Ancient Monuments

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The Barmkyn, fort and cairn

A Scheduled Monument in Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 57.2692 / 57°16'9"N

Longitude: -2.6663 / 2°39'58"W

OS Eastings: 359912

OS Northings: 820034

OS Grid: NJ599200

Mapcode National: GBR M9SH.TGR

Mapcode Global: WH8NR.0KL6

Entry Name: The Barmkyn, fort and cairn

Scheduled Date: 18 October 2006

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM11514

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Keig

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire


The monument comprises a bivallate hillfort and cairn of prehistoric date, visible as upstanding remains.

The monument lies at the summit of the Hill of Airlie, 280m above sea level, which is now within the Wood of Northkeig. The hillfort consists of a stony bank, measuring 8m thick by 1m high, with an internal platform c. 30m in diameter. This platform leaves the impression of an internal ditch running round the circumference of the bank with a width of 8m. There is clear evidence of an entrance to the SE, around 2m wide, and some have suggested possible facing stones on the WNW and WSW of the external bank. The outer bank would have formed a thick stone wall or rampart and it is likely that the edge of the inner platform would have formed a second stone wall, although only the occasional stone protruding through the heather is now visible.

A low, overgrown cairn is also evident to the S of the interior of the hillfort. It measures 8m by 6.5m and 0.2m in height and is surmounted by a modern marker cairn.

Hillforts are fortified sites of Iron Age date. Beyond this definition the variation in types and periods is wide. Some were settlements whilst others appear only to have been occupied seasonally or in times of strife. Others believe hillforts were used to pen in cattle, horses, or other domesticated animals. In this part of Aberdeenshire many of the known hillforts are of a distinct local type which have one or two heavy, ruinous walls and are almost circular in plan. The Barmkyn obviously belongs to this type.

The area to be protected is approximately circular on plan and comprises the remains described and an area around them within which related material may be expected to be found, as marked in red on the accompanying map extract. The top 0.50m of the forestry track is excluded from scheduling.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's historical significance can be expressed under two headings:

Intrinsic characteristics: the condition of the monument is well preserved for its type in the region. As an unexcavated site it has considerable potential to enhance understanding of defended hilltop settlements in Strathdon and Scotland. The upstanding remains of the stone walls or ramparts, and physical features such as the entrance way, can also add to our understanding of the construction and use of this specific type of hillfort in NE Scotland. The simplicity of the stone ramparts suggest that this monument has not been extended in size, unlike Barra Hill and the Barmekein of Echt. Therefore, it is possible that this site may have only been occupied for a short time and so could give detailed evidence from one period of use.

Contextual characteristics: as part of a distinct local type of hillfort in this part of Aberdeenshire, this monument is important. The postion of hillforts in the landscape is integral to how we interpret the monuments and the prehistoric landscape in which they stood. Many believe that hillforts were built as status symbols in the landscape, and they often command a long-range view over specific areas of land, which could intimate ownership of parcels of land. The Barmkyn of North Keig, for example, overlooks the Howe of Alford from the north. Some have suggested that these were places of residence of important men who owned large areas of land and that the view from the hillfort is indicative of the land owned by these men.

National Importance: The monument's preservation means that this hill-fort has the potential to enhance our understanding of settlement and economy in prehistoric Scotland. The retention of field characteristics, such as the stone ramparts and entrance way, means that the loss of this monument would diminish our potential to understand this distinct type of hillfort in Aberdeenshire. Finally, the hillfort's position in the landscape contributes both to our understanding of the monument's use and the wider prehistoric landscape in Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



The monument is recorded by RCAHMS as NJ52SE 8 and by Aberdeenshire Council as NJ52SE0018.

Aerial photographs:

AAS, 1982, NJ52SE8, Barmkyn of North Keig, D98585/PO.

RCAHMS, 1999, NJ52SE8, Barmkyn of North Keig, D40890.

AAS, 1986, NJ52SE0018, The Barmkyn - Keig, AAS/86/05/S7/7.

AAS, 1978, NJ52SE0018, The Barmkyn - Keig, AAS/78/09/S9/22.


Feachem R W 1963, A GUIDE TO PREHISTORIC SCOTLAND, London, 72, 105.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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