Ancient Monuments

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Holme Mains, motte 210m south east of

A Scheduled Monument in Inverness Ness-side, Highland

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Latitude: 57.4483 / 57°26'53"N

Longitude: -4.2455 / 4°14'43"W

OS Eastings: 265346

OS Northings: 842006

OS Grid: NH653420

Mapcode National: GBR H9W1.B19

Mapcode Global: WH3FJ.R1JV

Entry Name: Holme Mains, motte 210m SE of

Scheduled Date: 28 December 1971

Last Amended: 9 March 2007

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3078

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: motte

Location: Inverness and Bona

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Inverness Ness-side

Traditional County: Inverness-shire


The monument comprises a small dome-shaped motte that lies on a promontory above the Holm Burn. The monument was originally scheduled in 1971, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains (particularly the northern segment of the motte, and any associated ditch and upcast rampart); the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The motte has a diameter of about 14 m and rises to a maximum height of around 5 m. A section of well-defined ditch with a width of about 8 m, and with an upcast rampart along its outer edge, runs around the eastern segment. There appears to have been a platform around the southwestern segment of the motte, above a steep incline towards the burn. The site's natural defensive qualities are the reason why the builders chose to site and construct a motte here; they also govern its design.

Beyond a field boundary that cuts across the northern segment of the motte, there is no ditch and the motte itself has been damaged; both the damage and the absence of ditch may be a consequence of farming activity. But there is also the possibility that there was a quadrangular bailey on the N side, since there appear to be earth ramparts along the NW and eastern sides of the field. However, since these could be the consequence of a combination of farming activity and the natural fall of the land on those sides, the earthworks cannot be associated with the motte with certainty, and so the scheduled area excludes these.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around in which evidence for their construction and use may survive, as marked in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's archaeological significance can be characterised on the following criteria:

Intrinsic characteristics: Despite some damage to the motte itself, and the possible loss of the ditch on the northern and western sides, this motte is a well-preserved example of its type. Much of the profile of the motte and a section of the ditch and upcast rampart survive in a clearly visible state, though it is uncertain if what appears to have been a quadrangular bailey to the N was created as such or has been a consequence of modern agricultural activity.

Contextual characteristics: Mottes, together with their associated features of ditches and ramparts, represent the earthwork substructures of a type of fortified lordly dwelling that became common across the British Isles from perhaps as early as the later eleventh century, and that archaeologists now think to have been still under construction in some parts of Scotland into the fourteenth century. When occupied, they would probably have been largely invisible beneath the timber residential towers and palisades that they supported. One of their advantages was their rapid and relatively cheap construction and that they were particularly attractive in areas that were being colonised or subdued. It is possible that they built this motte at one of those periods when royal control was being more firmly established over the periodically disruptive province of Moray, and perhaps after David I's suppression of the rising of Malcolm MacHeth and Oengus of Moray in 1130. It may have been constructed to provide a residence and fortifiable base by one of the landholders introduced into the area by the crown in order to establish more effective centralised control.

National importance

The monument is of national importance for its potential to increase our understanding of one type of medieval lordly residence, and of the regional variations that we may find in its design and location. It is of complementary significance for the archaeological potential of the site: since the earthworks are so well preserved, it is highly likely that evidence will survive below ground level for the timber structures they were designed to support.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NH64SE29, Holm House; Highland SMR as NH64SE0029.


ISSFC 1885, 'Visit to the Holm Burn', TRANS INVERNESS SCI SOC FLD CLUB Vol. 1, 1875-80, 84.

Yeoman P 1988, 'Mottes in Northeast Scotland', SCOTTISH ARCHAEOLOGICAL REVIEW 5, 125-133.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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