Historic Marine Protected Area

Mingary Historic MPAHMPA2

Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (https://portal.historicenvironment.scot/termsandconditions).


Date Added
Supplementary Information Updated
Secular: shipwreck
Local Authority
NM 50671 62942
150671, 762942

The marine historic asset located within the Mingary Historic MPA is the remains of a vessel lying wrecked on or in the seabed, objects formerly contained in the vessel and deposits or artefacts which evidence previous human activity on board the vessel.

Boundaries of Historic Marine Protected Area

The area of sea within a distance of 250 metres of position latitude 56° 41'.488 north, longitude 06° 04'.413 west, excluding any seashore lying above mean high water spring tide.


The Scottish Ministers are satisfied that designation of the Mingary Historic MPA is desirable for the purpose of preserving a marine historic asset of national importance which is located within the area. The wrecked vessel is believed to relate to a wrecking incident that is recorded to have ocurred during a siege of Mingary Castle by Archibald Campbell, 8th Earl of Argyll, in 1644. The remains of the vessel lie wrecked on or in the seabed at a depth of 8-11m below chart datum on the SE side of the rocky peninsular of Rubh' a 'Mhile, approximately 700m to the SE of Mingary Castle, Ardnamurchan.

Statement of National Importance

Relatively few wreck sites have survived in Scottish waters prior to the early 19th century, and well-preserved examples that have been investigated systematically by archaeologies are particularly rare across the UK. Survey work on the wreck off Mingary Castle has identified survival of a wide range of artefact types and as this site remains substantially undisturbed, it retains an inherent potential to make a very significant addition to our understanding of the past. In particular, this site is likely to preserve important information about the design and use of vessels during the 17th century. Our understanding of the significance of the wreck is further enhanced by its proximity with Mingary Castle, the object of Argyll's attack in connection with important events in Scottish history, in particular conflicts between the anti-Campbell Highland clans and the Covenanters during the 1640s. It is also notable that the wreck off Mingary Castle is close to two other 17th-century historic wrecks (Dartmouth and the Durart Point wreck), also lost in connection with attacks on a coastal castle. The survival of these sites adds significantly to our understanding of the coastal landscape bordering the historically significant sea-route through the Sound of Mull, and the growing vulnerability of coastal castles to attack by seaborne artillery during the 17th century.

The wreck off Mingary Castle is located within an area that is very popular for recreation and tourism (in particular sport diving). Designation can help to promote the heritage value of the site, foster its understanding and enjoyment, and encourage responsible behaviour by divers and others.

Intrinsic characteristics

Around 1999, divers identified remains indicating the presence of a post-medieval period shipwreck close in Mingary Castle. The site was subject to archaeological inspection in 2000 and archaeological survey work in 2002, and 2006-7. These investigations confirmed visible material covering an area of seabed 20m N-S by 15m E-W. Small fragments of abraded wood have been observed to survive in shallow sediment deposits; four cast iron guns of different sizes, lie end to end in an east-west direction across the slope of a reef, with a fifth discovered later lying approximately 7m to the north-northwest. These remain on the seabed. Smaller artefacts recovered have included armaments (iron cannonballs and bar shot) and a lead vent apron, concretions resulting from corroded iron objects, domestic items including a Rhenish stoneware jar, galley cauldron, and a lead Merchant's weight. These are in the collections of the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. Further small artefacts including a galley brick and fragments of lead sheeting identified during survey work in 2006-7 remain on the seabed and remaining potential for buried archaeology may exist within deposits of fine grained sand that accumulate to depths of 20cm in gullies between the large boulders on the seabed, as well as in more widespread sand deposits in deeper water offshore. The identity of the wreck is as yet unconfirmed but the merchant's weight is date-stamped 1638 and the Rhenish jar is of a style dating to the period 1640-1700. As such, a terminus post-quem of 1640 for the wreck is suggested. This dating evidence ties in with first-hand accounts from documentary sources of a wrecking incident of a Dutch vessel that ocurred in 1644, during a siege of Mingary Castle. Assuming this identity is correct, further investigations into this site have the potential to add significantly to our knowledge of this event, as well as to the origins, design and function of the ship concerned. Little is yet known about this although armament experts have suggested that the small numbers of guns of different sizes might suggest that the vessel concerned was an armed merchant ship.

