Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

Dunyvaig - a castle about to reveal its hidden secrets?

The ruins of Dunyvaig stand on a promontory on the east side of Lagavulin Bay in Islay, guarding the entrance to the anchorage and commanding prospects of Kintyre and Antrim. The earliest fortification on the site was an iron age dun.

Excavation works are due to take place at Dunyvaig Castle on Islay

Lagavulin is probably better known for the whisky of that name and a special bottling of its malt is being used to raise funds for the excavation of Dunyvaig. A team of around 40 including archaeologists, geophysicists, scientists and environmentalists will take part in an initial three-week excavation at the castle.

Professor Steve Mithen of Islay Heritage said: "This is a hugely significant project for Scotland and we are excited about finding what secrets remain hidden underground at this iconic monument. What was is used for? We know it was a naval fortress, but was it also used for entertainment? For example - are we likely to find a great hall? We also want to look at whether we can identify the destructions described in historical records. When you dig into the ground you never know what you're going to find."

John Raven of Historic Environment Scotland added: "We warmly welcome this innovative project to raise money to support Islay Heritage and its aims of raising the profile and condition of, and increasing access to, Islay's spectacular and unique archaeology, history and culture - we can't wait to see the results."

Islay Heritage hope to raise further funds for excavations to continue over the next five years.

Historical footnote

In 1614 the castle was held by Ronald Oig natural son of Angus MacDonald known as 'a vagabond fellow without ony cetane residence'.

Oig refused to surrender to King James VI who despatched Sir John Campbell with a force of 200 soldiers with heavy cannon to eject him. Campbell had done his homework and the artillery was to prove decisive as he wrote:

"The ordnance is sufficient for the battery and forcing of the said house of Dunevege which wee are informed is a place of god strength being strongly built of it self and it is compassed with iii stones walles, each of them them conteyninge thirty and six feet in thickness."

The outcome was inevitable...

"Three days battery with the ordnance wee used was powerful to ruin the whole house, invincible without the cannon."

Dunyvaig Islay
Dunyvaig Castle was occupied as late as 1677

Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 29 Aug 2018 Updated: 18 Dec 2018
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