Events during Dunyvaig Castle Excavations

During the first excavation at Dunyvaig, in 2018, a spectacular item was found, the seal of Sir John Campbell of Cawdor (c. 1576-1642), who had taken ownership of Islay in 1615. The seal had lain on a clay floor within the castle for more than 400 years, buried below mounds of rubble from the collapsed defensive wall. Once used to sign and seal charters and legal documents, it is a circular disc of lead, carrying the inscription IOAN- NIS CAMPBELL DE CALDER. [Calder was the original spelling of Cawdor]. Finding the seal was a huge reward for the entire excavation team led by Islay Heritage, a Scottish Charity, and the University of Reading. The Seal is now on display in the Museum following an evening event on 12th August when Steve Mithen presented it.

Excavation at Dunyvaig Castle will resume for its second season on Thursday 15 August 2019. Everyone is invited to join Islay Heritage and University of Reading team at 11.00am that morning to start the dig – bring a spade (or borrow one of ours) to help de-turf and hear about the excavation.

The dig will continue until 3 September, with a team of 40 staff, students and volunteers. Islay Heritage has arranged a programme of events at the dig for everyone to join in with, engaging and learning about Islay’s heritage in new ways. Read more...

Visit and/or volunteer, 15 August – 3 September
Site tours are available every day between 10.30 and 4.00pm, except for Thursdays, which is the day-off for the team. The team welcomes volunteers – no experience is required and there are activities for all, ranging from digging to washing finds. If you would like to help, come to the dig and speak to Dr Darko Maricevic, the Director of Excavations, or Professor Steven Mithen. The dig will be welcoming a visit from Islay Chit-Chat strollers. If any other community groups would like to arrange a visit, please contact Steven Mithen on 07595 087522.

Dunyvaig Artists’ Day, Sunday 18 August
Whether you are a complete beginner or have some experience you will be welcome to join local artist Dietmar Finger on Sunday 18 August to draw and paint the castle and Lagavulin Bay. Sessions are free and will run from 11am-1pm and 1:30pm-4:30pm. All materials will be provided.

Dunyvaig Family Fun Day, Saturday 24 August
Between 12-4pm Islay Heritage are holding a free Dunyvaig Family Day with the kind support of Lagavulin Distillery. In the Malt Mill Susan Campbell will be demonstrating hand spinning and you will be able to have a go at weaving. Visitors will also see a medieval food display prepared by Mary Bevan. There will be lots of fun art and craft activities with printmaker Jane Taylor and a chance to learn about Lords of the Isles, local Clans and family history from Ionad Chaluim Chille Ìle displays. Down in Lagavulin Bay everyone can have a go at archery with Islay Archers and there will be family friendly nature talks and activities with Islay’s Natural History. Trust. Archaeologists will be on hand to talk about the site, the medieval history of the castle and show the latest finds.

School visits
All of Islay’s primary schools will making visits to the excavation, learning about Islay’s history and discovering what it is really like to be an archaeologist. The pupils – and hopefully teachers – will help dig, measure, draw, and learn how to identify finds. The excavation will host a visit from students at the High School taking Higher Geography and archaeologists will be visiting the High School to meet students and give a talk.

Dunyvaig on the road
For those residents of Islay who cannot manage to travel to Dunyvaig, the dig will go to them. Archaeologists are planning to visit the lunch clubs in Bowmore and Port Mor to talk about their dig and show what has been discovered.

Closing event, Ramsay Hall, Port Ellen 4 September 6.00pm
Everyone is invited to Ramsay Hall for a slide show and talk from Professor Steven Mithen and Dr Darko Maricevic about what was found at Dunyvaig in 2019, its significance for Islay’s past and to see some of the finds. To conclude with a performance from Còisir Ghàidhlig Ìle.

Further information about the events and progress reports about the dig can be will be on the Islay Community Facebook page, Islay Heritage website @, Facebook and Twitter @islayheritage