Contextual characteristics

The wreck is located 700m from Mingary Castle, an imposing coastal castle of considerable strategic importance from the viewpoint of sea-borne communication during the 13th-18th centuries, controlling the entrance from the Minch to the sheltered seaways of the Sound of Mull and Loch Sunart. If an associaion with the loss of a Dutch vessel in 1644 during an attack on Mingary Castle is correct, this appears to have been an isolated incident. Given the circumstances of the loss, this wreck should be however be considered alongside two other 17th-century historic wreck sites that have survived in the nearby waters of the Sound of Mull: a wreck off Duart Point, Island of Mull (probably the Swan, lost 1653); and Dartmouth, Eilean Rubha an Ridire (lost 1690). In each case, these wrecks also ocurred in relation to planned assaults on coastal castles located along this strategically signficant coastal sea-way. The remains of the Mingary wreck, taken toegher with this wider group, illustrates how, with the advent of seaborne artillery, coastal castles in the Sound of Mull became vulnerable to attack by sea.

Associative characteristics

The wreck close to Mingary Castle seems most likely to be associated with events in the area during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms of the mid-17th century. In early July 1644, Alasdair Mac Colla, also known as Major-General Alastair MacDonald, had landed in Scotland, having been dispatched by the Earl of Antrim with 1500 men in support of Charles I. Mac Colla captured a Covananter ship on July 3, and among the prisoners was the Convenanter minister John Weir, who kept a diary of his time in captivity at Mingary. From this we know that Mac Colla landed in Scotland on July 7 and on 14 July took control of Mingary Castle from Convenanter forces, moving the prisoners inside the next day. On 29 July, Mac Colla set off with most of the army to campaign within Argyll lands, in revenge for previous actions taken by the Campbells against the MacDonalds in the Highlands, before joining with James Graham, 5th Earl of Montrose, when he raised the Royalist standard in August. At the same time, Archibald Campbell, 8th Earl of Argyll, had begun advancing on Mingary to attempt to retake his castle. Aryll arrived by sea on 7 August 'with 5 ships and mani boats' and immediately began the sige by bombarding the castle. At the same time as Mingary Castle was first captured and during the early days of the siege, ships of both sides were active in the waters around it. Weir records that a Dutch vessel was captured on 20 July, possibly by Captain Swanley, the Parliamentarian captain of the Leopard, a 3rd Rate with 38 guns and 160 crew. Weir also records that a second Dutch vessel, along with the ship belonging to Captain Turner, appears to have been captured by Argyll's force on 12 August. On 15 August, Weir notes that 'the Dutch ship was cast away upon the rocks at Mingary'. It is unclear which of the Dutch vessels this was, but it seems likely that this is the wreck at Mingary Castle.

Preservation Objective

The preservation objectives for the Kinlochbervie Historic MPA and the marine historic asset are:

a) to maintain the extent of survival of the marine historic asset within the area;
b) to maintain site condition of the marine historic asset;
c) to prevent the removal, wholly or partly, of the marine historic asset from within the Kinlochbervie Historic MPA, except where the Scottish Ministers are satisfied that this is desirable for the purpose of making a significant contribution to the protection of the marine historic asset or to knowledge about marine cultural heritage;
d) to prevent the commercial exploitation of the marine historic asset for trade, speculation or its irretrievable dispersal other than provision of professional archaeological or public access which is consistent with preservation objectives a,b,c.

Preservation Objective Description

Preservation objectives guide the management of Historic MPAs according to the specific needs of individual areas. Objectives for the Mingary Historic MPA are focused around maintaining the extent of survival of marine historic assets in situ and maintaining site condition. Additional objectives set out instances where the recovery of marine historic assets (in whole or part) may be acceptable and to restrict commercial exploitation of marine historic assets for trade or speculation. To enable monitoring of progress against these objectives by Historic Environment Scotland, information relating to the survival of marine historic assets and site condition is set out in the table below, based on archaeological investigations undertaken by Philip Richards, Gary Momber and colleagues in 2003, Wessex Archaeology in 2006-7 (Wessex Archaeology 2007a; 2007b) and Cotswold Archaeology in 2014.

ObjectiveCurrent indicator status and descriptorDetail in relation to baseline position
To maintain the extent of survival of the marine historic asset within the area

Survival unknown - (but on the basis of available evidence, thought likely to be <20%)

Armaments and other large iron features - Five cast iron guns of different sizes are known to survive on the boulder slope. As the identity and therefore the ship's complement of armament is unknown, it is not possible to estimate percentage survival.

Structure - Investigations have identified localised and heavily abraded timber fragments, within areas of soft sediment close to the guns. Sediment probing suggests sediment depths to 20cm. No excavation has however taken place. As such it is not possible to determine presence/ extent of structual survival although, given the depth of sediment, survival and substantial sections of structure seems unlikely at this location. The possibility of further survival in soft sediments beyond the reef cannot be discounted.

Small finds - The range of artefacts recovered following discovery of the wreck and in survey work since, together with the existence of unexcavated deposits of sediment suggests that a wide range of artefact types are likely to remain in-situ.

To maintain site condition of the marine historic asset

Generally satisfactory but with minor localised problems - i.e. there may be some localised erosion or deterioration, affecting up to 15% of an asset. But this does not constitute serious damage and is an acceptable feature of the asset at the current time.

