Historic Marine Protected Area

Duart Point Historic MPAHMPA7

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
Argyll And Bute
NM 74808 35460
174808, 735460

The marine historic asset located within the Duart Point Historic MPA is the remains of a vessel lying wrecked on or in the seabed believed to be that of a small 17th-century warship, probably the Swan, 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 75 metres of position latitude 56° 27'.440 north, longitude 05° 39'.386 west, excluding any seashore lying above mean high water spring tide.


The Scottish Ministers are satisfied that designation of the Duart Point 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 be that of a small 17th-century warship, probably the Swan sent by Oliver Cromwell as part of a Commonwealth flotilla of ships to capture Duart Castle, Mull, in 1653. The remains lie at a depth of approximately 8-10m below chart datum close to Duart Point, a rocky promontory on the Isle of Mull shore, close to the southern entrance to the Sound of Mull. The site of the wreck is overlooked by Duart Castle.

Statement of National Importance

Outstanding levels of preservation evidenced at Duart Point by a decade of detailed archaeological investigation demonstrate that this marine historic asset is of national importance. The rich array of artefacts likely to remain on the seabed and buried within it, combined with the survival of well-preserved ship's structure, mean that this site retains an inherent potential to make a very significant addition to our understanding of the past, and in particular, the design, construction and functioning of small warships during the 17th century. Our understanding of the significance of this wreck is further enhanced by its proximity to Duart Castle, the target of Colonel Cobbett's attack in connection with well-documented Commonwealth naval activity in Scotland after the Civil War. The survival of this wreck and that of the nearby Dartmouth, lost in an attack on Duart Castle in 1690, 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 Scottish coastal castles to attack by seaborne artillery during the 17th century.

The Duart Point wreck 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

A diver identified a post-medieval period wreck close to Duart Point around 1979 and the site has been subject to detailed archaeological survey, rescue excavation and site stabilisation work during the period 1991-2003. The investigations revealed particularly well-preserved elements of the structure of a wooden vessel, including the collapsed stern, comprising the bottom part of the rudder, sternpost and associated components detached from the keel; the lower hull, comprising frames, inner and outer planking, and mast-step; and the less well-preserved remains of the collapsed bow. After investigation, these features have been protected beneath sand bags to aid their preservation and to encourage the consolidation of surrounding seabed sediments and natural growth. Rescue excavations also identified and recovered a wide range of artefacts, including carved decorative features from the ship, rigging elements, small arms and one small cannon with carriage, silver coinage, ceramics, navigational equipment, galley remains, personal effects, the disarticulated bones of one human being, and plant, animal and fish remains. Recovered finds are in the permanent collection of the National Museums of Scotland. Two distinctive stone ballast mounds, seven cast iron guns and one wrought iron anchor remain visible on the seabed. As the rescue investigation was only partial and recovery was relatively limited, there is further potential for human remains, and substantial sections of the ship's structure and artefacts are known to remain buried within a sediment-rich seabed environment. As such, this site retains significant archaeological potential. Relatively few wreck sites pre-dating the early 19th century have survived in Scottish waters, and well-preserved examples that have been investigated systematically by archaeologists are particularly rare in the UK.

The dating of individual artefacts by historical research indicates that the wreck occurred sometime after the early 17th century. Documentary records indicate the loss at this location of three ships in a six-strong Commonwealth flotilla sent in September 1653 under the command of Colonel Ralph Cobbett to capture Duart Castle, seat of the Clan Maclean, who retained Royalist sympathies in the aftermath of the English Civil War (1642-1651). Archaeological interpretation of the remaining ship structure and finds suggests that this wreck is probably that of a warship, the Swan, recorded as lost together with the Martha and Margrett of Ipswich and the Speedwell of Lyn. The origins of this ship are uncertain but it may have been a private warship belonging to the Marquis of Argyll. It is likely that the Swan had a crew of 60 and was armed with as many as 8 substantial guns. She was equipped with oars as well as sails.

