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Dun Eistean the Ancestral Morrison Stronghold… Click for Full Sized Pictures!

Posted on March 27, 2011

This is what is left of the one time Clan Morrison stronghold called Dun Eistein ("Dun Esh-ten", possibly from Eystein a common Viking name), the family which held the hereditary Brieveship (judge, guardian, and interpreter of old Celtic Brehon laws) at Habost in the Isle of Lewis under the Lords of the Isles (independent Viking/Gaelic rulers of the West coast of Scotland). The Dun (Gaelic for a fort) is a "sea stack" - an elevated area similar to a mesa or outcrop which is isolated from the mainland of Lewis by the sea at high tide; at low tide the Dun is accessible by foot. The sea stack was probably occupied long before the Morrisons became a clan possibly Celtic time and later Viking age, but it became the base and stronghold of the Clan Morrison until the clan system came to an end.

An artists impression to give a rough idea of what the place looked like hundreds of years ago

I will let the info board do the talking and explaining but as you can see from the map Dun Eistean is a sea stack.

Walking over the bridge and looking down you can see the gap that separates the sea stack from the mainland, at high tide this is covered by the sea.

Seagulls nesting on the stack where the old gatehouse used to be guarding against anybody trying to climb the cliff.

Crossed the bridge and standing on Dun Eistean looking towards the mainland.

Same seagulls nesting on cliff face where the gatehouse would have been, section B on the info board.

Looking towards the remains of the main tower or keep, section G on the info board. This tower and the stack is depicted on the crest of the Clan Morrison.

The tower on this badge is believed to be the tower that used to be on Dun Eistean. The motto of the Morrisons is "Teaghlach Phabbay" which means 'Pabbay Family'. Pabbay is a small island at the north end of the Sound of Harris, now uninhabited.










The tower, or what is left of it, now covered in grass.

Part of the stonework on a corner, the structure was rectangle shaped and maybe have been 3-4 meters high. It may have been a look out tower keeping an eye on approaching boats.

View looking North from the remains of the tower.

View looking East

Looking East at one of the rock outcrops.

View from the remains of the tower looking back towards the bridge that crosses to the mainland.

From here you can see the water pool, what is left of the defensive wall, ruins of turf and stone dwellings, and remains of the kiln house where barley was stored.

Pond for water E on the info board. Defensive wall H1 on info board. Settlement area D on info board. Barley drying kiln C on info board.


This may have been the ravine where the Morrisons hauled up their boats from the sea, there are remains of building at the top of the ravine. This is section F on the info board.

The two pictures above are of carvings of the 'Birlinn' type of boat that was used for hundreds of years by the clans in the Isle of Lewis including the Morrisons. The Birlinn is a Norse-Gaelic variant on the Norse longship, it was clinker built for strength and flexibility same as longships, could be sailed (or rowed for speed), and used for the transport of men, great sea battles, clan feuds, and raids. The top picture is taken from a carving from the tombstone of Macdufie, who died in 1539, and the lower picture is from the tomb of Alasdair Crotach MacLeod (1528 CE) in St Clement's Church at Rodel, on the Isle of Harris.

Closer view of the water pond, there looks like there is a small spring that seeps into the pond. Having a source of water would have been useful in a fort.

Close up of ruins of the settlement area section D on the info board.

Close up of the remains of the kiln that stored barley section C on the info board.

View from defensive wall at settlement area D and H1 on the info board.

View from the road leading to Dun Eistean.

The road leading to Dun Eistean is a 3/4 mile dirt track from the main road.

View Larger Map

Other posts that have a connection to Morrisons...

Nicholsons Leap - click for full sized pictures

Tallest Standing Stone in Scotland - click for full sized pictures


Comments (52) Trackbacks (1)
  1. Loved looking at your photos. I would like to visit there sometime. Thanks for sharing.

  2. These photos are amazing! Ive been recently lookin up the history of my family. This is definitely something I would visit to feel the presents of my past. Great shots!!

