one of best preserved survivals of an Iron Age promontory fort (or galleried dun), with a portion of curved drystone wall to landward, possibly 1st millennium BC. A stone-lined canal, possibly Viking, connects a sheltered inlet to a small lochan, suitable for harbouring birlinns. Small former township, with round-ended ruin of early-mid 18th century tacksman's house, a two-storey chimney gable at one end.

Taken from "Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Mary Miers, 2008. Published by the Rutland Press

Ann MacSween

(Archaeologist and writer)

As an archaeologist and a frequent visitor to Skye, the walk out to Rubh’ an Dùnain has long been a favourite of mine. Once there, the amount of archaeology on the peninsula is a reminder that places that now seem remote to us were not always that way. It also makes me think about how important sea transport was in connecting the communities on Rubh' an Dùnain with other communities in the area.

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