MHG12107 - Moated enclosure - Inchadamph


A circular enclosure, said to have been place where chief of Macleods slept, surrounded by his followers, in time of danger. It is in a very assailable position however, with an external bank and ditch and another possible interpretation is that it represents a prehistoric enclosure.

Type and Period (3)

  • ENCLOSURE (Unknown date)
  • (Alternate Type) HENGE? (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2401 BC)
  • (Alternate Type) MOATED SITE? (Medieval - 1058 AD to 1559 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

NC22SW 6 2488 2197. Enclosure (NR)
On haugh, by side of graveyard at Inchnadamph, is oval enclosure surrounded by a bank some 2' - 3' high and 25' broad at base, the interior of which measures 134' x 86". A slight hollow running along-side mount on its inner side is probably due to formation of latter. There appears to be two entrances from N and E respectively.
This is said to have been place where chief of Macleods slept, surrounded by his followers, in time of danger. It is, however, in a very assailable position.
RCAHMS 1911. <1>

This enclosure is situated on low-lying ground at head of Loch Assynt. It comprises a silted-up ditch and outer bank reduced to a present height of 0.7m in S. Both bank and ditch have apparently been approximately 5m wide. Of 3 breaks in spread bank, that in NE has been subject to considerable mutilation, being at lowest point of ditch, is wettest place in whole work. Corresponding to the central break in bank on E side is a causeway across ditch, which is probable original entrance. The third break, in SE, is recent. The ditch is scarcely strong enough to classify this site as a homestead moat, but a medieval date for it seems reasonable. However, possibility of it being a henge should not be discounted. (c/f NS56NW 15)
Surveyed at 1:10560. (OS GHP) 23 May 1962.
Visited by OS (J M) 13 August 1974.

The plan & general appearance of feature leave little doubt that it is homestead moat with dimensions as supplied by previous authorities. It comprises a silted ditch, now dry, which is crossed by a causeway on longer (NE) side; outflow appears to have been in N corner. Material from ditch has been deposited inside to form a slightly raised, level platform which is featureless and outside to construct a retaining bank. Significantly, this bank is at its highest in S arc where a slight lift in the natural ground level has necessitated a deeper cut of ditch. Moat lies adjacent to parish church; earliest record of a church hereabouts dates from c1455. Irregular shape of work excludes it from consideration as a henge.
Visited by OS (N K B) 2 September 1980.

This site is listed in an Atlas of Scottish History (McNeill and MacQueen 1996) as a moated site.
Information from RCAHMS (DE) September 1997 <2>

The site was Scheduled by Historic Scotland in 2000.

Nothing marked on 1st edition Ordnance Survey - indicating the slightness of the earthworks - this points to the lesser likelihood of this being a conventional homestead moat. Lies on flat land at the end of the loch close to the river - will have a tendency to flood. At time of visit there was not a complete wet "moat" around the site although the bank was visible particularly on the E. Area apparently used as a market place in the 19th century. Closeness to church has prevented the area being ploughed. <3>

D Hodgson and A Puls of the Highland Council Archaeology Unit, undertook geophysical survey across this area, as part of Highland Archaeology Fortnight in 2005. Trace and greyscale plots of gradiometer, resistance and contour survey were produced. Limited evidence was produced for structures in the interior of the enclosure. Three breaks in the bank were evident in all surveys, and the data suggests that they were part of the original layout of the site, rather than the product of erosion. <4> <5>

Visited by the Assynt's Hidden Lives project in November 2009.A circular, earthen enclosure bank measuring 40m in diameter and 0.4m high. Truncated in the east, south, north-west and north edges with a wall spread of up to 5m. It is situated in a flat area which is boggy. There is no sign of a definite entrance. <6>

Surveyed in detail by the Assynt's Hidden Lives project. Situated on relatively flat ground to the south-west of Inchnadamph church and to the east of Loch Assynt is an oval shaped enclosure, aligned NE-SE, surrounded by an earthen bank. The bank is mostly 4m wide but is up to 6m wide on the west side and reaches between 0.2m and 0.8m in height. There are three breaks in the bank on the north, east and south-west. The south-west break is 3.5m wide and the land where the bank is missing is very flat. The other two breaks are both quite uneven and are less than 2m across. The land in the middle of the enclosure rises up towards the centre, there is a shallow depression, perhaps a ditch between the bank and the central area. <7>

Marked as a homstead moat on modern Ordnance Survey mapping. <8>

As part of the Assynt Fire and Water Project, an excavation was undertaken by AOC Archaeology Group in 2013 to investigate the moated enclosure. Excavation comprised a slot trench placed over the ditch and the exterior bank in the E area of the site, close to one of the probable entrances. The ditch was found to be a broad U-shape in profile, c1.5m deep with a flat base, with the fill largely derived from the erosion of the outer bank. A large number of artefacts were recovered from the upper deposits, derived mainly from the eroded bank outside the site, and included ceramics similar to Hebridean Craggan Ware, a fragment of a disc-shaped rotary quern, a folding knife and a large quantity of iron working slag, including furnace base cakes. Given the lack of a local ceramic sequence, the pottery was not easily datable, but a post-medieval date was considered probable for the majority of the artefacts. Waterlogged deposits were encountered at the base of the ditch, and although these could only be investigated to a limited extent, they contained waterlogged wood, including an off-cut of Scots pine, animal and fish bones and a sizable plant macrofossil and insect assemblage. Radiocarbon dates were obtained from samples taken from the upper and basal deposits of the ditch: these were statistically inseparable and indicated activity between the mid-15th and mid-17th century AD. <9>

The site was used as the main subject in an online research paper by R McDonald and K Millican published in 2024 discussing the challenges of archaeological interpretation and classification. The authors discussed the different interpretations suggested for the site in turn, concluding that the enclosure does not fit readily into existing classification schemes. The authors indicate that this raises issues surrounding the use of classification systems, prior assumptions, and the need for critical thinking in interpretation. These are universal issues, applicable beyond the chosen site, and the paper highlighted concerns and difficulties encountered by all who deal with the classification of sites and monuments. Ultimately, this challenges some of our preconceptions and sheds light on the limits of our knowledge, as well as the limits of our classification systems. <10> See article for full detail.

Sources/Archives (12)



Grid reference Centred NC 2488 2196 (60m by 60m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NC22SW
Geographical Area SUTHERLAND
Civil Parish ASSYNT

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (3)

External Links (3)

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