Diageo has announced that one of Scotland’s earliest historical sites is to be explored for the very first time this month, with an excavation of Dunyvaig Castle on Islay.
Archaeologists from across the UK have converged on Lagavulin Bay to take part in the project, to uncover the history of the castle which was once a strong-hold of the Lords of the Isles, the chiefs of the Clan MacDonald.
The castle sits on a peninsula adjacent to Lagavulin Distillery, and the excavation is being undertaken by Scottish charity Islay Heritage following a donation as part of the Lagavulin 200th Legacy fund.
After a year of planning, the excavation which began yesterday, will assess the preservation and potential of underground structures and deposits and explore the surrounding landscape.
This is the first step in what will be a long-term project to establish what life was like when Dunyvaig Castle was an operational fortress in the middle ages, and the scene of battles between the MacDonalds and the Campbells, before being demolished in 1677.
The project will see a team of 40 spend three weeks on the island, led by some of the best field archaeologists in the UK and with experts including geophysicists, archaeological scientists and palaeo-environmentalists to reconstruct the medieval landscape.
Commenting on the news, Dr Nick Morgan, Diageo Head of Whisky Outreach, who led the Lagavulin 200 Legacy project, said: “Islay is famous as the world’s greatest whisky island, but it is also one of Scotland’s most important historical locations and we are thrilled that the Lagavulin Legacy project has been able to support Islay Heritage in its mission to raise the island’s archaeological profile for both the local community and visitors to the island.”
He concluded by saying: “This excavation at Dunyvaig Castle is the culmination of hard work and commitment from Islay Heritage, Lagavulin Distillery and the wider community. We’re looking forward to seeing what interesting discoveries will be uncovered over the next few weeks.”
The Lagavulin Legacy project, raised a total of £588,395 for local community causes on Islay. As well as Islay Heritage, these included the RSPB, Islay Festival Association, Islay Arts, Finlaggan Trust, McTaggart Cyber Café and Islay & Jura Community Enterprises Limited for McTaggart Leisure Centre.