Dùn Othail

New Tolsta, Isle Of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, HS2 0NN

Type:Monuments & Ruins

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Dun Othail was first described as a natural fort in 1696, then in 1852 as the site of the ruins of a house said to have been erected and inhabited by an outlaw, and then in 1861 as a possible early chapel.

Two local traditions are associated with the site. Oighre MhicLeod (Heir of the MacLeod) was imprisoned at Dùn Othail by a MacNicol, in revenge for serious injuries inflicted on him by MacLeod, but suffice it to say that MacNicol jumped off the top of Dùn Othail with the heir, and they both were dashed on the rocks below. The gorge and dun were henceforth called MacNicol's Leap.

The second tradition recounted a prophecy by the Coinneach Othair (the Brahan Seer), who foretold that the whole of Lewis would be depopulated by the sword, but that there shall come out of Dun Othail one who will render them aid

The site is however equally linked to the Clan Morrison, and is within the ancient boundaries of Ness, the clan's traditional home.

It is unlikely that this was the site of a chapel, and it seems that it was a place used for defence, with a perimeter wall, which is especially substantial around the only entrance. Dun Othail would be easily defended from attack from land or sea, and its excellent views of the Minch suggests that it was possibly part of a group of duns used in an attempt to control activity within the Minch.

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