The monument is a broch, a complex stone-built substantial roundhouse, dating from the Iron Age (between 600BC and 400AD). The monument is visible as a roughly circular drystone walled structure within which an intramural gallery and stair are visible. There are traces of an outer enclosure surrounding the structure. It is located on a small intertidal islet just off the north shore of Loch a' Chàirn Bhàin.
The broch occupies a small island connected to the mainland by a natural causeway which is submerged during periods of very high tide. The broch measures around 9m internally within walls that are between 4-5m thick. Substantial sections of internal and external wall facing survive intact and there remains visible a wall passage with eight stairs on the north side of the broch. The interior is rubble filled and two modern shelters have been created from the rubble on the south side. To the north of the broch, where the causeway joins the islet, is a line of masonry which may represent the remnants of an outer defensive works
The scheduled area is irregular on plan to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of the post-and-wire fence that runs north-south across the eastern edge of the monument.
Statement of National Importance
The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:
The monument is an example of a broch, visible as drystone-walled structure set on the top of a rocky outcrop. Overall the site is well-preserved with good structural and field characteristics and there is no record of excavation on the site although some clearance of the interior has taken place. The level of preservation of the broch together with the remains of possible outer defensive works are an important part of the monument's intrinsic characteristics and adds to its cultural significance.
The monument has very high potential to support future archaeological research. It has significant structural features such as walling, guard cell, wall passage and stairs. By analogy with other brochs that have been excavated there is potential for buried remains of further wall cells and stairs, scarcement ledges, internal stone partitions, hearths and water tanks within the broch. These unexcavated areas will contain deposits rich in occupation debris, artefacts and environmental evidence that can tell us about how people lived, their trade and exchange contacts, and their social status, as well as provide information about broch architecture and construction methods.
Brochs in the northwest Highlands are typically thought to date from between 600 BC and AD 400. They are a specific development of complex Atlantic roundhouses and were large complex structures that would have had numerous purposes and a multifaceted role in prehistoric society. They could have accommodated either an extended family or a small community and the construction of broch towers is often understood in terms of elite settlement. Some interpretations have stressed a role as fortified or defensive sites, possibly serving a community across a wider area. The location of An Dun supports the view that defensive considerations could be a factor in the location of brochs but the choice of such prominent sites in the landscape could also relate to control over land and route ways and/or conspicuous demonstrations of status.
Brochs are a widespread class of monument found across northern Scotland with notable concentrations in Caithness, Sutherland, Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and the northwest Highlands. However, this example is one of only three brochs in Assynt. These brochs are located close to, or on, the coast. The other two examples are An Dun, broch 800m SSW of Ardvair (scheduled monument SM1832, Canmore ID 4550) 5km to the southwest and An Dun, broch, Clachtoll (scheduled monument SM:1831, Canmore ID 4499) 19km to the southwest. There is therefore potential for comparative study on a local and national scale to better understand the function of such monuments, their interrelationship and the significance of their placing within the landscape, in particular in relation to our understanding of Iron Age social hierarchy, changing settlement patterns and systems of inheritance.
There are no known associative characteristics which contribute to the site's cultural significance.
Statement of National Importance
The monument is of national importance because it contributes to our understanding of the past, in particular of Iron Age society in northwest Scotland and the function, use and development of brochs. It is a well-preserved example of a broch with surviving elements of the structure and architectural features, with high potential for occupation deposits and associated remains. The broch is a prominent feature on the loch shore and adds to our understanding of the siting of such monuments. This in turn can help our understanding of settlement patterns and social structure during the Iron Age in the northwest Highlands. Brochs are relatively uncommon in Assynt compared to other areas of northern Scotland, and the loss of this monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the development, use and re-use of brochs, and the nature of Iron Age society, economy and social hierarchy in this area and further afield.