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Scots' Dike, boundary earthwork, Scotsdike Plantation

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale East and Eskdale, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.0532 / 55°3'11"N

Longitude: -3.0055 / 3°0'19"W

OS Eastings: 335861

OS Northings: 573648

OS Grid: NY358736

Mapcode National: GBR 7BG0.3C

Mapcode Global: WH7Z8.S8Z0

Entry Name: Scots' Dike, boundary earthwork, Scotsdike Plantation

Scheduled Date: 28 February 1950

Last Amended: 26 March 2008

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM660

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: linear earthwork, dyke

Location: Canonbie

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale East and Eskdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the remains of a boundary feature dating to the 16th century AD, created to define a section of the border between England and Scotland. It represents the most significant man-made element of the national border between the two countries and was largely constructed to resolve disputes about the extent of English and Scottish border land or marches. The monument, known as Scots' Dike, survives as a low, interrupted earthen bank-and-ditch complex, running E-W between the Rivers Sark and Esk. It is located towards the SW end of the national border within 10km of the Solway Firth. It is currently under mixed land-use that includes mature conifer and deciduous stands, naturally regenerated deciduous woodland, amenity woodland, stock grazing and cropped fields, running water and mixed scrubland. The monument was first scheduled in February 1950 and is now being rescheduled in order to clarify and update the position and extent of the scheduled area.

Along its length of around 5.5km, the earthwork form of this monument displays a variety of shapes and profiles. The basic construction is a parallel ditch and bank. The original intention was to construct a ditch whose centre marked the border. A large marker stone (possibly incised with the emblems of both countries) was placed at either end of the earthwork and individual march stones were placed at regular intervals along the ditch. There is now no evidence of the end stones but there are ten small marker stones along the course of the bank today. The form of this monument changes between a simple ditch-and-bank sequence (where the ditch may lie on either the N or S side of the bank), a bank with two parallel ditches (one either side) or, thirdly, a twin bank and twin outer ditch arrangement. At its widest, the monument is around 15m across and no more than 1.5m high. It survives in a variety of states from an upstanding earthwork and ditch (best seen in the woodland stands) to a faint trace of the bank and silted/overgrown ditch where it has been consumed by modern cultivation, drainage or field expansion, or obscured by later features (such as woodland banks and modern boundaries).

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan (comprising three separate, related sections), to include the remains described and an area around within which related material may be expected to be found, as shown in red on the accompanying map. This scheduling includes the N portion of the surviving monument, lying to the Scottish side of the current border. Specifically excluded from the scheduling are the above-ground components of all existing modern boundaries (fences and drystane walls), bridges, walkways and gates, as well as power and data transmission lines and their connecting pylons. English Heritage has separately scheduled the English side of the monument.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The dyke displays a variety of earthwork forms, still largely surviving intact and in situ today despite the impacts of modern land-use and the truncating of the terminals. The monument therefore has the potential to reveal information about the nature and range of late medieval earthworking techniques as well as the wider archaeology of territorial dispute and resolution, land reform and the expression of national identity.

Contextual characteristics

This monument is the only example of its type in Scotland. It may be superficially similar to other artificial earthwork forms in its construction (and compared with those built as lesser territorial boundaries), but no other can claim to form part of the national border. It was built for two principal reasons. It resolved long-running disputes over the definition and control of land in this part of Britain, helping control local lawlessness for which the area was well known, to the extent that the area was previously known as 'debateable land'. Secondly, it connects two points (formed by the Rivers Esk and Sark) which had defined a natural break in the rest of the line of the border from the Solway Firth in the west to the River Tweed in the east.

Long-lasting boundary disputes between Scotland and England were just one of many nationally provocative issues that resulted in feuds, raids, sieges and battles over territory and the control of land in both countries. This was a long-standing issue in the centuries before the mid-13th century AD when the position of an interrupted line marking the border between the Irish Sea and the North sea was firmly established by the Treaty of York as the border between England and Scotland. The line of the border remains largely unchanged except in the east, where it shifted northwards from Berwick to the River Tweed. Just like the later Scots' Dike, this arbitrary, fixed border was more symbolic or political than a physical barrier, since neither could effectively stop the cross-border raids that continued into the 16th-century. Disputes over nationality, jurisdiction, ownership and the control of land were commonplace, and in the debateable lands of West March (now Dumfries and Galloway and Cumbria) this was a source of on-going concern. In 1552, a joint Royal Commission agreed on the line of an earthwork component to the national border in order to resolve these disputes and bring under control the relative lawlessness across this part of West March. It has served as the only man-made segment defining the Anglo-Scottish border ever since.

Associative characteristics

Scots' Dike is a component of the national border between Scotland and England and therefore it has a wider significance, associated with the developing identity and history of both nations. It is directly linked with the land and land-ownership disputes and feuding factions of the region and, ultimately, royal intervention, from the 13th century onwards.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has the inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular the development of Scotland and England as emerging nations and the division of land between the countries. It is a unique monument in Scotland, being the only significant physical construction that marks the landward boundary between the two nations. It is important for the study of late medieval land patterns, and the story of Scottish border history. It is likely to be one of the earliest artificial trans-national borders that is still legally recognised and its loss would impede our understanding of medieval and later land division.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as NY37SE 6. English Heritage record the site as NY37SE 14. The relevant English Heritage Record of Scheduled Monuments (RSM) index number is 32824.


McNeill P G B and MacQueen H L 1996, ATLAS OF SCOTTISH HISTORY TO 1707, The Scottish Medievalists and Department of Geography, University of Edinburgh: Edinburgh.

Mack J L 1923, 'THE OLD SCOTS DIKE: IN CONSTRUCTION AD 1552 AND ITS DESTRUCTION 1917-1920', Trans Hawick Archaeol Soc, (1923) 3-5.



Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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