MHG2748 - Dun Fionn


No summary available.

Type and Period (2)

  • DUN (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • VITRIFIED STONE (Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Dun Fionn, at Eilean Aigas, is a vitrified fort overlooking the Beauly river. About sixty years ago the late Lord Lovat had it explored by cutting two sections through it, which has very much destroyed its original appearance. One of the trenches was cut from east to west for a distance of 30 yards, and 2 yards wide. On the north side there is a wall from 1 to 5 feet high. A cross section 1 yard wide and from 1 to 5 feet deep was cut at right angles to this one. The slope, measuring 40 yards wide, between the top of the fort and the river has every appearance of having been cultivated. The whole ground surrounding the fort is covered with brackens from 4 to 5 feet high. Among these there are four circles covered with beautiful green grass, with rich black earth underneath. Two of these circles measure 4 yards in diameter, one 5 yards, and another 2 yards. There is also an oblong or oval space of the same character as the circles. <1>

Dun Fionn (NR) Vitrified (NAT)
OS 6"map, Inverness-shire, 2nd ed., (1906)

Excavated by Lord Lovat about 60 or 70 years ago, who cut two sections through this vitrified fort, which defaced its original appearance and rendered it difficult to determine its dimensions. On the N side there was until recently a wall from 1 ft to 5 ft high. Outwith the fort there are four circles, two of which measure 4 yds in diameter, one 5 yds, and the other, 2 yds. There is also an oblong or oval space of the same character as the circle. <2>

Fort, Dun Fionn: On approaching the remains from the NE along the saddle which unites their site to the hillside beyond, a grass-grown rampart can be seen running athwart the line of approach, a gap in it possibly representing the original entrance. To the S of the gap the rampart runs for about 200 ft before turning W and fading out. From the other side the rampart fades out almost at once, though a distinct low broad ridge runs on what might have been its course to meet the brink of the precipitous descent to the river. Numerous masses of vitrified matter can be seen among the ruins of the rampart. It is probable that the structure was originally oval on plan, measuring about 200 ft NW-SE by a little less transversely.
Visited by RCAHMS 1957

Dun Fionn overlooks the River Beauly and is flanked by wooded slopes to the E, S and W, with an easy approach from the NE.
The RCAHM description bears little relationship to what can now be seen. The knoll occupied by Dun Fionn measures over all about 38.0 m NNE-SSW by 34.0 m and is about 3.0 m high with a level top measuring some 20.0 m by 18.0 m. Around the NE arc are traces of a wall containing vitrified material. Lord Lovat's excavation remains as a T-shaped trench with no trace of excavation on the W side as depicted by Wallace, whose plan is worthless. The knoll is otherwise featureless. There is no trace of the 'rampart' described by the RCAHMS.
Between about 3.0 m and 6.0 m outside the base of the knoll and encircling it is a terrace, some 2.0 m wide, well-defined around the S and E arcs but almost obliterated elsewhere; this is probably the remains of an additional defence.
There is no trace of Wallace's circular or oval features but halfway down the slope to the S is an oval platform measuring about 7.0 m N-S by 9.0 m.
Visited by OS (R L) 19 March 1965

A small amount of vitrifaction was observed in the 19th century excavation, at this visit.
At the base of the hill in the S are two ditches with outer ramparts abutting on to steep slopes in the W, with traces of a possible third outside them, denuded by timber operations. These defences are only 20.0 m long and possibly represent an unfinished defence. Traces of a terrace, 3.5 m wide where best preserved, occur along the E flank of the hill. This possibly joins the inner ditch and rampart, but soil slip and mutilation by timber operations have virtually destroyed it at this point.
Between the ramparts and the main fort, and set into the S-facing slope is an eyebrow-shaped platform some 11.0 m E-W by 7.0 m; this is probably a timber hut platform.
Published survey (25") revised.
Visited by OS (A A) 13 January 1972

Dun Fionn: A severely mutilated dun occupies a slight knoll at the SW end of a steep-sided spur on the E side of the River Beauly. The summit of the knoll measures about 18 m by 16 m and is defined by a scarp which represents the remains of a vitrified wall; a fruther scarp on the NE probably represents the remains of an outwork.

A dun is the appropriate classification. A blanket cover of dead bracken at the time of visit made proper ground inspection impossible. However, authorities 2, 3 and 4 seem to have distinguished the same outer rampart despite varying descriptions. Authority 5 has obviously seen a second outer defence which he conjectures may have joined with an unmistakeable series of succeeding ditches and banks at the foot of the hill; the latter is puzzling in that being so removed from the accepted citadel area it appears superfluous to any defensive requirement in that respect. A natural trench across the NE approach may be a significant link in the defensive network. An uprooted tree on the SW edge of the citadel area has uncovered some reddened fragments of stone and a small piece of vitrifaction. There is no trace of any circles or platforms;
in the hillside are one or two small shelves probably formed by uprooted trees.
There are some unresolved features about the site, particularly
the series of ditches and banks at the foot of the hill, and it may be that the first outwork constitutes the fort proper and that Dun Fionn itself is a separate phase. The site could be likened to that at Langwell in Strath Oykell (NC 40 SW 3).
Visited by OS (JM) 9 February 1981

The dun was visited by Roland Spencer-Jones on the 24th of November 2013. The site was described as:
'A heavily overgrown (trees and bracken) hill-top platform, with an encircling series of ramparts. The rings of ramparts described by previous visitors are now difficult to observe on the ground. However, from the estate path (at approx NH 47302 42979) there is a well-defined raised causeway, 1.5 metres wide, with outer ditches leading SW up to and then through the first and largest of the ramparts. This fits the “grass-grown rampart” described by RCAHMS in 1957 - ie a 5-6 metre wide low dyke, from 0.5 to 1.5 metre high, running in the directions as described. The northern section uses the advantage of a deep gully to its east. The central “fort” is now difficult to identify in places but remains as a tree and bracken covered mound to the SW of the ground enclosed by the rampart to the NE. Lord Lovat’s T-shaped section is still evident, with the trenches intersecting at NH 47162 42899. There is a clear encircling wall and ditch best seen on the south west corner of the “fort”.'

This site is included in the Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland online database. See link below for site entry. <1>

Sources/Archives (4)



Grid reference Centred NH 4715 4290 (80m by 80m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH44SE
Geographical Area INVERNESS

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