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Giant's Grave, earthwork

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.4186 / 55°25'7"N

Longitude: -3.2866 / 3°17'11"W

OS Eastings: 318657

OS Northings: 614610

OS Grid: NT186146

Mapcode National: GBR 55HS.8D

Mapcode Global: WH6W8.H26B

Entry Name: Giant's Grave, earthwork

Scheduled Date: 17 October 1963

Last Amended: 18 March 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2339

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: fort (includes hill and promontory fort)

Location: Moffat

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the remains of an earthwork visible as turf-covered banks and a ditch. It lies around 250m above sea level on the E bank of the Tail Burn where it meets with the Moffat Water, around 550m downstream of the Grey Mare's Tail Waterfall. The monument was first scheduled in 1963, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains; the present rescheduling rectifies this and improves the associated documentation.

The earthwork consists of a stone bank with medial ditch and outer bank. The stone bank is of dump construction and measures around 44m long and up to 6.5m wide and 1.5m high. To the east of the bank runs a ditch measuring up to 3.5m wide and 0.3m deep and an outer bank measuring up to 2m thick and 0.2m high. A trench was excavated at the S end of the earthwork in 1987. In section the rampart measured around 4.5m wide, 1m high and the ditch was V-shaped and measured around 4.7m wide and 2m deep. At either end the bank appears to curve towards the Tail Burn, as if it originally turned to form an enclosure. A linear turf bank running SSE from the fort for around 21m along the edge of the terrace overlies the outer bank. It is probable that the main earthwork is the remnants of a fort and that the Tail Burn has eroded most of its interior. However, it is also possible that the earthwork could be interpreted as a fragment of a linear earthwork cutting off the head of the valley.

The area to be scheduled is irregular in 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 extends up to the river bank to the west. The scheduling also excludes the top 30cm of the path orientated E-W that cuts across the scheduled area to the north and the top 30cm of the path orientated N-S to the west of the upstanding bank, 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

The form and size of the monument suggests it represents the eroded remains of a fort, possibly of Iron-Age date. However, it is also possible that it represents a linear earthwork cutting off the head of the valley.

Sufficient remains will almost certainly be preserved to accurately define the course of the defences and archaeological deposits relating to the defensive circuit. Remnants of the settlement within the interior may also survive where they butted up to the defences. Potential also exists for the survival of buried land surfaces beneath the banks and for environmental remains, possibly waterlogged, to survive within the fills of the ditches. These can provide information about the environment when the site was constructed and used. The upstanding banks may contain evidence of timber lacing or a palisade, which would help inform our understanding of how the defences were built.

Preservation potential on such sites can often be high, due to their location being unsuitable for more recent agriculture. The monument therefore has the potential to reveal valuable information about the character of late prehistoric fortifications.

Contextual characteristics

Forts were built at various times from at least the end of the late Bronze Age (around 800 BC) until probably the end of the early medieval period (around 1000 AD). Previous excavation and research has indicated that the majority of forts date to the Iron Age, ranging from the mid- to late 1st millennium BC, although evidence at a number of sites does indicate the first defensive systems begin to appear in the Bronze Age. The shape and form of the earthworks is similar to other forts in the Annandale area that are located lower down the slopes on the edge of gullies, such as Ericstane, around 12.5km to the WSW of this monument. If this monument is the remains of a fort then the size of the upstanding defences is relatively rare in Annandale. The scale of the defences may also indicate a later date for the fort.

The monument lies within the upland areas of Annandale and commands good views of the confluence of the Tail Burn and Moffat Water. From the monument you can see down the Moffat Water valley and up the Tail Burn valley towards the Grey Mare's Tail Waterfall. Its place in the landscape is important in understanding this class of monument and its location.

The monument has the capacity to contribute towards a better understanding of prehistoric defended settlements in this area, particularly those sited on the lower slopes on the edge of gullies. Comparing and contrasting the settlement to other examples can enable an understanding of how such sites are positioned within the landscape, as well as provide enhanced contexts for the understanding of Iron-Age economy and structure of society. By comparing the construction of the fort and its defences we can also learn more about prehistoric forts in eastern Dumfries and Galloway and more widely throughout Scotland. The monument also complements the other types of prehistoric settlement sites identified close by in Annandale, to provide a fuller picture of prehistoric landscape and society in the region over time.

Associative characteristics

The Ordnance Survey 1st and 2nd Edition mapping marks this site as a 'Fort'. This suggests an awareness of the site as a historical place and an attachment of value.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular later prehistoric fortified settlement along the Moffat Water. It has the potential to make a significant contribution to our knowledge of fortifications, contemporary architecture, landuse and society in this locality and the rest of Scotland in the later prehistoric period. Domestic remains and artefacts from settlements have the potential to tell us about wider prehistoric society, its architecture, how people lived, where they came from, who they had contacts with and also to provide us with evidence of native-Roman interaction. Archaeological deposits preserved beneath the ramparts may provide information about the nature of the contemporary environment and the use prehistoric farmers made of it. Spatial analysis of sites may inform our understanding of patterns of landholding and the expansion of settlement. The loss of this site in this area would affect our future ability to appreciate and understand the prehistoric landscape and its inhabitants.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NT11SE 9; the Dumfries and Galloway SMR as MDG4582.


RCAHMS 1997 Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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