The region of Argyll and Bute has a remarkable significance for Scotland’s past, leaving archeological remains, dramatic evidence with all previous occupations, that have made rich prehistoric landscapes with standing stones, monuments, and castles.

Iron Age

Despite the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) inventory of nearly 500 sites, the area has been described as a “black hole” where “archaeological understanding of the Iron Age has barely begun. The most fundamental questions remain unanswered. For example, the chronology of different types of buildings is tricky. On the one hand, few large-scale excavations have been undertaken. On the other hand, the attractive areas for agriculture in Argyll and Bute have remained the same for centuries and the buildings have been constantly reused. Society is also understood little. On an economic front, the presence of grain mills suggests that they were grown in the region. In a social aspect, stone buildings were visible on the land to indicate by whom they were controlled. From the 7th century BC to the 2nd century BC, the large size of the buildings suggests that the control of the land was done by a large group or a social elite. From the2nd century BC to the 2nd century, the characteristic Atlantic roundhouse of the region suggests control by a smaller group.

Several types of buildings were built in Argyll and Bute during the Iron Age. Dun refers to small bastions. Some strongholds are referred to as forts, but the distinction between a fort and a dun is recognized as “somewhat arbitrary”. Harding distinguishes two types of duns: the irregular and roofless one constituting an enclosure, and the ovoid one with a roof also called the Atlantic roundhouse. The latter type includes broch and wheelhouses. The characteristics of the broch are the presence of an intra-wall gallery, a lag in the wall leaving space, and holes behind the doors to receive beams used as locks. The crannog is another type of construction and refers to an artificial or natural and reinforced island. There are fifty crannog sites in the area, and the only one to have been excavated in our time is Loch Glashan9 when hydro-electric work has brought down the water level and revealed the structure of oak and birch.

Middle Ages

The Kingdom of Dal Riata – The tradition that the west of Scotland was colonized by Gaels, the Celtic people of Ireland, remains open to debate. Many of the characters described in this period must thus be considered bearing in mind that they fall within medieval historical traditions. According to the Labor Gabila Érenn, the Irish tale containing the founding myths lived in the 1st century a high king of Ireland known as the Conaire. His descendants are the Sel Conairi, meaning the “seed of Conaire.” Among them, his son Cairbre Riada went to the north of Ireland, being brought there by famine, and conquered the county of Antrim, part of Ulster. According to Bede the Venerable, his territory would have been called the Dalriada, meaning “the part of Riada”. According to the versions, he sailed and reached the west of Scotland in the 3rd century, thus extending the kingdom of Dalriada, or his descendants would have made the trip. For two hundred years, the history of this kingdom remained in the shadows, until the voyage around the year 500 of a Gael chief named Fergus Mur. Fergus is a descendant of Riada, and he is at the head of a wave of migration, moving his capital from Dunseverick in Antrim to Dunadd in Scotland. He and his brothers Loarn and Oengus share the land and form the three main clans or cenél. The Clan of Fergus is the Cenél Gabriel, and it occupies the island of Jura, Kintyre, and the lands to the east such as the islands of Arran and Bute. The Loarn clan, Cenél Loairn, occupies the lands to the north, including the islands of Mull, Coll, and Tiree. Finally, the clan of Oengus, the Cenél Oengusa, takes possession of Islay. Cenél Comgaill appears around 700. It is home to the Cowal Peninsula from Cenél Gabriel.