Ancient Monuments

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Doe's Hill, settlement 915m north of Kirtlehead

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

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Latitude: 55.1381 / 55°8'17"N

Longitude: -3.1445 / 3°8'40"W

OS Eastings: 327135

OS Northings: 583240

OS Grid: NY271832

Mapcode National: GBR 69H0.0X

Mapcode Global: WH6XP.N3TV

Entry Name: Doe's Hill, settlement 915m N of Kirtlehead

Scheduled Date: 27 January 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12739

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: settlement

Location: Middlebie

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale East and Eskdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the remains of a defended settlement likely to date to later prehistory. Two secondary scooped settlements inserted within the defences date from the same broad period and one contains traces of at least one roundhouse. The settlement is surrounded by an irregular earth bank with an external ditch, which is most prominent to the north, where a second bank and ditch are also visible. The site is located on the S slopes of Doe's Hill about 265m above sea level and has long views south to the Solway Firth.

The monument is an irregular oval shape in plan. The inner bank encloses an area measuring about 65m NNW-SSE by 50m transversely. This grass-grown bank is most prominent to the north where it survives up to 2.4m high. An external ditch bounds the northern part of the bank, fading out down-slope to the south and averaging around 1.4m deep. A low bank and ditch lies about 15m beyond these features to the west, north and east. This second bank and ditch resembles an outer defence to the settlement but may be a later enclosure bank. An entrance about 4m wide leads into the settlement from the south-west and a smaller break in the bank to the SSE is perhaps a secondary entrance. A subcircular hollow measuring about 25m N-S by 17m transversely lies to the north-west of the main entrance. A second irregular oval hollow measuring about 35m ENE-WSW by 17m transversely lies east of the entrance. These hollows are probably scooped settlements, which post-date the original enclosure. The eastern hollow contains earthworks suggesting the position of at least one roundhouse.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan to include the remains described 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 above-ground elements of a post-and-wire fence that crosses the eastern part of the monument are specifically excluded from the scheduling 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 monument is a later prehistoric defended settlement that survives in excellent condition. The hillside location and substantial bank and ditch suggest a measure of defensive intent on the part of the original inhabitants. However, the monument is of multi-phase construction and shows a clear development sequence from a single defended settlement to two scooped settlements, the latter not necessarily built or used at the same time. The earthworks of the two banks and ditches and the well preserved internal earthworks both suggest that complex and extensive archaeological remains survive below ground relating to the defences and to internal structural features. These remains can help us to understand more about both the defensive structures and the design, construction, phasing and use of internal dwellings. The potential presence of house remains from different phases may inform issues such as the duration of house occupation and the nature of abandonment processes. Negative features, such as post-holes, pits and ring-grooves may also contain archaeologically significant deposits, including artefacts and ecofacts. These materials could help us build up a picture of the activities that took place on the site and contribute to an understanding of domestic architecture, society, ritual, economy, agriculture and the environment and land cover at the time of occupation. Potential exists for the survival of buried land surfaces beneath the rampart and other standing features. These could preserve information about the environment before the site was constructed, adding to the time-depth represented by the remains. Particular potential exists to examine whether occupation of the site was continuous or characterised by abandonment and re-use; this will help to inform understanding of the transition from enclosed to unenclosed settlement towards the end of prehistory.

Contextual characteristics

Defended settlements 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 Middle Ages (around 1000 AD). It is clear that at some sites the first defensive systems began to appear in the Bronze Age. However, the majority of monuments excavated so far have produced evidence for Iron-Age occupation, ranging from the mid- to late 1st millennium BC.

By comparing this monument to others of its type we can learn more about defended settlements and associated dwellings in eastern Dumfriesshire and more widely across Scotland. For example, the second bank and ditch resemble a similar covering mound in one of the forts on Broomhillbank Hill in Applegarth parish. This monument is particularly important because the presence of two scooped settlements within the earlier enclosure demonstrates the abandonment and replacement of the original defended settlement. The abandonment of forts and defended settlements is paralleled elsewhere in southern Scotland. Researchers point to the appearance of open settlements of stone-founded round-houses in the eastern Borders, superimposed over derelict ramparts, as a particularly clear indication of this phenomenon. Researchers also identify a series of abandonments in Eskdale and Annandale where smaller enclosed settlements overlie earlier defences. Defences at Stidriggs, Knock Hill, Craigieburn, White Hill, Dalmakethar and Peat Hill all show evidence of replacement by later features. Peat Hill in Dryfesdale is directly comparable with this site; there a rectangular scooped settlement seems to have replaced an earlier defended settlement. Although the abandonment of forts and earthworks seems to be a recurring pattern in eastern Dumfriesshire, the dating of these changes remains difficult to establish, largely resting in turn on the dating of scooped settlements. On this basis, some forts and defended settlements may have been reused between the late 1st millennium BC and the 2nd or 3rd century AD. However, a gradual transition to open settlement should not be assumed; the defended settlements may have been abandoned at an earlier period, and reused during a later settlement expansion. Given the evidence for complex remains within this monument, both above and below ground, it has a high potential to contribute our understanding of these issues.

The monument also complements the other types of archaeological site in the vicinity, to provide a fuller picture of the development of landscape and society in the region over time. There is a potential relationship with a linear bank that climbs the S flank of Doe's Hill, overlain by rigs and turf-banked fields, before turning to the west and fading in an area of extensive cord rig. There is also potential to explore the relationship with an unenclosed settlement that lies 200m to the north.

Associative characteristics

The OS 1st and 2nd edition maps made in the later 19th century depict the monument and label it as a 'fort'.

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 study of defended settlements and scooped settlements in later prehistoric SW Scotland. It survives in excellent condition above ground but the lack of disturbance also suggests extensive and complex archaeological remains below the surface, particularly within the enclosure bank. The quality of the earthworks indicates high potential for survival of buried material such as structural remains, artefacts and ecofacts that were either buried when the monument was built or relate to its use or abandonment. It has a particular capacity to inform debate on changes in settlement type through time, particularly the relationship between enclosed and unenclosed settlement. It has the potential to tell us about wider prehistoric society, its architecture, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contacts with. Its importance is increased by proximity to other monuments of potentially contemporary date and the capacity it therefore has to inform us about the nature of relationships between monuments of different character. Spatial analysis of sites may inform our understanding of patterns of landholding and the expansion of settlement. Its loss or diminution would impede our ability to understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape both in Dumfries and Galloway and in other parts of Scotland, as well as our knowledge of later prehistoric social structure, economy and building practices.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NY28SE 6. The Dumfries and Galloway SMR records the site as MDG7537.


Jobey G 1971, 'Early settlements in eastern Dumfriesshire', Trans Dumfriesshire Galloway Natur Hist Antiq Soc, 3rd series, 48, 91-2, 94.

RCAHMS 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape. Edinburgh, The Stationery Office.

RCAHMS 1920, Seventh Report with Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the County of Dumfries, Edinburgh: HMSO.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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