Case Study: Rubh’an Dùnain, Skye

Parts of medieval boats, one of which has been dated to c.1100AD, have been found in Loch na h-Airde. This shallow and partly fresh-water loch is linked to the sea by a 100m-long canal. A blockage in the canal ensures that the loch level remains constant, and it is suggested that vessels entered and left at High Water via some kind of sluice. The remains of a now submerged stone-built quay has been identified inside the loch, and two boat nousts are situated on the northern edge of the canal. close to its seaward end. A promontary dun, probably of late prehistoric origin, stands nearby.

It is believed that this place was used for boatbuilding, repair, and secure winter harbourage, perhaps over a long period. The probability that the loch contains more boat components, and perhaps articulated pieces of structure, is high. It is paralleled at Laig on Eigg, only some 30 km distant from Rubh’an Dùnain, where boat timbers were found in the 19th century. Preliminary assessment suggests that there may be similar sites elsewhere in Scotland, some of which might also contain boat remains of medieval or earlier date, especially where waterlogged conditions still prevail.

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