Lagavulin supports the historically significant excavation of Dunyvaig Castle

After a donation from the Lagavulin distillery, a team of archaeologists began excavating one of Scotland's earliest historical sites on Islay

Archaeologists from across the UK have gathered in Lagavulin Bay to participate in the ground-breaking project to uncover the history of the castle, which was once an integral part of the Lord of the Isles, the chiefs of the MacDonald clan, and is considered the most majestic archaeological monument on Islay. The excavations will help to better understand the medieval Gaelic culture and promote the preservation of the castle so that it can be preserved and made more accessible in the future.

Lagavulin 200th Anniversary Legacy Fund

The excavation of Dunyvaig Castle is being carried out by the Scottish charity Islay Heritage, supported by a donation from the Lagavulin 200th Legacy Fund. The parent company Diageo raised the funds for this by selling a special bottling of a Lagavulin 1991 Vintage Single Malt cask, selected by the distillery team and Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes. This cask resulted in a total of 522 bottles, bottled at 52.7% abv. 521 of these were sold via a special ballot on The Whisky Exchange at a price of £1,494, while bottle no. 1 achieved a price of £8,395 at an auction at the British specialist retailer, The Whisky Exchange. Lagavulin donated a total of £588,395 to the excavation project.

Experts and students

On August 10th, Lagavulin Distillery hosted an open evening for local residents around Lagavulin Bay and members of Islay Heritage to meet the archaeologists and learn more about the excavation plans. As part of the project, a team of 40 experts from UK will spend three weeks on the island to reconstruct the medieval landscape. The excavation will also help to train 30 university students in survey and excavation methods. Professor Steve Mithen, trustee of Islay Heritage, said: "The Dunyvaig excavation will be Islay Heritage's flagship project, addressing key research questions, training the next generation of archaeologists for Scotland and making many contributions to the Islay community."

Once a stately fortress

Dunyvaig Castle was the scene of famous battles between the MacDonalds and the Campbells in the Middle Ages before it was demolished in 1677. Today, the castle has fallen into disrepair. The former size can be guessed only with a lot of imagination, since only the remains of the walls of the residential tower are recognizable. The excavations should help to get an insight into medieval life at Dunyvaig Castle when it was still a stately and functioning fortress. 

Image: Diageo - Georgie Crawford, Professor Steve Mithen and Dr Nick Morgan (from left)