Scheduled Monument

Tormore Quarry, quarry, spoil heaps, trackways and pier, FionnphortSM13716

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
Industrial: mines, quarries
Local Authority
Argyll And Bute
Kilfinichen And Kilvickeon
NM 30428 23931
130428, 723931


The monument is part of the former Tormore granite quarry, located at the southwestern end of the Isle of Mull. It survives as the main quarry excavation, known as the lower quarry, with associated spoil heaps, granite-surfaced trackways, a granite staircase, a former blacksmith workshop and a granite pier with surviving metal machinery and equipment, including a former crane winch. The Tormore lower quarry was first opened in the 1850s, and continued in use until around 1910. The monument is located at the western end of the Ross of Mull, north of the village of Fionnphort and overlooking the Sound of Iona to the west.

The Tormore quarry complex is located on the northern flank of Tòrr Mòr, an outcropping of the local granite reaching around 70m above sea level. It was the largest of a group of granite quarries operating around the western end of the Ross of Mull in the 19th and early 20th centuries and comprises two main areas of excavation, the upper quarry and the lower quarry. A steep slope separates the two quarries, and a rough granite staircase descends the slope connecting them, on the line of two previous narrow gauge railway tracks. These were used to transfer stone from the upper quarry to the main loading track at the lower quarry by means of a counterweight system, elements of which may survive under the staircase and spoil heaps. Two large spoil tips are located adjacent to the lower quarry, one of which formerly had a bridge across the main trackway to the pier, of which the supporting walls can still be seen on either side of the track. The main trackway is a granite-surfaced track running from the lower quarry onto the granite loading pier on the shore of the Sound of Iona, around 325m to the northwest. The pier itself is now partially ruinous, but still retains much of its structure. It also retains metal machinery and equipment from the quarry, including the substantial winch for the loading crane.

The scheduled area is irregular and includes 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

National Importance

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):

a. The monument makes a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation, or has the potential to do so, as an example of an industrial complex used for granite extraction and trade, one of the most significant and substantial industries within Scotland during the 19th century.

b. The monument retains structural, architectural, decorative or other physical attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past. In particular, the well-preserved structures of buildings, trackways, the pier and spoil heaps, along with related machinery and equipment and the quarry excavation itself, represent all of the major elements of the Tormore quarry during its operation.

d. Researchers believe that Tormore quarry was the largest of the quarries operating in the Ross of Mull region, an area renowned for the quality of its granite and that it is the most important of the quarries of the most important of the granite quarries operating within the Scottish Highlands and islands. It is therefore an important representative of this monument type.

f. The monument makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the historic landscape, by virtue of both its industrial scale, coastal setting and character within the granite-rich area of the Ross of Mull.

g. The quarry supplied stone to a number of very important construction projects across the UK during the Victorian period, from lighthouses, to bridges and memorials. The monument therefore has strong associations with important historical events and movements.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The Tormore lower quarry is a well-preserved example of a Ross of Mull granite quarry, operating during a period of demand for the local stone during the 19th and early 20th century. It retains both the quarry excavation itself and a range of supporting infrastructure including spoil heaps, the loading pier and trackways linking elements of the site, along with elements of mechanical equipment used in the quarry. As it has remained unused since its closure around 1910, it represents a rare, little-altered example of a 19th-century granite quarry.

The Tormore quarry has the potential to enhance our understanding of the 19th-century granite industry within Scotland. Granite extraction was a major 19th century industry within the areas of Scotland where the stone is located, such as the Ross of Mull and Aberdeenshire, and its popularity for construction at the time is reflected in many buildings and monuments across Scotland and further afield. Operating at the height of the international popularity of granite in construction, the surviving remains of the quarry and related infrastructure have a high potential to inform us of the techniques and technology involved in the extraction and processing of the stone. It also has the potential to improve our understanding of the construction, use and abandonment of the site itself, as part of a significant granite extraction industry in the area.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

The Tormore granite quarry is one of at least eight quarries in southwestern Mull, specifically for the extraction of the Ross of Mull granite found in the area. Granite is an igneous rock, formed by the cooling of molten magma released during volcanic activity. The granite in the Ross of Mull area is roughly the same age as the majority of Scottish granites, at just over 400 million years old. The granite forms the bedrock of the southwestern end of the Isle of Mull, extending eastwards to just before the village of Bunessan, an area of only around 50 square kilometres. It is a coarse grained stone with a distinctive pink or red colour, although in some areas the colour appears greyer, and a number of descriptions from the 18th and 19th centuries compare it favourably to the Upper Egyptian red granite used in ancient Egypt.

Ross of Mull granite was identified as being of high quality in the 18th century, but industrial scale extraction of stone in the area did not begin until 1839, with the Camas Tuath quarry opening for the extraction of stone for Skerryvore lighthouse. By the end of the 1850s a number of quarries were in operation in the area, including the quarry at Tormore. Evidence of the extraction operations can still be seen at a number of the Ross of Mull quarries, including Tormore, Camas Tuath, Eilean Dubh and Erraid. Tormore was the largest of the Ross of Mull quarries and has also been identified as the most important of the granite quarries operating within the Scottish Highlands and islands (Hyslop and Lott, 2010). The quality and nature of the stone allowed it to be extracted in larger blocks than any other quarry in the United Kingdom, with blocks of over 16 metres in length on record. There are also shipments of 5 metre blocks recorded as being sent to the United States of America.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

The high quality of the granite from the Ross of Mull led it to develop a strong reputation internationally as a source of stone for construction and monument carving. Shipments of the stone from Tormore were made to the United States of America, and it was used in a number of construction projects around the United Kingdom. These included Glasgow University (LB32913), the Kirklee Bridge in Glasgow (LB32549), Westminster Bridge (List Entry Number: 1066172), Blackfriars Bridge (List Entry Number: 1064717) and the Holborn Viaduct (List Entry Number: 1064641) in London and, possibly most famously, the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, London (List Entry Number: 1217741).

Tormore quarry was opened in the 1850s by William Sim. It was operated by a number of quarrying companies over its lifespan, including Sim's own Ross of Mull Granite Company (which later became part of the Scottish Granite Company), with the lease passing to the control of J & G Fenning in 1871, who later renewed the lease as the Shap Granite & Concrete Company. The quarry operations on Mull were first managed by James Spence followed by William Muir, who also helped found the Iona Press. Following Muir, the quarry manager was Neil MacCormick, and his design for a braking system for the railway to the pier at Tormore was well known in the industry. 

Granite quarrying was a significant Scottish industry in the 19th century. During the Victorian period it became a sought after construction material, particularly for prominent public and commercial buildings. Quarries began operating across Scotland to meet the demand, with the three main areas of granite production being Aberdeenshire, Kirkcudbrightshire and the Ross of Mull. As the largest of the commercial quarries in the Ross of Mull area, Tormore played a significant role in the industry, and stone from Tormore was well known and used internationally, as noted above.



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 347194 (accessed on 07/01/2019).

Faithfull, J. (1995). The Ross of Mull granite quarries. Iona: New Iona Press.

Hyslop, E. and Lott, G. (2010). Rock of Ages: The story of British granite. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Jan. 2019].

Hyslop, E., Albornoz-Parra, L., Maxwell, I., Mcmillan, A. and Walsh, J. (2006). Stone in Scotland. Paris: UNESCO, pp.36-38.

Macnab, P. (1973). The Isle of Mull. Newton Abbot: David & Charles.

HER/SMR Reference

  • 3492000

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Tormore quarry, quarry, spoil heaps and stairs, looking south on a rainy day
Tormore quarry, pier, looking north on a rainy day

Printed: 25/09/2023 06:26