Contextual characteristics

The wreck is overlooked by Duart Castle, seat of the Clan Maclean and target of the flotilla's expedition to the Sound of Mull. Despite searches of the surrounding seabed, the remains of the other two vessels reported as lost from Cobbett's squadron have not been identified. There is, however, potential for further evidence to be preserved in the vicinity. The Duart Point site should also be considered alongside two other 17th-century historic wreck sites that have survived in or around the Sound of Mull: the fifth-rate frigate Dartmouth, lost in 1690 off Eilean Rubha an Ridire, Morvern; and a wreck off Mingary Castle, Ardnamurchan, lost in 1644. In each case, these wrecks occurred in relation to planned assaults on coastal castles located along the strategically significant coastal sea-way of the Sound of Mull. This group of wrecks illustrate how Scottish coastal castles became vulnerable to attack by seaborne artillery during the 17th century.

Associative characteristics

This mid-17th-century wreck of a small warship, probably the Swan, relates to attempts by Oliver Cromwell to stamp out pockets of Royalist resistance to Parliamentarian rule that continued throughout the Western Isles in the aftermath of the Civil War. There are many contemporary documents relating to Scottish aspects of the Civil War and several that relate to the activities of Cromwell's New Model Army in Scotland during the 1650s. A letter to Cromwell from Robert Lilburne (the senior Commonwealth commander in Scotland) details Cobbett's expedition to Duart Castle and the wrecking.

Preservation Objective

The preservation objectives for the Duart Point 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 Duart Point 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,e.
e) to ensure that the disturbance of human remains is avoided except for authorised research and subject to respectful treatment.

Preservation Objective Description

Preservation objectives guide the management of Historic MPAs according to the specific needs of individual areas. Objectives for the Duart Point 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 and overleaf, based on archaeological investigations undertaken by the University of St Andrews (1991-2003) and site monitoring by Wessex Archaeology, the Sound of Mull Archaeology Project (SOMAP) and by Cotswold Archaeology (2015).

ObjectiveCurrent indicator status and descriptorDetail in relation to baseline position
To maintain site condition of the marine historic asset

Optimum condition – ie. the best that we can realistically expect to achieve, with very little or no signs of erosion, or signs of deterioration or other damage within the area

The wreck lies on a seabed of sands and gravels interspersed with larger stones and occasional boulders, immediately offshore of the shallow rocky cliff that surrounds Duart Point. From the base of this cliff, the seabed slopes gently until well beyond the known site, where there is a pronounced drop-off. An ebb tidal flow of up to 1.5 knots across parts of the site results from the eastwards drainage of Duart Bay into the Sound of Mull. This tide, combined with back eddies around Duart Point, appears to have been responsible for accumulation of fine-grained silt sedimentary cover across the site. However, at the time of the 1991-2003 investigations, erosion of sediments inshore was observed and a programme initiated to recover threatened elements of the site. Archaeologists observed significant sediment erosion when spring tides coincided with a strong NW wind. Stabilisation using emplacement of c.700 sand bags overlying the principal areas of the wreck structure took place in 1993-1995 and at the close of investigations in 2003. In addition, experiments took place in 1995-1999 to measure the rates of corrosion of iron guns and anchors and apply sacrificial protection using zinc anodes. Conservators believe that, due to the positive effect of both sand-bagging and use of anodes, corrosion has been stabilised and the 'in-situ conservation of iron guns has been completed' (Macleod, 2013; 389). Monitoring visits under the UK-wide Contract for Archaeological Diving Services in 2000 and 2003 observed improvements in the stability of the site and re-colonisation of the seabed by kelp (Laminaria Sp). Subsequent reports by visiting divers between 2004-10, and by Cotswold Archaeology in 2014, suggest that the site continues to be relatively stable.

To maintain the extent of survival of the marine historic asset within the area

Survival 21-40% - ie. we estimate 21-40% extent of survival by comparing the quality and integrity of in situ remains with what evidence exists relating to the marine historic asset in its original form

Substantial sections of the hull structure remain, including the well-preserved but collapsed stern of the ship, frames and planking along the full section of the lower hull, and less well-preserved and collapsed structure towards the ship's bow. The limited scope of the rescue recovery operation, combined with the range of artefacts and environmental samples identified (including human remains), suggests that a wide range of material is likely to remain in situ. Visible features on the seabed surface include 7 cast iron guns, 1 wrought iron anchor and 2 distinctive stone ballast mounds. Elements of structure may on occasion also be visible on the seabed surface and the presence of further human remains cannot be discounted.


Designation of the Duart Point 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 Duart Point 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 Duart Point 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 Duart Point 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 intend 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 Duart Point 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 which 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) collision/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. Given the evidence for tidal regimes in the area, developments in Duart Bay may be considered most likely to result in such trans-boundary impacts.


