Ancient Monuments

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Craig, two forts 650m SSW of

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

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Latitude: 55.1804 / 55°10'49"N

Longitude: -3.0403 / 3°2'25"W

OS Eastings: 333849

OS Northings: 587843

OS Grid: NY338878

Mapcode National: GBR 786J.LR

Mapcode Global: WH7YP.81HY

Entry Name: Craig, two forts 650m SSW of

Scheduled Date: 16 March 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12740

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Westerkirk

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale East and Eskdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the upstanding remains of two prehistoric forts or a fort and outlying earthworks visible as a stone bank enclosure and a section of bank and ditch. It lies on the lower northern summit of Craig Hill around 250m above sea level and overlooking the River Esk to the east. The monument was last scheduled in 1986, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains: the present rescheduling rectifies this and improves the associated documentation.

The inner enclosure, which archaeologists interpret as a later prehistoric fort, is irregular on plan and covers at least 0.12ha. It measures 42m NW-SE by 36m transversely and is enclosed by a stony wall up to 3.1m thick and 0.5m high. The wall has been partially robbed and modern cairns using original stones from the wall have been piled up on its N side. The entrance is on the W side and accesses lower ground by a partially built up trackway. Within the interior of the enclosure lies at least one round house to the south. It is visible as a platform measuring 6.5m in diameter. There are possibly other roundhouses indicated by the back or front slopes of platforms.

The outlying, and possibly earlier, defences consist of a turf bank and external ditch that run to the south and west of the stone fort. At either end the bank extends further than the ditch. The bank measures up to 5m thick and 0.7m high and the ditch measures up to 5m thick and 0.6m deep. There is a possible entrance on the W side, however the southern half of this area has been disturbed by a later stock enclosure. It is unclear whether the defences were ever completed or whether they extended to the north and east in a different form, such as a palisade.

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 and for its support and preservation, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument survives in an area of grazing and is visible as a stone enclosure with internal features and outlying earthworks. It is possibly an example of a small Iron-Age fort (the later date suggested by the stone used to build the inner enclosure) with outlying earthworks or placed within an earlier example. It is unclear whether the outer earthworks were ever completed.

The monument is a good example of a complex site, particularly because of the inter-relationship between the inner and outer defences. There is possibility of longevity at the site if the later fort is built on the site of an earlier unfinished or abandoned one. If the defences are all part of the same occupation then its complexity could indicate a later date or multiple phases.

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. Sufficient remains and archaeological deposits will almost certainly be preserved to accurately define the course of the defences. The upstanding banks may contain evidence of timber lacing or a palisade, which would help inform our understanding of how the defences were built. Potential also exists for preservation of a buried soil beneath the bank and stone walls and for environmental remains to survive within the fills of the ditches. This evidence could provide information about the environment within which Iron-Age people built the settlement. Inside the enclosure there may be archaeological evidence relating to the construction and occupation of the site and the daily lives of the people who occupied them. In particular, this type of site is likely to have evidence of roundhouses and domestic remains. Buried deposits also have the potential to add to our understanding of the economy of the prehistoric period.

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 complex defences of this site make it rare. If the outlying defences are contemporary with the stone fort then this is unique in this area as no other similar sites have been found. However, if they are part of an earlier fort they are also rare because it is possible that they were either never completed or include a combination of timber-built and earth-built defences.

The monument is situated on the lower northern summit of Craig Hill around 525m west of the River Esk and around 300m to the south of Little Hill fort, one of the largest forts in Eskdale. The entrance faces west towards Glenbeg Sike (a tributary of the Esk) and Bombie Hill. Comparing and contrasting the settlement to other nearby examples (as Iron-Age settlements tend to be constructed in close proximity to each other) 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, structure of society and expansion of prehistoric settlement in the area. It may also allow us to begin to learn more about population size, expansion and movement within this period. For example, by analysing the inter-relationship of the two possible forts on the site or comparing them with the larger fort nearby on Little Hill.

The construction of forts, including size, form, features and placement in the landscape are all important in understanding this type of monument. This monument has a complex defence system and the internal enclosure is one of the smallest in Eskdale, which may indicate a smaller type of settlement with different functions. By comparing this monument to others of its type we can 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 Eskdale, 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 settlement along the river Esk. Well preserved with good field characteristics that demonstrate a relatively rare site with complex defences, the site's multi-phase elements also indicate an apparently long sequence of development. It has the potential to make a significant contribution to our knowledge of fortifications, contemporary architecture, land use and society in this locality and by association 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 bank and in the interior of the monument 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 would affect our future ability to appreciate and understand the prehistoric landscape and its inhabitants.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



This site was first scheduled as SM Index No 4366.

RCAHMS record the site as NY38NW 8.; the Dumfries and Galloway SMR as MDG7951.


Jobey, G 1971 'Early settlements in eastern Dumfriesshire', Trans Dumfriesshire Galloway Natur Hist Antiq Soc, 48, 48, 94.

Kokeza, Nives 2008 Later Prehistoric Enclosed Site Evidence of Southern Scotland, Brit Archaeol Rep Brit Ser 469.

RCAHMS 1997 Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, RCAHMS, Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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