Dunadd (Dùn Ad)

In Search of DalRiada Summer, 2020

The stretch of the A816 between Lochgilphead and Carnasserie contains an amazing number of Neolithic and Dark Age sites. So many, that we will need to go back another time to visit the ones we missed and too many to include in a single blog post.

Dunadd was our third stop as we made out way back down the glen. Dùn, in this case, translates as a hill-fort (the word can translate either as fort or hillock and in many cases is a bit of both at the same time) and this one overlooks the River Add (Abhainn Ad). It was occupied from the Iron Age through to around the 16th Century and was a major power centre of the kingdom of DalRiada between c.500 – 800 CE.

There is not a great deal of information about this kingdom – and most of that which exists consists of writings about them made by foreigners. The kingdom was Goidelic-speaking (Scottish Gaelic/Irish) rather than the Brythonic language used at that time in most of the rest of what is now Scotland and in the north-west of England and Wales.

From the peak, there is a spectacular view in every direction. While it is almost entirely ruined, there is still some evidence of the ramparts and the well is still visible. Most importantly there are a number of rock carvings.

I couldn’t resist the temptation to put my foot in the carved footprint, thought to be where the kings stood to be crowned. On the same rock, there is also a carved boar – in a style Pictish rather than DalRiadan – and some Ogham writing, the meaning of which remains contested.

We had to make a rather sudden and dramatic exit from the summit when we were swarmed by flying ants – the second time that day that nature drove us away from a historic site!

Me standing with my foot in the carved footprint possibly used in the coronation of the kings of DalRiada. The Crinan basin is in the distance behind me.
Photo credit D. Harland
A close up of my bare foot in the carved rock footprint on Dunadd.

Writing Prompt

Visit a place nearby which was inhabited in ancient times. (Alternatively, visit a previously inhabited place that is now abandoned.) Try to imagine the people who lived there as real people with hopes and dreams – what might their lives have been like, what might they have wanted, who might they have interacted with? Write a scene where you imagine what the place would have been like before it crumbled. Once you have written an outline, see if you can do some research to fill in some details that you didn’t already know.

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