Dunadd Fort

Dunadd Fort, Argyll and Bute

Dunadd Fort (13)
Dunadd Fort (9)
Dunadd Fort (5)
Dunadd Fort (14)
Dunadd Fort (8)

~ History ~

Occupied in the Iron Age, the site later became a seat of the kings of Dál Riata. It is known for its unique stone carvings below the upper enclosure, including a footprint and basin thought to have formed part of Dál Riata's coronation ritual. On the same flat outcrop of rock is an incised boar in Pictish style, and an inscription in the ogham script. The inscription is read as referring to a Finn Manach and is dated to the late 8th century or after. For half a millenia, Dunadd Fort was one of the most important places that has since become Scotland.

Migrant Irish settlers arrive in Argyle and set their principle seat at Dunadd and over time build a new kingdom of Dalriada, where succession of kings are annoited by placing one foot into the carved rock and so become one with the land. From their stronghold they eventually absorb their much longer-standing neighbours, the Picts.

258 ~ The Irish Gael, Cairbre Riada, extends his conquest of Northern Ireland to Argyll and Dunadd.

498 ~ A fresh wave of Irish settlers into Dalriada and Dunadd Fort led by Loarn and his brothers Fergus and Angus. Loarn claims Dunadd and northern Argyll, whilst Fergus takes Kintyre, Knapdale and Cowel. Angus secures Islay.

559 ~ The first war with the native Picts, resulting in the Scots 'fleeing from Brude' Maelchon's son,King of the Picts.

683 ~ Dunadd Fort is attacked and held under siege.

736 ~ Aengus son of Fergus, king of the Picts, laids waste the territory of Dunnad and bounds in chains two sons of the king,  Donngal and Feradach.

843 ~Kenneth MacAlpin, Kings of the Scots of Dalriada, imposes his kingship on the Picts who have been severly weakened by the wars with raiding Norsemen, culminating in the utter destruction of their royal family and nobles when, four years earlier, their army "fell without number" in a battle against the invading Norsemen.

Kenneth MacAlpin moves his royal seat from Dunadd to Fort Eviott in Perthshire.

850 ~ Constant Viking raids cause the capital to be moved from Dunadd to Scone. The glory days for Dunadd are over.

986 ~ Vikings attack Dalriada. Three of their ships land but are overpowered by the Scots who "hang seven score", selling the remaining vikings into slavery. The remainder of the viking fleet attack andplunder Iona on Christmas Eve. The abbot and his monks are slaughtered.

989 ~ Godfrey,the Norse King of the Hebrides, who the previous year had defeated his Danish viking rivals, decides to expand his total command of the sea by invading Dalriada. He is killed by the Scots in Battle, ending Norse plans to expand their island kingdom into mainland Scotland.

1436 ~ Alan son of John Riabhach MacLachlan of Dunadd is made laird of the lands of Glassary, with his chief place of residence of the MacLachlans of Dunadd lay below the fort.

1506 ~ 1506, commissioners appointed by King James IV, including the Earl and Bishop of Argyll, meet at Dunadd to collect rents and resolve local feuds.


Kilmartin Lochgilphead




PA31 8SU

Dunadd (Gaelic Dùn Ad, 'fort on the [River] Add') is an Iron Age and later hillfort near Kilmartin in Argyll and Bute, and believed to be the capital of the ancient kingdom of Dál Riata.

Dunadd is a 175 feet high rocky crag that may have been one time an island and now lies inland near the River Add, from which it takes its name. The surrounding land, now largely reclaimed, was formerly boggy and known as the Mòine Mhòr 'Great Moss' in Gaelic. This no doubt increased the defensive potential of the site.

Of all the ancient sites i have visited in my time castle~finding, this has to be one of the most atmospheric and mystical places I have visited.

From the track where you can park your car for the short walk to the summit, it appears to hold little interest. Not until you enter the first ring of ancient rocks that defend this magical site and consider its history do you realise you have entered a place of real significance.

Your climb will take you into a second ring of rock defences until you climb to the third and final ring of rock at the summit, where you can find some remains of walls from a long lost fortified buildings. A fabulous place to let your imagination rebuild pictures in your mind how this place would have looked as capital of a long lost and ancient kingdom of Kings and cheiftans. A very special place, well worth the visit.