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Caisteal an Dunriachaidh, fort 1520m north of Achnabat

A Scheduled Monument in Aird and Loch Ness, Highland

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Latitude: 57.3537 / 57°21'13"N

Longitude: -4.3282 / 4°19'41"W

OS Eastings: 260022

OS Northings: 831639

OS Grid: NH600316

Mapcode National: GBR H9P8.VJK

Mapcode Global: WH3FW.HF5G

Entry Name: Caisteal an Dunriachaidh, fort 1520m N of Achnabat

Scheduled Date: 1 March 2007

Last Amended: 16 July 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM11817

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Dores

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Aird and Loch Ness

Traditional County: Inverness-shire


The monument comprises the remains of a small fort, probably dating to the Iron Age. It is sited on a rocky ridge, at a height of approximately 260m above sea level, rising from Ashie Moor between Loch Ness and Loch Duntelchaig.

The ridge runs NNE to SSW. It is protected in the E and SE by a cliff and in the N and W by a rocky scarp, with the only easy access by a slope from the SW. A drystone rubble wall surrounds the highest part of the ridge, of which only the W half survives, enclosing a roughly circular area measuring about 30m in diameter. Where best preserved, in the SW, the wall spreads to 3.8m thick and stands to a height of up to 2m. A second wall of similar thickness extends from the cliff-edge on the SE to take in a terrace below the inner wall and swing in a gentle arc to end on the top of the cliff on the NE. Both walls have an entrance in the SW, partially blocked by tumble. The remains of a third line of defence can be seen on the NW, where a ditch with an outer upcast bank, now 0.6m high, flanks the base of the ridge to join the outer wall. Archaeologists have previously recorded traces of this third defensive circuit, 7 m out from the second wall, in the heather on the SW side. No structures have been noted in the interior, apart from a wet hollow which may have served as a cistern.

The area to be scheduled is polygonal on plan, to include the visible remains and an area around in which evidence relating to their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics: The location, form and size of the monument suggest it represents the remains of a small fort, probably of Iron Age date. It is defended by inner and outer stone ramparts crowning a rocky outcrop, commanding the lower lying ground of Ashie Moor, where extensive remains of prehistoric settlement have been identified. Despite much of the ramparts having tumbled downslope, sufficient remains to define accurately the course of the defences, and we can expect preservation of archaeological deposits relating to the defensive circuit and settlement within the interior. It therefore has the potential to reveal valuable information about local variations in domestic architecture and building use, as well as the character of late prehistoric fortifications.

Contextual characteristics: As the remains of a small fortified settlement, the monument has the potential to reveal much about house building and domestic life as well as the character of fortifications in the later prehistoric communities of NE Scotland. Comparing and contrasting it to other small forts in elevated locations along Strathnairn, such as the fort by Milton of Tordarroch, and to the many others occurring all over the Highland zone of Scotland, can create an understanding of regional identity and society. The monument complements the other types of prehistoric settlement sites identified close by in Strathnairn, to provide a fuller picture of prehistoric landscape and society in the region over time.

The inhabitants of forts lived in round, thatched timber (sometimes stone) houses. The smaller forts, such as this, would have accommodated only one or two round houses. Although most small forts are thought to date to the second half of the 1st millennium BC, within the Iron Age, some forts were built or re-occupied up to AD 1000. Archaeological evidence from other forts in eastern Scotland suggest that the largest defensive enclosures are of relatively early date (some as early as the Late Bronze Age, about 800 BC) and that forts became progressively smaller in the course of the 1st millennium BC. If there is any relationship between the size of fortifications and their social or political significance, power appears to have been focussed in the hands of progressively smaller groups of people. The fort at Ashie Moor would probably have been the stronghold of a relatively small group, who held sway over the agricultural land overlooked by the fort.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it is represents good surviving evidence of a late prehistoric fortified settlement, an important element in our inherited, fragmented picture of prehistoric settlement in Strathnairn. It has the potential to make a significant contribution to our knowledge of fortifications, vernacular architecture, landuse and society in this locality and, by association, the rest of Scotland in the later prehistoric period. The loss of this site in this locality would affect our future ability to appreciate and understand the prehistoric landscape and its inhabitants.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NH63SW 49. The Highland Council SMR records the monument as NH63SW0049.

Aerial photographs:

RCAHMS 1994 C26145, Caisteal an Dunriachaidh, fort.

RCAHMS 1994 C26355CN, Caisteal an Dunriachaidh, fort.

RCAHMS 1994 C26354CN, Caisteal an Dunriachaidh, fort.

Highland Council, H/L 003042, Caisteal an Dunriachaidh.

Highland Council, 1984 84022026, Fort. Caisteal an Dunriachaidh.


Close-Brooks J 1995, EXPLORING SCOTLAND'S HERITAGE: THE HIGHLANDS, Exploring Scotland's Heritage Series, 133, Edinburgh.

Feachem R W 1963, A GUIDE TO PREHISTORIC SCOTLAND, 126. London.

ISSFC 1885, 'Excusions to Strathnairn', TRANS INVERNESS SCI SOC FLD CLUB, 1, 1875-80, 35.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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