The wreck's location on the S. Ardnamurchan shore overlooking the Sound of Mull means that the site is generally well protected from north-west to east but exposed to wind and sea from the south and westerly quarters. The principal discovery area at a depth of 8-11m below CD is characterised by a shelving slope comprising basalt and sandstone boulders interspersed with pockets of sand, up to 0.20m deep in places. More extensive beds of sand may be found in deeper water adjacent to the main discovery area. The variety of plant life on the seabed suggests a relatively dynamic environment, particularly during storms from prevailing quarters, although some small finds and timber fragments have been recovered from the silty-sand desposits. Surveys in 2006-7 observed visible rusting of the cast-iron guns, and some signs of damage, due to removal of iron concretions previously attached to them. This may indicate vulnerability to visiting diver activity in the past.


Designation of the Mingary HMPA places a duty on public authorities with functions capable of adversely affecting marine historic assets to carry out those functions in a way that best furthers or, where this is not possible, least hinders the stated preservation objectives. To fulfil this duty, public authorities must consider and implement changes in the way they carry out their functions to deliver benefits for/ minimise adverse effects on the Mingary Historic MPA, taking advice from Historic Environment Scotland

  • When preparing local development plans; marine plans; and fisheries management plans relevant to this location, as well as other programmes, policies and strategies, public authorities must take account of the preservation objectives for the Mingary Historic MPA.

  • Competent authorities with responsibilities for issuing authorisation for all developments and licensable activities (for example, through marine licensing; planning permission; issuing of seabed leases) within and outwith the boundaries of the protected area must consider impacts on the preservation objectives for the Mingary Historic MPA, taking advice from Historic Environment Scotland. Decisions must also be taken in accordance with the relevant marine plans and policies.

  • Where their functions or acts which they intent to undertake may significantly hinder the achievement of the preservation objectives for this Historic MPA, public authorities are required to notify Historic Environment Scotland. Historic Environment Scotland has 28 days to respond and public authorities must have regard to advice or guidance given by Historic Environment Scotland.




Operational Advice for the Proposed HMPA

The following advice is intended to enable sea-users and public authorities to prioritise beneficial management of activities that might otherwise hinder the preservation objectives for the Mingary Historic MPA. The seabed within this area preserves archaeological remains that represent a finite, non-renewable resource, the survival of which could be affected by a complex interplay of processes originating from sources that may be naturally occurring (e.g. chemical, biological or physical factors) or man-made (Historic Scotland 2012a, 8). Table 2 indicates whichh key pressures are known currently although there are additional pressures which could hinder the preservation objectives were they to occur.

In summary, this site is considered most vulnerable to the following impacts from man-made operations:

Direct Impacts

Physical damage/loss/alteration arising from: a) collison/abrasion by construction/extraction activities; commercial fishing operations which impact on the seabed (particularly demersal trawling - eg scallop dredging); anchoring/mooring of vessels within the protected area; and b) the selective removal of artefacts and/or excavation of sediments by diving/archaeological operations within the protected area.

Indirect Impacts

Alteration/loss of the marine historic asset arising from any construction/extraction/dumping at sea/commercial installation operations in the vicinity which might exacerbate erosion of sediments or result in significant changes to seabed biology/water chemistry within the protected area.


Historic Scotland's Strategic Heritage Management Team will be pleased to provide detailed operational advice where impacts are anticipated on a case by case basis. The basis for this advice is set out in the table below.


Operational advice following Historic MPA designation

Commercial fisheries

There is no evidence that pelagic/demersal fishing (e.g scallop dredging) takes place over this site but it may take place nearby. Use of demersal techniques within the protected area must be avoided as damage is likely to be catastrophic. As there is a risk of snagging creel lines on exposed anchors/ cannon, and potentially too of destabilising sediment deposits, use of creels should be avoided within the protected area.

Construction/ extraction/ dumping within the protected area

As the marine historic asset is considered highly vulnerable to such activities and the spatial footprint of this protected area is small, developers and sea-users will normally be advised to plan developments in a way that avoids the area, and any direct impacts, altogether. There may however be some cases where carefully managed emplacement of sand-bags/other forms of geotextile membrane wtihin the protected area or scientific monitoring equipment is desirable to support preservation objectives.

Construction/ extraction/ dumping at sea/ operation of commercial installations in the vicinity

Proposals for such activities in the vicinity should carefully assess likely impacts on hydrodynamic processes and any seabed biology/water chemistry over the protected area, and where appropriate, consider ways to mitigate the impacts concerned. This advice is likely to be relevant for activities not currently present nearby but which are practised elsewhere on the S Ardnamurchan shore such as fin-fish and shellfish aquaculture. Impacts on 'setting' from shoreline/marine developments in the vicinity are not anticipated at this time.

