Scotland's Coastal Heritage at Risk

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North Uist, Aird An Runair, An Caisteil (9387)

Current Priority
1
East
69700
North
871190
Site Type
Erosion Site; Dun; Midden; Cists: Corbelled (Possible)
Period
1st Millennium BC - 5th C AD

The site of An Caisteil at the NW corner of Traigh nam Faoghailean was just traceable as a small flattish knoll elevated about 4.5m above the HWM in 1911. No trace of the site could be found in 1965. This site has been recorded as a dun, which is long since lost to erosion if it ever existed, and more recently as an area of prehistoric midden. Tidal erosion appears to have accelerated in this area, exacerbated by surface deflation. Large erosion faces with structures eroding out of them, including probable wheelhouses and corbelled structures. Iron Age pottery has been found at this site. The whole area appears to extend for a length of 100m. This site appears to start not far from the end of site 414 where a linear heap of stones is visible eroding out of a deflation surface. A dense scatter of shells is also visible in the base of this deflation. Cellular structures are visible eroding out of the section at NF 69703 71189. These are up to six courses high in places and there is a lot of stone on the beach below. At least three structures can be identified eroding out of the surface behind the erosion face. These could possibly be wheelhouses or another cellular complex. Two large mounds of stone with no structure visible, had joined together to form one large stone spread at NF 69680 71188.

Update visit December 2015 The site is now seriously deteriorated, resembling a depressed sand filled depression with much stonework strewn over the surface. There is virtually no discernible structure left at the site, although on the landward side there is a substantial boulder and turf boundary wall which extends right across the peninsula and as it gets deeper into the hinterland, becomes a significant structure, possibly indicative of a township boundary demarcation.

There is one new feature now uncovered as the sand erodes, a former floor or compacted ground surface which appears to be compacted humic soil deposit with inclusions of shell, bone, pebble and pottery fragments. Some IA pottery sherds were observed on the surface of the sand and the ground surface.

The site is very visible, but only as a very deteriorated scatter of materials.

Condition and current recommendations:

Condition
Eroding
Action
Visit - check condition; characterise site and obtain dating evidence ;
Survey site - using several techniques to characterise site

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Record 415 on map 8 in CZAS, North Uist (west), 2005

Other records:

NMRS
9757
SMR
Unknown

ShoreUpdates

1 ShoreUpdate accepted and 0 pending.

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15th December, 2015 by Smilemaker
Survey Information
User:
Smilemaker
Date:
Dec. 15, 2015
Tidal state:
low
Site located?:
Yes
Condition Information
Proximity to coast edge:
coast edge
Coastally eroding?:
active sea erosion; active wind erosion (in dunes only); has eroded in the past
Is there a coastal defence?:
no
Other threats?:
stock erosion; animal burrows; visitor erosion; structural damage/decay
Description:

The site of An Caisteil at the NW corner of Traigh nam Faoghailean was just traceable as a small flattish knoll elevated about 4.5m above the HWM in 1911. No trace of the site could be found in 1965. This site has been recorded as a dun, which is long since lost to erosion if it ever existed, and more recently as an area of prehistoric midden. Tidal erosion appears to have accelerated in this area, exacerbated by surface deflation. Large erosion faces with structures eroding out of them, including probable wheelhouses and corbelled structures. Iron Age pottery has been found at this site. The whole area appears to extend for a length of 100m. This site appears to start not far from the end of site 414 where a linear heap of stones is visible eroding out of a deflation surface. A dense scatter of shells is also visible in the base of this deflation. Cellular structures are visible eroding out of the section at NF 69703 71189. These are up to six courses high in places and there is a lot of stone on the beach below. At least three structures can be identified eroding out of the surface behind the erosion face. These could possibly be wheelhouses or another cellular complex. Two large mounds of stone with no structure visible, had joined together to form one large stone spread at NF 69680 71188.

Update visit December 2015 The site is now seriously deteriorated, resembling a depressed sand filled depression with much stonework strewn over the surface. There is virtually no discernible structure left at the site, although on the landward side there is a substantial boulder and turf boundary wall which extends right across the peninsula and as it gets deeper into the hinterland, becomes a significant structure, possibly indicative of a township boundary demarcation.

There is one new feature now uncovered as the sand erodes, a former floor or compacted ground surface which appears to be compacted humic soil deposit with inclusions of shell, bone, pebble and pottery fragments. Some IA pottery sherds were observed on the surface of the sand and the ground surface.

The site is very visible, but only as a very deteriorated scatter of materials.

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 (no footpath)
The site is:
is well known; is well visited
Comments and recommendations
Comments:

The site name is suggestive of a substantial mediaeval building and the quantity of masonry would support this. It is commonplace to find stonework is robbed from sites on the Western Isles, and this would seem to be the fate of this structure.

Recommendations:

Maintain priority 2. This site appears to have some relationship with the former township reputed to have been on the peninsula - indeed in the hinterland there are many structural remnants of a significant early settlement with a protective boundary wall. This site should be investigated as part of a wider investigation into the history of this settlement, should that be desirable.