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

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 (0.8 hectares), developers and sea-users will normally be advised to plan developments in a way that completely avoids the area and precludes any direct impacts. However, there may be cases where carefully managed emplacement of sand-bags/other forms of geotextile membrane within the protected area or scientific monitoring equipment is desirable to support the preservation objectives.

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

Proposals for such activities in the vicinity, particularly in Duart Bay, 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 in the Sound of Mull, such as fin-fish and shellfish aquaculture. Significant impacts on the 'setting' of the marine historic asset 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 the marine historic asset in any way. 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 this wreck site, the Lochaline Dive Centre offers educational tours for divers and there is an exhibition in Duart Castle.

Scientific and archaeological investigation of the marine historic asset 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 or the recovery of objects of historic interest are subject to marine licensing: 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 provided that no damage or disturbance of the marine historic asset occurs. For example, boat owners should avoid the use of anchors within the 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.

Commercial fisheries

There is no evidence that pelagic / demersal fishing (eg. scallop dredging) takes place over this site, but it may take place nearby. Demersal techniques within the protected area must not be used as they are likely to cause catastrophic damage. As there is a risk of snagging creel lines on exposed anchors/ cannon, and potentially of destabilising sediment deposits, the use of creels should also be avoided within the protected area.



Eames, A 1961, 'The king's pinnace, the Swan, 1642-1645', Mariner's Mirror 47, 49-55.

Baxter, J M, Boyd I L, Cox M, Donald A E, Malcolm S J, Miles H, Miller B, Moffat C E, (Eds) 2011, Scotland's Marine Atlas; Information for the national marine plan, Marine Scotland, Edinburgh

Gregory, D 1995, 'Experiments into the deterioration characteristics of materials on the Duart Point wreck site: an interim report', The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology (IJNA), 24.1, 61-65.

Gregory, D 1999, 'Monitoring the effect of sacrificial anodes on the large iron artefacts on the Duart Point wreck, 1997', IJNA 28.2, 164-173.

MacLeod, I A 1995, 'In situ corrosion studies on the Duart Point wreck, 1994' IJNA 24.1, 53-59

Macleod, I A 2013, 'The mechanism and kinetics of in-situ conservation of iron cannon on shipwreck sites' IJNA 42.2, 382-2391

Martin, C J M 1995, 'A Cromwellian shipwreck off Duart Point, Mull: an interim report', IJNA 24.1, 15-32.

Martin, C J M 1995, 'A Cromwellian Shipwreck off Duart Point, Mull: an interim report', in Bound, M (ed.) 2005, The Archaeology of Ships of War, Antony Nelson, 41-45.

Martin, C J M 1998, 'A Caroline merchants' weight from the wreck of the Swan, 1690', IJNA 27.2, 166-168.

Martin, C J M 1998, Scotland's Historic Shipwrecks, Historic Scotland.

Martin, C J M 1999, 'A binnacle and mariners' compasses from Duart Point, Mull,' IJNA 28.1, 60-69.

Martin, C J M 2004, 'A Bastard Minion Drake Extraordinary by John Browne from the pinnace Swan (1641)', IJNA 33.1, 79-95.

Robertson, P 2007, The Sound of Mull Archaeological Project [SOMAP] 1994-2005, BAR British Series 453, NAS Monograph Series No 1. Page(s): 32

Online resources

Historic Scotland, 2009, Towards a strategy for Scotland's marine historic environment. Discussion paper in association with the Built Environment Forum of Scotland. Copy www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/marine-strategy.pdf

Historic Scotland, 2011, Scottish Historic Environment Policy. Copy available at www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/shep-dec2011.pdf

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

Historic Scotland, 2012c – Strategy for the protection, management and promotion of marine heritage 2012-15 – copy available at www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/marine

Scottish Government, 2010, Making the most of Scotland's seas – copy available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/04/01085908/2

Wessex Archaeology, 2003b, Archaeological Services in relation to the Protection of Wrecks Act (1973): Duart Point, Sound of Mull. Designated site assessment: full report. Prepared by Wessex Archaeology for Historic Scotland, March 2004. Ref: 53111.03l. Copy archived with RCAHMS and available at http://lmid1a.rcahms.gov.uk/wp/00/WP000726.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

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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