Camas Nan Gaell Field school

*Contact Archaeology Scotland for Details*

As you may already know, Archaeology Scotland are celebrating their 75th Anniversary this year. One of the celebration events they have planned is an autumn field school, and Archaeology Scotland will be running an archaeological Field School at Camus Nan Gaell on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, Scotland. The project will take place from 7th to 19th September 2019 and will be both a part of Scottish Archaeology Month celebration and Archaeology Scotland’s 75th Year celebration. The Field School will run in partnership with Ardnamurchan History and Heritage Association (AHHA), and Heritage and Archaeological Research Practice (HARP).

The Field School will be exploring the abandoned settlement of Camas Nan Gaell, and the unique collection of prehistoric and Early Medieval remains collected within the picturesque bay. The settlement was inhabited until the 19th Century before being formally cleared, with many villagers leaving Scotland for North America.

Camas Nan Gaell

The bay has been occupied for at least 5,000 years, since Neolithic times with the construction of the chambered cairn and later the Bronze Age standing stone by Cladh Chiarain, the Campbell graveyard. The standing stone was later embellished with images carved into it’s surface including a Christian cross and, above it, what may be a dog. These carvings possibly date to the time of the coming of St Columba, after he began his west coast journeys in 563AD and founded the abbey at Iona.

In the hundreds of years following the Viking presence on Ardnamurchan, both the bay area and the rough area to the northwest of the bay were occupied by a small communally run ‘clachan‘. We know little about the early history of this community but we do know that, during the Lordship of the Isles, it was part of the lands of the Clan MacIain. This clan held Ardnamurchan and Mingary Castle from the early 14th until the early 17th century. Camas nan Geall would have been little different from the twenty-three other clachans within the clan’s lands in Ardnamurchan. Each had inbye land – arable land close to the houses – where crops were grown, and extensive common grazings that were used for summer pastures. In Camas nan Geall’s case, the common grazings extended north as far as Loch Mudle. The clachan contributed, mainly in the form of agricultural produce, to the upkeep of the MacIain chief and his retinue, and provided men for the clan’s army in times of war. It is this township that the project will explore.

Visiting Ardnamurchan

As the westerly most point of mainland Scotland, the Ardnamurchan Peninsula has the feel of a classic Scottish island. Lying between Mull and Skye, Ardnamurchan provides an opportunity to visit some of the most spectacular natural heritage in the country, alongside a number of historically important archaeological sites. Ardnamurchan is regarded as great wildlife destination in Scotland, and is home to Deer, Sea Eagles, Otters, Pine Martins and seals, and has been visited by Basking Sharks, Humpbacked Whales, and Orcas. Nearby Mull is a stunning tourist destination, with boutique shopping experiences in Tobermory. Beyond the fauna, Ardnamurchan has some of the most dramatic coastlines and beaches, with Sanna Bay (located less than fifteen miles from Kilchoan).

Historically, Ardnamurchan is said to have been home to saints and sinners. Claimed to have been a stopping point for Saint Columba the peninsula must have played a significant role in Viking Scotland, what with a Viking Boat Burial excavated on the north coast at Swordle. Not to mention the Norse control of the nearby ‘Southern Isles’ forming some of the opening exchanges of land and power off the west coast; exchanges of land and power that continued well into the nineteenth century from the clearances to the formation of large estates. Ardnamurchan also has a rich prehistoric heritage, including chambered burial cairns, Bronze Age ringed cairns and standing stones.

The project will attempt to unpick the history of all of these periods from the settlement on the valley sides to the historic graveyard, early Christian/Bronze Age (?) standing stone and Neolithic Chambered Cairn on the rich fertile centre of the bay.

A visit to Ardnamurchan provides an incredible opportunity to engage with Scotland’s natural and cultural heritage, and a visit to the Ardnamurchan Distillery shouldn’t be missed for those wanting to sample Uisge Beatha.

Field School Activities

This field school aims to provide participants with a hands-on experience of working on an important archaeological survey and excavation research project. Working with volunteers, professionals and experts from the local Heritage Society all participants will learn how to excavate to a professional archaeological standard, record archaeological remains through field survey, record graveyards, understand environmental processes and learn how to manage, conserve and promote historic sites for the future. As a community-led project, the project offers the chance to experience community archaeology first hand and to learn from community archaeology professionals. Ideal for those from archaeology and historical societies that wish to learn about organizing their own projects or under graduates and early career archaeologists that aim to work in this area in the future.

Specifically tasks might include how to record the remains by completing context sheets, technical drawing, photography and surveying. Participants will also have the opportunity to work with various artefact material types including pottery, chipped stone, and Post Medieval glass and metal during post-excavation.

Activities will include:

  • Archaeological excavation using the single context recording system

  • Site recording including technical drawing, context recording and photography

  • Artefact processing including handling, cleaning and storage and photography

  • Basic site surveying

  • Plane table survey

  • Archaeological field survey

  • Graveyard survey

  • Evening tours or field trips to local archaeological sites led by experts

  • Expert expert lectures by specialists

  • Extra-curricular opportunities for further skills development; such as site conservation and management or youth engagement from Archaeology Scotland’s Adopt-a-Monument and Learning teams- not to mention from an incredibly successful Adopt-a-Monument project group.

During the Field School our scheduled day off will be on Thursday 12th, where you will have the opportunity to take a trip to the beautiful Isle of Mull with a chance to shop in and explore the charming town of Tobermory.

Accommodation Options

Accommodation will be provided in either a large self-catering house in shared rooms, or in camping grounds surrounding the house. Meals will be provided on all work days associated with the project, and all transport associated with the project will be provided. Transport to and from Ardnamurchun is not provided, but pickups will be provided from Kilchoan, well served by public transport. Field school places without accommodation are also available, and suggestions on where to stay (to be booked at the expense of the participant) can be provided.


The Field School will be running from Saturday 7th to Thursday 19th September 2019. The fees for attending the Field School are:

  • 2-Week Field School with shared ensuite bedroom - £750 (5 places available) (double accommodation is available for 2 participants at a total cost of £1,250)

  • 2-Week Field School with shared camping accommodation - £550 (9 places available)

  • 2-Week Field School without accommodation - £395 (6 places available)

Costs include all course fees, transport to and from site each day, and a training manual and portfolio to fill in during the course of the excavation, and which can be taken away at the end. For those who have booked accommodation, all food will be provided on work days. Transport to and from Ardnamurchan is not included. Places are limited and will be given on a first-come, first-served basis. Prospective participants will need to complete a standard Archaeology Scotland application form.

Members of Archaeology Scotland will receive a 10% discount on the field school-

  • 2-Week Field School with shared ensuite bedroom - £675 (double accommodation is available for 2 participants at a total cost of £1,125)

  • 2-Week Field School with shared camping accommodation - £495

  • 2-Week Field School without accommodation - £355


There is no application deadline. Places are limited and are given on a first come first served basis. For more information or to apply for a place please contact