The Mingary Castle restoration blog was written by Jon Haylett, who lives in the local village of Kilchoan. Now that restoration is almost complete Holly and Chris Bull will take over to report on bringing the Castle back to life.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Excavating the Moat

I arrived on site this morning to two exciting pieces of news.  First, Ricky Clark, who works in the Ardnamurchan Estate office and is a keen amateur archaeologist, had been working in the moat over the weekend and had found part of another cannonball and another musket ball.  The second piece of news was that Historic Scotland had given the go-ahead to dig out the whole moat, conditional on some trenches being excavated first.

The top picture shows the only excavation done in the moat as of the end of last week, at the eastern end.

This picture shows the western end, and the area below the 'causeway' approach to the castle door, with the castle at left.  The moat below the causeway, beyond the red line, was excavated by Tom Addyman of Addyman Archaeology over the weekend.  He proved that the left two-thirds of this causeway is relatively recent,  built to replace the original drawbridge and founded on the rubble and earth that had collected in the moat - so it's not surprising there's a crack running down it due to subsidence.  The drawbridge itself came down to rest on the wall at the right of the picture.

Archaeologist Kenny Macfadyen was there this morning to dig a trench straight across the moat, roughly at its mid point.  This confirmed that the western end of the moat is shallow, infilled with earth and a few rocks.  Kenny is standing on bedrock, so the depth of the infill is between 05m and 1.0m.

As soon as he had completed the section, the small digger, driven by Howard, started clearing the east end of the moat, with Kenny watching to see if it turned up anything of interest - which it did, in the form of pieces of pottery, bones, glass and other artefacts.

This picture is taken from the drawbridge end, and shows the excavation by early afternoon.  Filippo and I helped Kenny by clearing the remaining earth down to the bedrock, the job partially completed at right.

Then the big digger, worked by Martin, moved in to help.  By this time the small digger was an the east end of the moat, where it's much deeper.  The suggestion is that this was a 'sump' where water collected before filtering into the castle cistern (or well) through a stone wall below the main wall of the castle - to the right of Kenny in the luminous rain gear.

The exact arrangement that allowed this to happen isn't clear yet.  Kenny is hoping to excavate the area in the next couple of days.

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