  3. Excellent pictures of our forefathers stronghold. Thanks for sharing, all Clan Morrison members will appreciate.

  4. Fantastic pictures! I’m 41 years old, live in Chicago, and have been curious about my ancestors’ Scottish origins for about the past 15-20 years. Your photos bring out the bleakness, yet hauntingly beautiful images of this remote part of Scotland. I pray I’m fortunate enough to be able to visit here someday. Thank you for posting this excellent photos.

  5. Fascinating look at the Morrison Clan. The pictures and especially the drawings give one a good sense of how our ancestors lived.

  6. These photos are absolutely stunning. We bitch and complain when our air conditioning or cable channels go out. How did these people weather the hardships in the cold, northern winters? If this doesnt give you a true appreciation of the history of the Morrison and how they sacrificed to eventually migrate to America, then all is lost.

  7. I was born and grew up in Scotland, but never went there. Now lived abroad since 1986, but definitely going to go there…
    Excellent pics and description, thanks for sharing..

  8. Thanks for the excellent photos & informative text. I read with great interest & then visited the site for myself recently. The sky was blue & the sun shone while I was there & it really was quite beautiful, made me very proud to have Morison blood!

  9. An excellent site selection with its own source of fresh water! Thank you for sharing these photos with us!

  10. I was fortunate enough to be able to go & enjoyed celebrating my 50th birthday on the “sea stack” it was fantastic and a very proud moment. I look forward to returning for a longer stay.

  11. I’ve only been to Lewis twice – when I was a kid. I was born and brought up in Scotland. Moved to London when I was 18 and never returned except to visit my parents. I’m now retired (I’m 67) to France but have always been fascinated by my fathers roots. He was born just outside Stornoway in 1898, didn’t learn English until he was 7, didn’t see a car until he was 11 or an aircraft until he joined the Navy in 1914. Fought in two world wars and died at 91. My Uncle was Duncan Morrison, who received an MBE for services to Gaelic music and died at 92. I have always liked the idea that all the Morrisons in the world are related, however distantly, unlike those with more prosaic surnames (such as Smith).

  12. Matchless topic, it is pleasant to me)).))

  13. Matchless topic, it pleasant to me)).))

  14. The photos are beautiful but makes you wonder how difficult life must have been for our clan.
    I will visit Lewis and Uist one day to see our relatives still there.
    Don’t worry fellow clansfolk, I’ll make sure there aren’t any MacLeods hanging around Dun Eistean around either 🙂

  15. What stunning photos, they served to increase my yearning to visit the land of my ancestors even more,hopefully next year with my husband, the rugged beauty and pounding surf are awesome. The harsh life our ancestors would have experienced fills me with great respect for them, but I don’t think I would have survived. Thank you.

  16. They are great photos I would love to take my family there one day thank you for the photos and information from a very proud Australian MORRISON

  17. Excellent Photos, on my to do list, to see this one day, very soon.

  18. Great photos. Thanks so much from someone who has never been to this fierce and beautiful land. My mother Margaret Morrison now 90 remembers her Morrison grandparents speaking in a different language (Gaelic) from time to time around the grandchildren. Our family group had moved from Lewis to the north shore of Lake Superior in the mid 1800’s and felt they were in God’s country, rocks and more rocks, good fishing, some trees and able to make a better life. They soon moved to settle on Manitoulin Island where they lived from the land and lake raising their families.

  19. Some of the Morrisons visiting this site may not know that there is a diary you can google called ‘Simon Morrison’s Diary’ – not mine, I hasten to add, lol, but a namesake’s who emigrated to Australia in the 1850s. His account of his emigration is as haunting and harsh as this landscape! My own ancestors emigrated either voluntarily or were transported in the Clearances (don’t know which) to America and my great grandfather came back again!! to Blighty about 1900 – some people never learn!

