Dun Ringill, Isle of Skye
Kilmarie, minor road signposted old churchyard
Nr IV49 9AX
A Dun is a generic term for an ancient or medieval fort. It is mainly used in the British Isles to describe a kind of hill fort or roundhouse.
The term comes from Irish dún or Scottish Gaelic dùn (meaning "fort"), and is cognate with Old Welsh din, whence Welsh dinas (meaning "city") comes.
In some areas duns were built on any suitable crag or hillock, particularly south of the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth. There are many duns on the west coast of Ireland and they feature in Irish mythology.
Duns seem to have arrived with Celtic cultures in about the 7th century BC. Early duns had near vertical ramparts made of stone and timber. Use of duns continued in some parts into the Middle Ages.
Duns are similar to brochs, but are smaller and probably would not have been capable of supporting a very tall structure. Good examples of this kind of dun can be found in the Western Isles of Scotland, on artificial islands in small lakes.
Dun Ringill is located on a rocky outcrop by the shoreline as you would expect, surrounded by remains of ancient walling a roundhouse remains, which makes this site all the more interesting to explore. One of the fascinating features of this dun is that the passageway entrance is almost intact, which you can enter and climb up into the top of the dun with overlooks the sea. A further fascinating point is that this ancient fortification was used during medieval times as the principal home of Clan MacKinnon, until they abandoned it for their newly built Caisteal Maol further round the island, near what is now the new bridge across to Skye.
Exploring this prehistoric dun it seems to me incredible that a Clan could still have inhabited it as late as the fifteenth century, and by other families as late as the nineteenth century, as it has all the appearance of more iron age than late medieval, let alone someone's home of just two hundred years ago!
Traces of an upper gallery on the inner wall can be seen, so Dun Ringill probably reached about 20 feet in height.
You can certainly appreciate why the location was chosen to build a stronghold, easily defendable from a strong commanding position, surrounded by good land to farm and access to the sea to fish and trade.
Access to the stronghold from the minor road is through an iron gate that takes you along a woodland footpath across a stream down towards the shoreline. Do take care to park by the side of the road with due consideration as the farm opposite the gate is a working farm. The walk itself takes you along the shoreline until it takes you more inland where it becomes really very boggy, until it takes you slightly uphill towards the dun, across waist high grass and hidden boggy areas, so care and decent footwear is a must.