Scotland's Coastal Heritage at Risk

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Dun Vulan (8955)

Current Priority
1
East
71407
North
829815
Site Type
Broch And Settlement
Period
1st Mil BC/1st Mil AD

The remains of Dun Vulan broch stand just above the foreshore and have been damaged by the recent storm. The site was the subject of excavation between 1991 and 1996 as part of the SEARCH programme conducted by Sheffield University (Parker Pearson, M and Sharples, N 1999, Between Land and Sea: Excavations at Dun Vulan, South Uist, Sheffield Academic Press). The building, which has an internal diameter of 11m and walls 4m thick, was in use from around 50 BC until AD 400. Outside the broch, middens and structural remains indicate that the site was occupied from as early as the Late Bronze Age period, with a series of rectangular outbuildings continuing in use up to about 500 AD. The ground floor of the broch remains unexcavated. The recent storm has caused damage to the sea wall which was built to protect the seaward (south) side of the site. To the west of the site, a section of approximately 65m in length has been washed away; while to the east, a 40m length has been removed. The consolidated outer wall of the south side of the broch has been damaged by erosion: a segment measuring some 8m long has been breached and deposits within the thickness of the wall have been disturbed and washed out. Inside the building, the turf which formerly covered and protected the unexcavated remains has been washed out in places. The ground surface on the landward (north) side of the broch has been removed in places, revealing midden deposits over an area measuring some 15m long by 2.5m wide. The site is now vulnerable to further losses and will require remedial consolidation to maintain it for the future.

Update visit - December 2015

This important site continues to deteriorate. The sea defences installed in the late 90s are starting to deteriorate now on the eastern end where a large 'wing' of the defence has broken away from the main structure and moved some 150mm back from its original site. There has also been increased erosion to the east and west of the defences caused by the deflection of tide and wave energy, this has resulted in the undermining of the concrete bay cladding which has collapsed in parts and broken up. The site was visited at high neap tides, and even in this lower tidal period, the waves were almost reaching the defences (about 4m away). Spring tides would typically be around 1m vertically higher, and would be breaking on the defensive walls. Any additional storm surge would be overwhelming the site completely, as evidenced by some seaweed remains within the monument.

It is likely that the lower portions of the monument are already waterlogged by salty water, which will be having a negative effect on any contents at the original ground level, which, from the excavation reports, was built on an islet site in a fresh water loch.

Condition and current recommendations:

Condition
Fair
Action
Monitor site to report fresh exposures ;
Develop management plan with landowner and heritage agency

Over to you...

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Record 59 on map SU 6 in CZAS, Grimsay, Benbecula & South Uist (west), 2005

Other records:

NMRS
9825
SMR
MWE9825

ShoreUpdates

1 ShoreUpdate accepted and 0 pending.

Click on an update to expand it.

17th December, 2015 by Smilemaker
Survey Information
User:
Smilemaker
Date:
Dec. 17, 2015
Tidal state:
high
Site located?:
Yes
Condition Information
Proximity to coast edge:
coast edge
Coastally eroding?:
active sea erosion; has eroded in the past
Is there a coastal defence?:
yes
Other threats?:
stock erosion; animal burrows; vehicle damage
Description:

The remains of Dun Vulan broch stand just above the foreshore and have been damaged by the recent storm. The site was the subject of excavation between 1991 and 1996 as part of the SEARCH programme conducted by Sheffield University (Parker Pearson, M and Sharples, N 1999, Between Land and Sea: Excavations at Dun Vulan, South Uist, Sheffield Academic Press). The building, which has an internal diameter of 11m and walls 4m thick, was in use from around 50 BC until AD 400. Outside the broch, middens and structural remains indicate that the site was occupied from as early as the Late Bronze Age period, with a series of rectangular outbuildings continuing in use up to about 500 AD. The ground floor of the broch remains unexcavated. The recent storm has caused damage to the sea wall which was built to protect the seaward (south) side of the site. To the west of the site, a section of approximately 65m in length has been washed away; while to the east, a 40m length has been removed. The consolidated outer wall of the south side of the broch has been damaged by erosion: a segment measuring some 8m long has been breached and deposits within the thickness of the wall have been disturbed and washed out. Inside the building, the turf which formerly covered and protected the unexcavated remains has been washed out in places. The ground surface on the landward (north) side of the broch has been removed in places, revealing midden deposits over an area measuring some 15m long by 2.5m wide. The site is now vulnerable to further losses and will require remedial consolidation to maintain it for the future.

Update visit - December 2015

This important site continues to deteriorate. The sea defences installed in the late 90s are starting to deteriorate now on the eastern end where a large 'wing' of the defence has broken away from the main structure and moved some 150mm back from its original site. There has also been increased erosion to the east and west of the defences caused by the deflection of tide and wave energy, this has resulted in the undermining of the concrete bay cladding which has collapsed in parts and broken up. The site was visited at high neap tides, and even in this lower tidal period, the waves were almost reaching the defences (about 4m away). Spring tides would typically be around 1m vertically higher, and would be breaking on the defensive walls. Any additional storm surge would be overwhelming the site completely, as evidenced by some seaweed remains within the monument.

It is likely that the lower portions of the monument are already waterlogged by salty water, which will be having a negative effect on any contents at the original ground level, which, from the excavation reports, was built on an islet site in a fresh water loch.

Management Information
How visible are the remains? (above ground):
highly visible (substantial remains)
How visible are the remains? (in section):
limited visibility in section
How accessibile is the site?:
easily accessible- no restrictions; accessible- difficult terrain; accessible on foot (footpath); vehicular access
The site is:
is well known; is well visited; has local associations/history
Comments and recommendations
Comments:

The ongoing erosion and sea level changes since building (c150BC)have overwhelmed the southern portion of the original loch, formed Bornish Bay and created a shoreline site for the monument. Much of the hinterland has already been destroyed by the ongoing maritime invasion, and consideration to a re-evaluation and potential excavation of the site and its surroundings should be considered before it deteriorates to an extent where little information could be obtained from such an intervention.

Recommendations:

Examination of the sea defences by a marine conservation specialist and a report made regarding current best practice for ongoing protection of this important broch site