  20. I am looking forward to another trip to Scotland. I have never made the trek to Lewis, but I most certainly will.

  21. The story of the Morrison clan as written by (I have been looking for my copy and can’t find it) someone a few years ago…has taken me prisoner..
    I am going to Scotland, England and Wales in Sept 2013. I can’t get anyone to go to Isle of I will have to go myself ….some day.
    My Morrisons immigrated to Nova Scotia around 1800. Seems my Morrison married a Morison….My greatgrandmother Catherine Morrison spoke gaelic when she didn’t want the children to know what she was saying. This Morison family I traced to Henry 1st
    I am a musician (violin, banjo and Uke) also a singer and artist.

  22. Thanks for the great tour. I’ve visited the Dun twice, but both times in terrible weather, so these pictures are great to see. There has been a lot of archaeological work done there in the last decade or so. I learned that, when a site has been exposed and studied, it is reburied to protect it. Hence the thick grass up the sides of the tower and over the stone remains.

  23. loved the pictures and learning about family heritage.

  24. Aloha! Will be coming there from Hawaii this winter. Thank you for a such a wonderful site!

  25. Thank you for your travels and your sharing of info and photos . may we continue to cherish and appreciate those who came before us. Uniting us as a true clan.

  26. awesome pictures, I will definitely make a visit someday. I live in Alaska and it reminds me of some of the areas of the state where there are no trees and on the coast

  27. Thank you for the gift of these photos.

  28. Loved looking at my clans ancestral home

  29. I am a Morrison by way of my Grandfather (John Morrison) who emigrated to Canada in 1936. Worked in Quebec as a logger and then moved to Trail, BC to marry my Grandmother, Euphreda. He passed away in 1963. But I still remember his Gaelic accent and wonderful stories. I that you for the pictures as I have not seen anything to do with my clan. Proud to be a Morrison.

  30. Wow I love how you laid it out to the info board and the closeups of the board. Perfect!

  31. I am six years old and will be visiting Dun Eistein in a few weeks. Thank you for this interesting information. As my dad told me, and as some of you must already know, the story is that clan Morrison descended from a Norseman (Viking) Olaf the Black, who came to the place around the year 1200. Jamie says she likes being a Morrison.

  32. Hi we are the Morrison family from Greensboro North Carolina my daughter and I would love to come and see this in person it is very gratifying to see this and to see where our family comes from please send me any information you can to be able to plan a trip there and if any more Morrison families out there we would love to know more all of my close family is past away now so not a lot to go on so please if anyone out there can help us please thank you very much Jeffrey Morrison

  33. Most international visitors fly direct to Glasgow International (some to London then Glasgow). From Glasgow you need to either fly to Stornoway (takes 45 mins) using Flybe ( or get a bus/hire a car to Ullapool or Uig (on the Isle of Skye) and then get the ferry to the Isle of Lewis (or Harris via Uig). From Stornoway it is a 28 mile road trip to Dun Eistean and it’s best to hire a car or take a taxi. The North West parts of Scotland are the best parts to see with unique scenery and some castles such as Eilean Donnan and Dunvegan Castle (with the fairy flag). There is lots of archeological information about Dun Eistean on the Royal Commission on the Ancient Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) website:

  34. Really no matter if someone doesn’t be aware of then its up to other viewers that they will assist,
    so here it happens.

  35. I am a Morrison in the highlands of Western North Carolina. We always had our Games at Grandfather Mountain, in the McRae Meadows. I love your photographs. They tug at my soul and my Gaelic heart. Thank you from the USA!

  36. my grand mother from my fathers side of the this hanns family was Elizabeth anne morrison and she was the third daughter of james Fredrick morrisona hotel keeper from louth nsw Australia,he passed away in 1921 in dubbo nsw Australia,the morrison in Australia are related to the hanns family,i am related to the koefod family of Bornholm Denmark my mother was a koefod, and all stirred up with a dash of morrison in us,thank you for the photos they were great only it is a pity the stronghold doesn’t exist anymore to speak of,thank you once again.p

  37. I have just returned from Dun Eistean, and walked that stony road to take some of my husband, William Morrison’s ashes to a place we both loved. Our son, Iain, is there today. It is a magical, mysterious place..and many thanks to whoever got that bridge built…what a difference to actually be able to walk across to the fort, though the fulmars kept dive-bombing me on my way!

