Ancient Monuments

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Dunearn, fort 510m south of

A Scheduled Monument in Nairn and Cawdor, Highland

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Latitude: 57.4438 / 57°26'37"N

Longitude: -3.7803 / 3°46'49"W

OS Eastings: 293242

OS Northings: 840674

OS Grid: NH932406

Mapcode National: GBR K911.M28

Mapcode Global: WH5J0.X50B

Entry Name: Dunearn, fort 510m S of

Scheduled Date: 23 July 1964

Last Amended: 20 March 2007

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2470

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Ardclach

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Nairn and Cawdor

Traditional County: Nairnshire


The monument comprises the remains of a later prehistoric fort, visible as a series of turf- covered walls around the contours of a rocky outcrop. The monument was first scheduled in 1964 and is being rescheduled in order to clarify the extent of the scheduling.

The monument measures around 245 m from NE to SW by 45 m transversely, within two ruinous turf-covered walls. The inner wall conforms to the lip of the summit of the hill and is spread to about 4 m. The outer wall, visible as a stony scarp averaging some 3.5 m wide, is separated from the inner by a terrace which varies in width from 1.5 to 3 m. Given the close proximity of each, it is likely that these walls form the remains of a single timber-laced rampart. In 1963 the archaeologist Feachem recorded signs of vitrification on the SE sector of the 'inner' wall. Although vegetation obscures this area today, any vitrification is likely to have been the result of intense fire.

A gap in the NE may mark an entrance to the fort, however it is likely that the main entrance was located to the S, where the approach is easier. A gap in the walls at the head of a rough track which leads up the slope from the SW may represent the original approach. However, it is likely also to have been utilised in recent history, during cultivation of the interior of the fort, which took place until 1906. As a result of cultivation, the centre of the fort is now featureless. Downslope to the S of the entrance, there is evidence of scarping in two places. On the W slopes, traces of terracing can be seen. These may represent the remnants of outworks defending more vulnerable slopes.

The area to be scheduled is an irregular polygon on plan, to include the fort and an area around in which evidence for its 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 monument has considerable potential to enhance understanding of Iron Age domestic and defensive activity. The external features of the monument are reasonably well preserved and it is likely that archaeologically significant deposits relating to the construction, use and abandonment of the fort remain in place. The significance is increased by documentary accounts of evidence of vitrification within the ramparts, suggesting an episode of intense fire at the outer defences of the monument. This was undoubtedly an important event in the history of the monument, and the vitrified stone has the potential to provide dating material which would further clarify the chronology of the site. In addition, it is likely that deposits survive that could provide data relating to the later prehistoric environment. Although the inner area of the hillfort has been levelled by ploughing, it is likely that buried archaeological deposits survive that could provide further information on the nature of settlement, occupation and abandonment of the site.

Contextual characteristics: The prominence of this crag within the Findhorn Valley means that this monument would have formed a significant and imposing part of the landscape in later prehistory, and would have attracted settlement through the need for defence and/or display. The monument is the only known fort in the parish of Ardclach, and lies on the E extent of the distribution of hillforts in the N of Scotland. Around 180 hillforts are known of in the Highland region. Of these, around 30 are confirmed to have evidence for vitrification. Dunearn therefore forms part of an important subset of highland forts, and has parallels in construction and size with a number of hillforts in the Inverness-shire area.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it is a well-preserved example of a poorly understood monument type. It could have formed a significant part of the landscape of later prehistoric times and been a central place for local communities and emerging chiefdoms in the need for defence, communal events and the demonstration and display of status. The loss of this monument would detract from a future ability to interpret the surrounding landscape and the nature of the societies that occupied it in later prehistory. It loss would also impact on our ability to understand the date and nature of occupation of forts throughout Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the monument as NH94SW 1.


Feachem R W 1963, A GUIDE TO PREHISTORIC SCOTLAND, London, 140.

Keillar I 1974, 'Ardclach, iron slag', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT 47.

Nisbet H C 1975, A geological approach to vitrified forts, part II: bedrock and building stone, Science and Archaeology, 15, 13, No.53.

RCAHMS 1978, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF NAIRN DISTRICT, HIGHLAND REGION, The archaeological sites and monuments of Scotland series No 5, 11, No. 44, Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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