Ancient Monuments

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Archwood Hill, fort

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.1813 / 55°10'52"N

Longitude: -3.4288 / 3°25'43"W

OS Eastings: 309114

OS Northings: 588376

OS Grid: NY091883

Mapcode National: GBR 48HJ.GG

Mapcode Global: WH6XC.91H8

Entry Name: Archwood Hill, fort

Scheduled Date: 11 January 1978

Last Amended: 8 May 2019

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM4091

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Johnstone

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the upstanding and buried remains of a fort, probably dating to the Iron Age (between around 800 BC and 400 AD). The fort has been recorded as cropmarks visible on aerial photographs. It is oval on plan, defined by four concentric ditches and an inner palisade. The upstanding remains of the outer bank and ditch survive at the southwest quadrant. One roundhouse has been identified as a cropmark in the interior. The monument occupies the northeast slope of Archwood Hill, at about 75m above sea level.

The fort measures around 86m in diameter within four concentric ditches. The two inner ditches are both around 3m wide and set about 5m apart, while the outer pair of ditches are 4-5m wide and set up to 8m apart. Entrance gaps through all four ditches are visible on the east-northeast. An inner palisade trench set concentrically with the innermost ditch has been recorded on the south and southwest. A roundhouse lies in the western section of the fort and measures about 9m in diameter. A section of the outermost rampart, standing up to around 40cm in height and spread to around 5m wide, survives around the southwest arc. The slight remains of the outer ditch is also visible. A short stretch of ditch extends north from the outer ditch for around 20m.

The scheduled area is irregular. It includes the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above ground elements of all post and wire fences and metal gates.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

National Importance

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following ways (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):

a.  The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the past as a fort dating to the Iron Age. In particular, it adds to our understanding of Iron Age society in southern Scotland and the function, use and development of forts and other defended sites.   

b.  The monument retains structural and other physical attributes which makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the past. In particular there is significant potential for the survival of buried archaeological deposits. Although only some features survive above the ground, the overall plan of the monument is clear and understandable. The monument can significantly add to our understanding of domestic settlement, agriculture and economy during the Iron Age.

d.  The monument is a particularly good example of a fort dating to the Iron Age, with complex defences and evidence of internal structures. It is therefore an important representative example of this monument type.

e.  The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding of the past. It can tell us about the character, development and use of forts, and the nature of Iron Age society, economy and social hierarchy in southern Scotland and further afield.  

f.   The monument makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the historic landscape by its association with a wider cluster of later prehistoric remains, its unusual landscape location on the slopes below the summit of the hill and position above a crossing point over the River Annan. 

Assessment of Cultural Significance

The statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The monument is a prehistoric fort which has been recorded as cropmarks on aerial photographs. It survives as both buried remains below the soil and the upstanding remains of a bank and ditch. Although features survive above ground only on the southwest of the fort, the overall plan of the monument is clear and understandable.

Excavations of similar monuments elsewhere for example Castle O'er, Dumfries and Galloway (scheduled monument SM651; Canmore ID 67376), Craigmarloch Wood, Inverclyde (scheduled monument SM4379; Canmore ID 42453), Jackschairs Wood (scheduled monument SM1597; Canmore ID 26551) and Dun Knock (scheduled monument SM9434; Canmore ID 26688), Perth and Kinross demonstrate that such forts were built and used between around 800 BC and 400 AD. They represent defended settlements that could have accommodated an extended family or small community.

There good potential for the survival of archaeological features and deposits, including occupation and abandonment debris, artefacts and environmental remains such as charcoal or pollen within the monument. It has the potential to add to our understanding of settlement, land-use and environment during the Iron Age. It has the potential to provide information about the economy, diet and social status of the occupants, as well as the structure of contemporary society and economy. Study of the monument's form and construction techniques compared with other forts would enhance our understanding of the development sequence of this site and of Iron Age forts in general.

The differing width and spacing of the two inner and two outer ditches could indicate an extended development sequence with the inner and outer pairs representing different phases of construction. Scientific study of this site would allow us to develop a better understanding of the nature and chronology of the fort, including its date of origin, the character of the remains and any possible development sequence.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

Forts and defended settlements are found throughout Scotland. The example at Archwood Hill is of particular significance because of its large size and complexity. It is the only example in Annandale defined by four ditches and one of only a small number displaying this level of complexity in Dumfriesshire.

It is likely related to the later prehistoric defended settlements in the area, including Broomhillbank Hill (scheduled monument SM12662; Canmore ID 66971), Woodend (Canmore ID 66906) and Gallaberry, Dryfeholm (scheduled monument SM655; Canmore ID 66869). There is potential to study these sites together to better understand their functions within the local communities, settlement hierarchy and possible chronological development in the area. The monument has the potential to enhance and broaden our understanding of prehistoric society and community as well as social organisation, land division and land use.

The fort occupies a prominent landscape position on the northeast slope of Archwood Hill. It is positioned on the slopes below the summit of the hill rather than enclosing the crest of the hillock. This unusual placement means the fort could not have been easily defended against attack from the southwest and suggests that defence may not have been the primary function of this monument. The monument has extensive views across the Annan Valley to the north and northeast and is positioned above a ford across the river Annan. It overlooks the location of the two later prehistoric palisaded enclosures (scheduled monument SM12712; Canmore ID 69496). The monument may have been positioned here to control movement along Annan Valley and across the ford and to maintain control over lower-lying settlement.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to this site's cultural significance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 66231 (accessed on 19/03/2019).

Dalgleish, C., Lelong, O., MacGregor, G. and Sneddon, D. (2009) Dunknock hillfort excavations 2009. Data Structure Report. Unpublished report. University of Glasgow. Available at (accessed on 26/03/2019).

Lock, G. and Ralston, I. 2017. Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland. [ONLINE] Available at: (accessed on 19/03/2019).

Poller, T. and Goldberg, M. 2007 Jackschairs Wood hillfort excavations. Data structure report. Unpublished report. University of Glasgow. Available at (accessed on 26/03/2019).

RCAHMS (1997) Eastern Dumfriesshire: an archaeological landscape. Edinburgh.

ScARF 2012 Hunter, F. and Carruthers, M. (eds) Iron Age Scotland Scottish Archaeological Research Framework: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Available online at (accessed on 19/03/2019).


HER/SMR Reference


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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