  38. Your photograph’s sent shivers down my spine my full name is Allan Fleming Morrison,my father’s name was William Morrison,and mother Agnes, we came from glasgow,area of possilpark,my grandfather was also,William Morrison, my daughter Karen Morrison lives in London and is a jewellery designer,she has a web site Long life to all of my Clan, THE MORRISON’S.

  39. Wow, I have goosebumps — I’ve learned so much and appreciate the info from the researchers. My sister and I are going to Scotland in 2015 and can hardly wait! Dear Perri Morrison Smith, my grandfather Charles (wife Rose) Morrison and father James (wife Hester Absher) Morrison were from NW No. Carolina also, maybe we’re closely related. Mom still lives in Wilkesboro.

  40. Will be visiting Scotland next May 2015. So happy to see these pictures. We have traced our Morrison ancestor back to Nicholas Morrison from Isle of Lewis from the 1700s. Does anyone have more info on him?
    I was told we are Scots-Irish so would have lived in Ulster first. Then to America. I was born in Wilkes County, North Carolina. Perri Morrison Smith: Are you from Charlie Morrison and Rosa Crysel ancestry?
    Would love to hear from you.

  41. These pictures were amazing. I am glad they were shared so I can see where my family has come from. My mother has a lot of the family documents about Clan Morrison and the family bible written in Gaelic. So these pictures were very interesting to me.

  42. Thank you for the photos. I’ve been tracing my lineage but have run into difficulty with so many ancestors recycling the same names. So far I’ve gotten back to 1500, with reasonable certainty. The records from land deeds and succession give a lot of information. My Morrison line from Lewis to Aberdeen, Ireland, then New Hampshire, US. The Morrison’s founded a town in New Hampshire, US, called Londonderry. They spread out from there with my line going to Nova Scotia, founding the town Truro. My great great grandfather Lemuel Vincent Morrison left Nova Scotia and followed one of his sons to Ohio and died there. Unfortunately, the cemetery recycled the ground several times and has stacked the headstones off to the side and weigh more than I could possibly manipulate. and has tons of info.

  43. Thank you for the photos. I am researching my ancestry and I hope to visit Dun Eistein one day. I am from South Africa and my great great grandparents moved here from Scotland in the eighteen hundreds. To brothers Thomas Reid Morrison and George Campbell Morrison. Hope to get some more information.

  44. Hello. My ancestor was John Morrison who was born in Edinburgh about 1750. He had two sons who fled to the US; one to Pennsylvania and changed his name to John Milton (English name of course, not Scottish) and the other a William Morrison who changed his name to Morris and went to Ohio I believe. they were Damask weavers. Does this small amount of data ring a bell with anyone? There are many, many Morrison branches I understand.

    I am in California but in 2006 I visited the town cemetery in Franklin/Oil City in Venango County in northwest Pennsylvania. John Morrison was buried there along with many direct and in law family members. The photos posted in the site are wonderful even if this isn’t a place/Morrison branch that I can trace my roots back to.

  45. These photos are amazing! You can feel the pull of history and the blood stirring! Think I will have to take my 2 boys there 🙂 Quite emotional just looking at these.

  46. I am genuinely happy to read this blog posts which includes tons of helpful facts,
    thanks for providing these data.

  47. This was great reading about my ancestors and where my family came from and looking forward to seeing it in the future.

  48. Aye great photos. I’ll be visiting sometime later. It’s ironic, my mother is Swedish and my father Scottish, as the vikings visited the Morrison area.

  49. Thanks for the great pictures. Would love to visit one day soon.

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