Ancient Monuments

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Dryfesdalegate, fort 75m SSE of

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.1284 / 55°7'42"N

Longitude: -3.3864 / 3°23'11"W

OS Eastings: 311692

OS Northings: 582433

OS Grid: NY116824

Mapcode National: GBR 49S4.MF

Mapcode Global: WH6XK.YCKC

Entry Name: Dryfesdalegate, fort 75m SSE of

Scheduled Date: 22 January 2008

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12002

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Dryfesdale

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises an oval fort measuring approximately 60m by 50m internally, and defended by three concentric close-set ditches. Likely to be of Iron-age date, the fort is situated at about 60m above sea level in a naturally defensive position overlooking Dryfe Water.

Visible as slight upstanding earthworks surrounding a low hilltop, and also preserved as a buried feature and visible on aerial photographs, the oval fort sits on a promontory with a steep drop to the W and a gentle slope to the N. A series of three concentric ditches run from the S side of the site around to the E side, and probably continue around the N side, where trees mask any features. Defences were probably not needed on the W side, due to the natural steep scarp. The inner ditch is approximately 6m wide, the middle ditch 4m wide, and the outer ditch 4.5m wide. It is likely that a rampart existed inside of each ditch, and indeed three ramparts plus a counterscarp are depicted on the Ordnance Survey (OS) First Edition map of the monument. A fence encircles the fort on its N and W side, and a second fence cuts W/E across the S part of the site, turning to run S/N across the E part of the site. The monument currently lies partly in paddock, partly in cattle pasture, and partly in woodland. Although ploughing in the past has denuded the earthworks, the faint trace of one of the ditches can be seen enclosing the hilltop.

The area to be scheduled is an irregular polygon on plan, to include the fort, its ditches, and an area around within which evidence relating to its construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area extends up to, but does not include, the fence forming the E boundary of the monument. To allow for ease of maintenance, the above ground elements of the fences inside the N, W, and S edges of the scheduled area are excluded from the schedule.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Preserved as both a negative (buried) feature visible as a cropmark and as a faint earthwork, the monument is an excellent example of a multi-vallate defended site, likely to be late first millennium BC or early first millennium AD in date, surviving in an area of agricultural activity. Although the interior has been cultivated in the past, evidence relating to potential domestic structures and economy may be preserved as buried deposits inside the fort, which would enhance our understanding of the social structure and domestic architecture of this period. Potential exists for preservation of a buried soil not only within the three concentric ditches but also beneath the ploughed out remains of the ramparts and counterscarp. This may provide evidence of the environment within which later prehistoric people built the fort. The ditches may contain deposits and archaeological features relating to the construction, occupation, and use of the site, and its association with possible surrounding field systems. The ditches may represent several phases of construction, which may be why no entrance is evident from the aerial photographs.

Contextual characteristics

This monument has the capacity to contribute towards a better understanding of forts and defended settlements, particularly those sited on low rises in the floors of valleys, as most forts that characterise the wider distribution of Iron-age sites in eastern Dumfries and Galloway are located on the crests of hills above 250m above sea level. Forts are often located near to smaller sites such as scooped or enclosed settlements. This suggests either a potential hierarchy if the sites are contemporary, or reflects a change in social structure and economy and thus preferred settlement location if the sites are sequential. Comparing and contrasting the settlement to other nearby forts can enable an understanding of how such sites are positioned within the landscape, as well as provide enhanced contexts to improve our understanding of the Iron-age economy and structure of society. Information gained from the preservation and study of this site can be used to gain an insight into the wider knowledge of Iron-age forts across Scotland.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to inform us about Iron-age forts located in slightly atypical locations when compared to the wider Iron-age defended domestic landscape, yet which still form an intrinsic element of the later prehistoric settlement pattern along the River Annan and Dryfe Water. Domestic remains and artefacts from forts have the potential to tell us about wider prehistoric society, its architecture, how people lived, where they came from, who they had contacts with, provide evidence of native-Roman interaction, and may offer an insight into the function of forts. Archaeological deposits preserved beneath the ploughed out ramparts and within the ditches can provide information about what the contemporary environment looked like, how it was being managed by the prehistoric peoples who built and used the fort, and how field systems may be related to structures. Spatial analysis of similar sites may inform our understanding of patterns of landholding and the expansion of settlement. Its loss would impede our ability to understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape both in eastern Dumfries and Galloway and across Scotland, as well as our knowledge of Iron-age social structure, economy, and building practices.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NY18SW 9.


Christison D 1891, ?A general view of the forts, camps, and motes of Dumfriesshire, with a detailed description of those in Upper Annandale, and an introduction to the study of Scottish motes?, PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 25, 252, No. 61.



Simmonds S 1967, ?Dryfesdalegate, flints? DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT, 23.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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