Viking shipyard on Skye wins historic protection

A Viking shipyard on Skye which is around 900 years old is to be protected in law.

Thursday, 23rd November 2017, 11:55 am
Updated Monday, 11th December 2017, 9:18 pm
The stone-clad Viking canal at Rubha an Dùnain. PIC: Creative Commons/A'chachaileith
The stone-clad Viking canal at Rubha an Dùnain. PIC: Creative Commons/A'chachaileith

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has officially designated a stone-lined canal on Skye’s Rubh’ an Dùnain peninsula as a historic monument.

Two boat docks and the bed of Loch na h-Airde, the small lochan on the peninsula used as a harbour, will also be protected.

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In 2009, archaeologists discovered early 12th Century boat timbers, a stone-built quay in the loch and a system to maintain a constant water level to allow boats, likely birlinns, to enter the sea at high tide.

HES said the scale of the docks and the presence of the canal indicated the site was a “significant anchorage for the western seaboard.”

Further remains of Norse and medieval vessels could potentially to be found in the loch, a statement said.

The statement added: “Given its sheltered and important strategic location, it is possible that the loch was used to shelter and overwinter boats, or that the site was a staging location. It may also have been used to repair or even to construct boats.”

The only way to access the site is an eight-mile pathless hike, according to a report in The Herald.

In 2015, the MacAskills of Rubh’ an Dunain Society launched a website which allows virtual visits to the peninsula.

Its editor, Gordon Mack, welcomed the HES announcement.

He told The Herald. “This is a decision which we applaud. It will afford this unique location official protection and add to our campaign to repopulate the area with a virtual online community.”

Archaeologists believe the loch was the focus for maritime activity for many centuries, from the Vikings to the MacAskill and Macleod clans of Skye.