Kildonan Dun is a remarkably well preserved dun, or fortified farmstead, 50 yards or so east of the B842 at a point about mid way between Campbeltown and Carradale. There is a Forestry Commission car park on the opposite side of the road a short distance north of it, and access is via a wooden stile from the road and along a grassy path that leads between bracken that can be taller than you are.
Kildonan Dun is a roughly D-shaped enclosure surrounded by stone walls that rise to around a metre internally, and about twice that externally: although if you time your visit for the height of the bracken season, the exterior is largely shrouded by the encircling vegetation.
The shape of the dun seems to have been dictated by the shape of the rocky platform it stands on. This affords a little protection from the landward side, but on the seaward side the ground falls away steeply, providing the dun's residents with some sense of security.
The entrance to the dun is imposingly lined with stone, and comes complete with a setting for a wooden door and slots for a beam to secure it in place. Meanwhile, the whole of the wall surrounding the dun is faced in stone on both its inner and outer sides, which goes a long way to help explain its excellent state of preservation.
A little north of the entrance, a double set of steps has been constructed within the thickness of the wall to allow access to the inner wall-head. Two other irregularities are also of interest. The first is a chamber enclosed within the wall at the northern end of the dun, while the second is the sharp angle formed within the dun at its southern end. This is caused by the shape of an inner wall constructed within the main wall on this side of the entrance, leaving a narrow gallery between the two.
The principle of a dun is similar to that of the brochs found across much of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, though the walls of a dun are usually lower than those of a broch and the interior space larger: more a fortified encampment than a single fortified building. Though to add to the confusion, many brochs have names that include the word "dun".
As originally built, the outer side of the surrounding wall you can see today would probably have had a stone parapet which rose sufficiently above the inner half of the wall to provide a defensive walkway. Within the enclosure, much of the northern half would have been occupied by two or more buildings, intended to house people and livestock, while the southern half was more of an open courtyard. The area around the dun would have been used for farming, and the residents would certainly also have fished from, and probably off, the coast.
Kildonan Dun as you see it today is the result of excavations undertaken between 1936 and 1938. These suggested that it was first built some time between AD 100 and 200. It was occupied again during the centuries from 600 to 900, when Kintyre formed part of Dalriada. A beautiful brooch found here from this period is thought to have been made at Dunadd. The dun was then abandoned before being occupied once more from the end of the 1100s to the early 1300s. It also saw use in later centuries as a stock enclosure.
It would be nice to think that whoever lived at Kildonan Dun had time to enjoy the amazing views from here. These extend to Ailsa Craig and the Ayrshire Coast in the south west and take in the whole of the west coast of Arran. Nearer at hand is Kildonald Point, itself once home to a prehistoric fort.
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Grid Ref: NR 780 278