Ancient Monuments

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Castle Hill, motte-and-bailey castle

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.1256 / 55°7'32"N

Longitude: -3.4414 / 3°26'29"W

OS Eastings: 308181

OS Northings: 582192

OS Grid: NY081821

Mapcode National: GBR 49D5.RF

Mapcode Global: WH6XK.3FHJ

Entry Name: Castle Hill, motte-and-bailey castle

Scheduled Date: 13 May 1968

Last Amended: 15 December 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2637

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: bailey

Location: Lochmaben

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the remains of a motte-and-bailey castle likely to date to the 12th century AD. It survives as a substantial mound and associated earthworks on land currently used as a golf course. The monument is located at the S end of Lochmaben between Kirk Loch and Castle Loch, at approximately 50m above sea level. The monument was first scheduled in 1968, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The overall footprint of the monument measures approximately 200m N-S by 180m transversely. The impressively large earthwork mound measures more than 110m across its base while its top is approximately 60m across. It takes the shape of a flattened cone some 6-8m high and the remains of an encircling ditch partly visible around its base. In places the ditch is up to 15m wide and, beyond it, the surviving outworks (including the remains of two very large outer ditches) are most visible to the south of the motte. The outer ditches on the S side bound an area approximately 150m long. They and the motte are substantially intact despite the impacts of later cultivation and more recent golf course landscaping works. There is an interesting break in the southern half of the defensive earthworks that researchers believe is an original feature - the access route and entrance to the motte and the position of a bridge over the encircling ditch. When in use, a wooden palisade probably protected the structures built on top of the motte and within the bailey.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area specifically excludes the above-ground elements of all boundary features (walls, fences and gates) to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

This motte and bailey is a well-preserved, large earthwork which retains a good proportion of its estimated original shape, extent and structure, despite the impacts of later land use. The motte is likely to seal much evidence about its construction phase (and any settlement or activity that predates it) as well as the form of building and defensive works that once stood upon it. The area of the bailey (including the outer ditches) is likely to preserve evidence for deposits and structures relating to the wider activity of settlement and daily life around the motte. The silted ditches may contain important paleoenvironmental evidence that can help us reconstruct the environment when the site was in use. Researchers suggest the site had a relatively short development sequence, and this can help simplify the archaeological meaning of the site and its function.

Contextual characteristics

This is one of over 300 fortified earthworks in Scotland dating from the 12th century. These fortified settlements were likely to be as symbolic as they were functional in marking and protecting the lands of, and route ways though, emerging lordships. These strongholds are generally limited to an area between the Clyde and the Solway but there are examples along other main route ways (often by significant water courses) such as those to the north of the Forth in E Scotland and stretching up to and including the Moray coast. Other examples survive in Caithness, Argyll and the Highlands. The greater density of these sites is in Galloway and this reflects the historically strategic importance of SW Scotland. These strongholds were not just important as emerging centres for protecting local land and economic interests. They were also important as markers and defensive points along the route ways to the north and south.

Castle Hill, along with other contemporary motte and baileys in the Lordship of the Bruce family (part of a local group of 17 similar monuments in eastern Dumfries and Galloway), would have protected the western flank of Annandale and access northwards to Clydesdale. Researchers have suggested that the group represents a deliberate and strategic move to contain and control Galloway through the division of lands into lordships and the administration and control of community and economy through individual castles. This example served the Bruce family as their second seat after their stronghold at Annan had been partly washed away and until it was captured by during the mid-12th century. Small-scale excavation at Castle Hill points to its use over 200 years or so until it was abandoned after its capture, in favour of a larger, stronger, stone-built castle located at the S end of Castle Loch (known as Lochmaben Castle).

Castle Hill was built as a strongly defensible monument and takes advantage of local topography, not just from its position at the end of a low ridge but because it controls the meeting point of three tributaries - the Dryfe, Annan and Ae. Its W and E flanks are each protected by a loch and it has commanding views in all directions.

The monument therefore, has much to tell us about the developing feudal system and lordly residence in SW Scotland.

Associative characteristics

The earthwork remains of motte-and-bailey castles are the most visible reminders of the Anglo-Norman landscape in this part of Scotland. They reflect the establishment of royal control by granting the rights for land ownership and lordship. The monument has an indirect association with Robert the Bruce through his father, to whom David 1 granted the title of Lord Annandale and its lands in 1124.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular the construction and function of principal medieval strongholds. It retains a significant proportion of its field characteristics and is a very large and well-preserved example of it class, despite the impacts of later land-use. From it, we can learn much about the wider control of land and route ways in SW Scotland. Castle Hill represents an emerging system of feudal control imposed by the crown, through the settling of an immigrant aristocracy. The loss of this example would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand settlement and land tenure in medieval Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as NY08SE 7. Dumfries and Galloway Council SMR records the site as MDG 12174.





Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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