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Dunadd

Kilmartin Glen, Argyll, Scotland (January 2000)

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Dunadd Scotland

Atop Dunadd

Dunadd & Temple Wood

There are few places in Scotland with such an incredible collection of archaeological sites as Kilmartin Glen. There are hundreds of monuments, fortresses, cairns, standing stones and carvings in the area between Lochgilphead and the village of Kilmartin, from prehistory through the early days of the original Scottish kings. We discovered that we could easily find most of these sites as we drove up from the southern edge of the valley. Duns, or forts, are some of the more remarkable sights along the roadside because of their grand dimensions. Some have been excavated but many have not, and there are believed to be at least a hundred of them in Argyll. It was within Kilmartin Glen where the Dál Riata based their kingdom of Alba. This became the precursor and foundation of modern Scotland. We gained an increasing awareness and appreciation of the archaeological and historical significance of this area as we absorbed each new artefact along the trail.


Scotland Dun

Dunadd, Rising Above
the Coastal Plain

The Dál Riata -- sometimes known as the Dalriada or Dalriata -- were a Gaelic people who probably came to Argyll from Ireland by 500 AD. They formed a kingdom spanning from northern Ireland and across the open water to western Scotland. Their principal base of power was here in Kilmartin Glen, centred on a high hillside crowned by a protected fortress called Dunaad. A dun is simply another name for a fort and this one happened to be located along the river Add, just a few miles from the sea. Logically the name became Dunadd (not Dunaad or Dunnad or other common misspellings). Within a couple of hundred years their power began to wane and they fell under the control of Northumbria and the Picts. Nonetheless the Dál Riata were the first people who became known as Scots, and have been recognised as the progenitors of the Gaelic culture that is characteristic of Scotland today.


Argyll Mountain View

Dunadd Outcropping

Dunadd rested atop the natural stone outcropping shown in this series of photographs, well above the surrounding boggy plains in an easily defensible position. Approaching enemies could be spotted miles before they arrived at Dunadd, providing plenty of warning to inhabitants. Once aggressors arrived at the hillside they would then have to push their way along steep terrain and overwhelm the stone walls of Dunadd itself. Little of the fort remained except for a few strategically placed stones and earthworks that may once have been part of the floor and walls. In this part of Scotland ancient historical sites coexisted routinely with modern civilisation. At Dunadd, the car park sat directly next to a private residence, and visitors had to take a trail practically through someone's back yard to get to the site.


Dunadd Footprint

Royal Footprint Carved into Rock

A stone shelf high atop Dunadd once served as part of the fortress floor. It contained a carving in the approximate shape and depth of a human foot which may have been used in an inauguration ceremony for Dál Riata royalty. Rulers signified their physical connection to their surrounding domain by placing a foot within the carved rock. We placed our feet in the depression but it did nothing to raise us to royal status. Too bad. Even though we remained peasants, we enjoy the amazing views and solitude atop Dunadd. Nobody else visited during the entire time of our hilltop expedition on this glorious winter afternoon.

More from Scotland 2000 Photo Series