Cultoon, Portnahaven, Islay, Argyll

Stone Circle:  OS Grid Reference – NR 1956 5697

Also Known as:

  1. Cultoun

Archaeology & History

Following excavation work on this denuded megalithic ring in 1974 and 1975 under the joint auspices of the Islay Historical Works Group (IHWG) and the Hunterian Museum of the University of Glasgow, under the direction of archaeologist Dr Euan MacKie (1976), with the intent of actually restoring the site to what they thought was its former glory by resurrecting the fallen monoliths in this ring of stones, some intriguing facts came to light.  Dr MacKie wrote:

“This site stands on a low, shallow knoll about a mile from the sea and with an extensive peat bog to the west.  Before excavation the stone ring consisted of a rough oval of two standing stones and ten fallen ones, the latter being partly or nearly completely buried under the turf.  The dimensions of the ring were about 45 by 40 yards.  The excavations were based on a 6m grid and the ain was to explore as much as possible the perimeter of the ring and part of the interior.  In this way it was hoped to identify the sockets from which the prone monoliths were assumed to have fallen and thus to discover the exact positions at which they were to be re-erected…

“It soon became clear that the prone monoliths had not in fact fallen out of their sockets.  All of them lay on the old ground surface under the peat which had evidently begun to grow — in the 8th century BC according to one C-14 date — after the site had reached its present condition.  Some stones had no socket next to them and a number of sockets were found without adjacent stones.  Several stones lay next to sockets in such a position as to make it clear that they had never been set up.  The site had evidently been abandoned in the middle of construction and those sockets already dug were allowed to fill slowly with rubble and silt.  One socket was discovered which had been deliberately filled up, confirming that some change of plan had occurred before the final abandonment.  Cultoon is the only stone circle apart from two phases of Stonehenge to have revealed evidence of never having been completed. (my italics, Megalithix)

“The finds were few and consisted of mesolithic flint microliths and some larger, presumably neolithic flints.  The former were all on and in the buried topsoil — the circle builders’ ground surface — while the latter were on the land surface and in the lower part of the peat; these last included scrapers and are hollow-based points of Bronze Age type.  Of particular interest was the discovery of caches of flint flakes in the peat next to the two standing stones.  They appear to be deliberate offerings and suggest that the site retained its sanctity for some centuries after its abandonment.”

…to be continued…


  1. MacKie, Euan, “Cultoon, Islay,” in Glasgow Archaeological Society Bulletin, No.2, 1976.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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