MHG54650 - Ardvreck Iron Working Site


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Type and Period (1)


Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

RCAHMS Canmore description:
Pieces of iron working slag have frequently been discovered on a small promontory on the E shore of Loch Assynt to the ESE of Ardvreck Castle and across the bay S of the causeway to the castle. The area is largely level, low lying but dry and is dotted with a number of small cairns, the foundations of a sub-rectangular structure and several other features. The recently created path to the castle passes through the centre of the site before ending in a semi-circular seating area.

The peninsula was surveyed by Historic Assynt at 1:200 and the sub-rectangular structure and neighbouring features at 1:50.

Structures A1, A2 and A3 are all built against a linear limestone outcrop running approximately N – S. A1 consists of a grass covered, horseshoe shaped mound of stones approximately 4m across with a central depression opening to the W. The back wall of the structure has been built immediately in front of the rock face of the outcrop. The visible stones show signs of burning and the structure is presumed to be a small furnace. A 2 and A3 lie close by and are superficially similar, but more degraded. However both use the rock face as their back wall and enclose an area somewhat larger than A1. They could be entirely unrelated animal pens, or alternatively the remains of small forges.

Cairns B1 – B8 vary in size and shape and are partially grass covered. B1, 2 & 5 are sub-circular, between 3 and 4 metres across and less than 1m high. B2 has a hollow depression in the centre and a piece of burnt railway sleeper lies in the hollow, suggesting very recent modification. B6, 7 & 8 are smaller sub circular cairns consisting only of a few stones and not exceeding O.3m high, the latter with two flat stones visible on the W side, whereas B3 and B4 are curving linear features of similar height. All could be clearance cairns, but some could contain material from the nearby furnace or forges and some of the larger cairns could be the remains of forges.

Structure C is an irregular oval foundation with an internal space 6m long, 3.75m wide at the SW end narrowing to 1.5m wide to the NE. At C1a an inner and outer wall face is visible but with no gap for packing between them. Internally there appears to be a 0.5m wide ‘bench’ (C1b) against C1a but this does not continue to the other surviving sections of inner wall face at C1d & e, but peters out as it curves towards C1d. There are signs of an entrance at the S end of the SE wall. the entrance is partially obscured by C2, a linear mound of stones which may have been built out from the S side of the entrance, perhaps to provide protection from the prevailing SW wind. Alternatively it could be a contemporary or later cairn beside the entrance. The size and construction are consistent with this being a shieling hut or some other temporary structure.
Some 5m to the W is a small horseshoe shaped grassy mound (C3) enclosing a 1m space which is thought to be a shieling dairy.

Feature D consists of two linear banks (D1 & 2) enclosing a hollow area (D4) approx 4m wide. Its length is approx 10m if it is assumed that the small mound D3 and the slightly lower ground between it and both D1 and D2 are all parts of the same banking. The hollow is lower than most of the surrounding ground surface, very flat bottomed and looks as if it has been artificially dug or at least deepened and the excavated material dumped to the sides to create the mounds or enhance natural ones. The hollow faces out towards the Loch and a small inlet in the point of the peninsula. Currently the inlet is ringed by a steep bank, over 1m high in places, below which is a beach sloping into the Loch. However the configuration of the edges of the Loch has been significantly changed by the creation in the early 20th century of a sluice at the W end of Loch Assynt, which has allowed the Loch to be kept artificially high for many years and consequently eroded the shoreline. If access to the water was easier in the past than it is now, then hollow D could be interpreted as a small dry dock used for the building and repair of boats at a time when the area in and around Ardvreck was the main population centre in Assynt and the Loch probably much used by small boats.

If that interpretation of D is accepted then structure C and furnace A1 could both be associated with that activity. Such an interpretation does not preclude Structure C and the cairns being associated with use of the area as a shieling and occasionally as arable subsequently.

Information from Historic Assynt <1>

Sources/Archives (1)



Grid reference NC 2410 2356 (point) Approximate. Point generated from 2011 NMRS download data
Map sheet NC22SW
Geographical Area SUTHERLAND
Civil Parish ASSYNT

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