Scheduled Monument

Dun Canna, fortSM2419

Status: Designated


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The legal document available for download below constitutes the formal designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The additional details provided on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not form part of the designation. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within this additional information.


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Prehistoric domestic and defensive: fort (includes hill fort and promontory fort)
Local Authority
NC 11200 800
211200, 900800


The monument is the remains of a promontory fort dating from the Iron Age (between about 800BC and 500AD). It occupies a rocky promontory projecting into the sea between two bays: Camas Beag to the north and Camas Mor to the south.  The fort is formed of two enclosures defined by earth banks and the remains of substantial stone walls which in places augment steep cliffs.

The fort comprises two enclosures; the inner enclosure occupies the level summit of a promontory projecting into the sea. It measures around 43m northeast to southwest by around 13m within walls measuring between 3m and 5m wide. It is connected to the outer enclosure by a narrow neck of land which reduces to around 11m in width. An earth bank follows the steep cliff-edge between the enclosures. The outer enclosure lies on the landward side of the promontory. It measures around 43m north-northeast to south-southwest by about 29m. A substantial dry-stone wall standing to over 2m in height and spread to around 12m wide defines the eastern side of the fort, cutting off the whole of the promontory. Sections of wall-facing are visible within the stone rubble. The wall has been broken though at the northeast, though the original entrance lies at the northern end of the wall. The remains of stone facing or walling are visible below the outer walls of both enclosures on the steep slopes of the seaward sides of the promontory. A two roomed structure of probable post-medieval date has been built up against the outer face of the fort at the northeast. Lazy beds of presumably later date are visible within the interior of the fort and to the north of the later structure.

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.

Statement of National Importance

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument is a well preserved fort occupying a naturally defensible position. It takes advantage of the steep cliffs of the promontory, which are enhanced by stone walls and earth banks. The remains of stone facing or walling survive on the steep lower slopes of the seaward side of the promontory. The fort is defended by a substantial drystone wall on the eastern, landward, side. Inner and outer faces are visible within the surviving walls. Although the walls are ruinous, there is good potential for the survival of archaeological deposits and features within and beneath the stone walls and within the interior of the fort. The form of the walls can provide information about construction techniques of such defensive ramparts, while evidence relating to potential domestic structures and economy may be preserved as buried deposits inside the fort. By analogy with excavations elsewhere, (for example at Dun Lagaidh, Loch Broom, (SM2523; Canmore ID 12142) and Gob Eirer, Lewis Canmore ID 109407) the fort has potential to tell us how people lived, their trade and exchange contacts, and their social status. It can provide information about fort architecture and construction methods.

Promontory forts such as Dun Canna typically date from around 800BC to around 500AD. There are few precise scientific dates for forts in northwest Scotland and their dating has traditionally been based on comparison with similar sites elsewhere. They represent defended settlements that could have accommodated either an extended family or a small community.

The two enclosures at Dun Canna may represent a development sequence which saw the fort expand over time. The two-roomed structure built against the outer face of the fort and the lazy beds within the fort indicate later re-use of the site. Scientific study of the fort would allow us to develop a better understanding of the chronology of the site, including its date of origin, and any possible development sequence.

Contextual Characteristics

Forts are found throughout Scotland, but are less common in the northwest. The monument at Dun Canna is important as an upstanding and well-preserved example with the survival of substantial walls and features such as stone facing. It is among the largest such sites known in this region. The monument is likely related to the later prehistoric defended settlements recorded in the area, including Dun Lagaidh, fort and broch (SM2523; Canmore ID 12142), An Dun, Dreinach (SM9096; Canmore ID 4528) and the dun at Brae of Achnahaird (Canmore ID 4489). There is potential to study these sites together to better understand their functions within the local communities, settlement hierarchy and possible chronological development in the area. The monument has the potential to enhance and broaden our understanding of prehistoric society and community as well as social organisation, land division and land use.

The fort at Dun Canna occupies a prominent landscape location, on a rocky promontory projecting into the sea between two bays. The fort is protected on the north, west and south by cliffs. There are clear open views out to sea to the west, towards Isle Martin to the southwest and across Loch Kanaird to the south-southwest. The two bays either side of the fort would have provided suitable places to bring boats up to. The probable enhancement of the steep slopes of the seaward side of the promontory with stone facing will have increased its prominence from the sea. The fort therefore appears to have been predominantly focused on the sea. It is likely to have been located here to control movement from the sea and access to Loch Kanaird.

Associative Characteristics

There are no known associative characteristics which significantly contribute to the cultural significance of this site.

Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it can make a significant addition to our understanding of Iron Age society in northwest Scotland and the function, use and development of forts and other defended sites. It is a good example of a fort, occupying a prominent location. The outer works of the fort are impressive, formed by substantial stone walls which add to the strong natural defences of Dun Canna. Architectural features such as wall facings are visible, and the site demonstrates how naturally defensive locations were chosen and augmented to create defended settlements. The monument's importance is enhanced by   a context of other Iron Age settlement in the locality.  The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the character, development and use of forts, and the nature of Iron Age society, economy and social hierarchy in the north of Scotland and further afield.



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 4530 (accessed on 04/06/2018).

Highland Historic Environment Record reference: MHG9142

Calder, C.S.T. and Steer, K A. (1951) 'Dun Lagaidh and four other prehistoric monuments near Ullapool, Ross and Cromarty', Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 83, 68-76.

Cavers, G. and Hudson, G. (2010) Assynt's hidden lives: an archaeological survey of the parish. AOC Archaeology Group.

HER/SMR Reference

  • MHG9142

About Scheduled Monuments

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.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

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Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map (see ‘legal documents’ above) showing the scheduled area is the designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary and provided for general information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within the statement of national importance or additional information. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

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Dun Canna, looking south southwest along the outer rampart, during daytime, on clear day with cloudy sky.
Dun Canna, looking southwest, during daytime with cloudy sky.

Printed: 21/05/2024 01:11