Caisteal Eoghainn a’ Chinn Bigh, Loch Sguabain

Surveyed March 7, 1994

NGR: NM 631 307

This site is the only one on Mull to have a substantial literary record associated with it. The site’s traditional name is Caisteal Eoghainn a’ Chinn Bigh, which means, ‘The Castel of Ewen of the little head.” This historical figure was a son of John Og, Fifth Maclean of Loch Buy, who lived some time during the second quarter of the 16th century. maculae notes that “John Og gave Hugh the lands of Moronic, in Mull, where the latter built a castle in an islet between Loch Buy and Duard.” (MacLean 1923, 202-203) The presence of this castle was commented upon by Dean Monro who wrote in 1549 that ‘Eallan strat stuaban’ was a place of inhabited ‘strength’(Monro 1549). The Mull historian Hannan also indicates that a castle stood on the island in Loch Sguabain and states “It is, in fact, on the site of an old ‘Lake dwelling'” (Hannan 1933, 187).

The concurrence of these literary accounts led The Royal Commission to date the site to the late medieval period and include it as a crannog in its inventory for Mull (RCAHMS 1980 No.238). The Royal Commission describes the site as “a small islet”, measuring 10 x 22 m, and enclosed by a dry-stone perimeter wall, up to 3.3 m thick in places. A circular shelter was found at the northern end of the islet but was discounted as a recent construction.

Caisteal Eoghainn a’ Chinn Bigh is located 68 meters from the north shore of Loch Squabain near the outlet to the Lussa River. The island measures 15 x 30 m, stands 3.5 m in height, and has steep boulder covered sides which break at a 20 degree angle from the surrounding loch bed. The boulders which comprise the mound are unworked and are large but of liftable size, between 10 and 15 kg. Although it is heavily vegetated, two internal features can still be identified. As pointed out by the Royal Commission, the island is enclosed by a dry stone perimeter wall. This wall still stands 0.5 m high in the SE part of the island and appears to extend well down beneath the vegetated surface of the site.

On the north end of the island there exists a strange circular structure, measuring 5 x 5.9 m , which still has sections of walling standing 6 courses (2 m) high. Both the interior and exterior faces of the walling is composed of shaped stone. The wall thickness varies between 2 and 1.3 m with the most substantial thickness facing the nearest shore. The interior of the structure measures 2 x 3 m and is now heavily overgrown. No evidence for an entrance to the structure was found. The Royal Commission believes this feature to be of recent date. This is unlikely, unless the perimeter walling is also of recent date, because the two features blend smoothly together.

During the survey the structure was inspected as well as the entirety of Loch Sguabain. No evidence of timber or unrecorded underwater features were found. The feature which The Royal Commission listed as a possible causeway is a, broken and spread out, succession of large stones. This feature does not appear to have any real form and is not linear. It is unlikely that this feature was once a causeway.

 

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