Ancient Monuments

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Forse House, settlement, field system, burnt mounds and cairns WSW of

A Scheduled Monument in Wick and East Caithness, Highland

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Latitude: 58.2965 / 58°17'47"N

Longitude: -3.3576 / 3°21'27"W

OS Eastings: 320520

OS Northings: 935017

OS Grid: ND205350

Mapcode National: GBR L62S.W4D

Mapcode Global: WH6F3.DQDN

Entry Name: Forse House, settlement, field system, burnt mounds and cairns WSW of

Scheduled Date: 30 January 2003

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM7242

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: burnt mound; Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cairn (type uncert

Location: Latheron

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Wick and East Caithness

Traditional County: Caithness


The monument consists of an extensive area of remains, including those of deserted farmsteads of prehistoric and more recent date, together with associated cultivation remains of various dates, small cairns and burnt mounds.

The monument is adjacent to the excavated late prehistoric complex of the Wag of Forse. It appears to contain elements which are earlier than the principal buildings at the Wag (burnt mounds, hut circles, possibly cairns), and later (post-medieval farmsteads and associated cultivation traces and fields). It is possible that elements of the field system originate in prehistoric times.

The western part of the area contains at least ten circular foundations, all of the size and type normally referred to as hut circles. These should be of prehistoric date, perhaps late Bronze Age or early Iron Age (first millennium BC). These hut circles appear to be associated with a partly preserved pattern of irregular, broadly sub-rectangular, field enclosures.

In the eastern part of the area, there are the remains of at least four post-medieval farmsteads, characterised by wall footings of rectangular dwellings with associated outbuildings. These are accompanied by extensive and well-preserved traces of pre-Improvement plough cultivation, in the form of areas of sweeping rig-and-furrow. There are at least two phases of field boundary, and the earlier may incorporate prehistoric traces.

Several hut circles, and also some less well-defined foundations, underlie the second phase of field boundaries but not the first. The rig-and-furrow cultivation also appears to respect these earlier sites, but this may be a product of differential preservation. Beside a small stream near the centre of the area are three mounds, at least two of which contain burnt stone, suggesting that they may be burnt mounds, usually ascribed a Bronze Age date (between 1500 and 500 BC).

In the SE part of the area, on either side of the same stream, are two mounds which appear to be the remains of prehistoric burial cairns: the one to the NE has several upright slabs protruding, suggesting a disturbed burial chamber, which might imply a Neolithic date (2000 BC or earlier).

The area to be scheduled includes the various hut circles and farmsteads and their associated fields and cultivation remains, the burnt mounds and cairns, together with an area of land between and around these features, in which evidence related to their construction and use is likely to survive. The area is bounded on the SW by the boundary of a track (the boundary itself is excluded from scheduling), and on the S by the N bank of a small stream.

Its E boundary is partly formed by the W bank of an open drain, while in the central part of its N side its boundary abuts that of the recently extended scheduled area around the Wag of Forse itself. This area measures a maximum of 500m E-W by 475m N-S, as indicated in red on the accompanying map.

Excluded from the scheduling is the small fenced area around the spring, Tobar Bhuinn, which provides a private water supply; the water tank to the E; the pipe running from the spring towards the house it supplies; and an area 1m wide overlying that pipe, to allow for maintenance and repair.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument comprises a rich and varied assemblage of settlement and cultivation remains ranging over several millennia: from at least the late Bronze Age up until approximately the late eighteenth century AD. Individually, the hut circles and associated field system, the burnt mounds and the post-medieval farmsteads and associated cultivation remains would each be worthy of scheduling for their individual contributions to the understanding of their respective periods.

Taken as a group, together with the other less obviously important sites such as the probable burial cairns, they constitute a remarkable assemblage with extended time-depth and great complexity. The strong possibility of post-medieval adherence to prehistoric field patterns is in itself of outstanding interest, as is the clear phasing of different elements, which is visible based on field observation. This is a remarkable range of sites to find in such a compact area, and offers a great opportunity to study the changing systems used to win a living from what is now agriculturally marginal land.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as ND 23 SE 6, 9, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, and ND 23 NW 7, 11, 12, 13, 17, 37, 38, 59.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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