Recreational diving, bathing, within the protected area

Responsible recreational diving is encouraged. Feel free to take photographs or video during visits but do not recover artefacts, damage or disturb a marine historic asset. Also, please do not displace sediments or remove weed as this is helping to maintain the stability of the wreck site. Any shot lines to aid diver access to the site should be carefully placed and not used as mooring lines for a dive vessel. Maintaining good buoyancy control also helps to minimise impacts to the site. Anyone diving within the protected area is encouraged to provide a brief report about their visit to Historic Environment Scotland, to assist in monitoring this important wreck. Should you wish to learn more about it, the Lochaline Dive Centre offers educational tours for divers.

Scientific and archaeological investigation within the protected area

Non-intrusive scientific/archaeological survey work is encouraged as is dissemination of the information and knowledge which results. However, intrusive activities, including archaeological excavation, sediment sampling, and recovery of objects of historic interest are subject to marine licensing, and you will need to apply to Marine Scotland Licensing Operations Team (MS-LOT) who will take advice from Historic Environment Scotland about whether these activities should proceed, subject to conditions.

Boating, vessel, traffic, including anchoring and laying of moorings

Boating is generally encouraged providing that no damage or disturbance of the marine historic asset ocurrs. For example, boat owners should avoid use of anchors within the proposed protected area except in instances of maritime distress to save life or secure the safety of a vessel. Laying of moorings should be avoided within the protected area. However, there may be instances where laying of temporary seabed moorings is desirable to support sustainable access to the site. Where this is the case, care should be taken to place moorings away from the known extent of archaeological remains.



Byrne, K 1997, Colkitto! A celebration of Clan Donald of Colonsay (1570-1647). Colonsay: House of Lochar.

Unpublished References

Momber, G 2003, 'Report for Historic Scotland on the Survey of the Mingary Castle Protected Wreck Site during May 2002', Unpublished Licensees Report.

Wessex Archaeology 2007b, Mingary Castle, Ardnamurchan, The Sound of Mull, Scotland, Designated Site Assessment 2007 (Ref: 53111.03n) - copy archived with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 16 Bernard Terrace, Edinburgh, EH8 9NX

Online resources

Historic Scotland, 2012, Guidelines on the Selection, Designation and Management of Historic Marine Protected Areas. Copy available at www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/historic-mpa-guidelines.pdf

Historic Scotland, 2012a, Historic Marine Protected Areas, a guide for visitors, investigators and managers - copy available at www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/historic-mpa-leaflet.pdf

Scottish Government, 2010, Making the most of Scotland's seas - copy available at www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/308833/0097196.pdf

Wessex Archaeology 2007a, Mingary Castle, Ardnamurchan, The Sound of Mull, Scotland, Designated Site Assessment 2006 (Ref: 53111.03rr) - copy archived with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Histoical Monuments of Scotland, 16 Bernard Terrace, Edinburgh, EH8 9NX and available at http://orapweb.rcahms.gov.uk/wp/00/WP000728.pdf

Wessex Archaeology, 2010, Existing designated historic assets: transition to Historic Marine Protected Areas and identification of biodiversity/geodiversity value. Prepared by Wessex Archaeology for Historic Scotland, August 2010. Ref: 73210.04. Copy archived with RCAHMS and available at http://lmid1a.rcahms.gov.uk/wp/00/WP000732.pdf

Wessex Archaeology, 2012, Characterising Scotland's marine archaeological resource. Prepared by Wessex Archaeology for Historic Scotland, January 2012. Ref: 76930.04 Copy archived with RCAHMS and available at http://lmid1a.rcahms.gov.uk/wp/00/WP000720.pdf

Further information is available on the Canmore record 167515

About Historic Marine Protected Areas

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

Historic marine protected areas are the way that marine historic assets of national importance which survive in Scottish territorial waters are protected by law under Part 5 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010.

We advise Marine Scotland on the importance of marine historic assets and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate sites. We assess marine historic assets using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

The information in the historic marine protected area record gives an indication of the national importance of the site(s). It is not a definitive account or a complete description of the site(s).

It is a criminal offence to intentionally or recklessly remove, alter or disturb marine historic assets, or carry out activities which could damage or interfere with a marine historic asset or significantly hinder a protected area's preservation objectives.

The historic marine protected area record provides guidance about what activities can take place at each site.

Planning permission or a marine licence (or both) may be required for carrying out work inside a historic marine protected area. Enquiries about planning permission should be made to the planning authority. Enquiries about marine licences should be made to Marine Scotland's Licensing Operations Team.

Find out more about historic marine protected areas and our other designations at www.historicenvironment.scot/advice-and-support. You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at designations@hes.scot.


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Printed: 26/02/2024 18:00