Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

St John's Town of Dalry, motte

A Scheduled Monument in Dee and Glenkens, Dumfries and Galloway

We don't have any photos of this monument yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.


Latitude: 55.1065 / 55°6'23"N

Longitude: -4.1664 / 4°9'59"W

OS Eastings: 261888

OS Northings: 581268

OS Grid: NX618812

Mapcode National: GBR 4W.NF14

Mapcode Global: WH4TX.ZX44

Entry Name: St John's Town of Dalry, motte

Scheduled Date: 15 April 1937

Last Amended: 25 September 2019

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM1117

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: motte

Location: Dalry (Dumf & Galloway)

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Dee and Glenkens

Traditional County: Kirkcudbrightshire


The monument comprises the remains of a motte, a steep-sided artificial mound upon which the principal structures of a timber castle would have stood. It dates to the medieval period. The monument is visible as a well-defined earthwork located above the Water of Ken.

The visible element of the monument is a turf-covered, flat-topped and roughly circular mound of earth and stone. The mound is stands over 5m above the surrounding ground level and is enclosed on the north and west sides by a ditch about 1.5m in width. On the south and east sides the ditch has been filled in by later land uses. The summit area measures around 38m northeast to southwest by 31m transversely.

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. Specifically excluded from the scheduling are all modern fences and boundaries.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (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 or appreciation of the past, or has the potential to do so, as a well preserved example of a motte, the earthwork remains of a medieval timber castle.  

b. The monument retains structural and other physical attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past. In particular to understanding of the use, construction and abandonment of earth and timber castles in Dumfries and Galloway and more widely across Scotland.

d. The monument is a particularly good example of a motte. It survives as a substantial earthwork with a high potential to retain the buried remains of timber buildings and associate archaeological deposits. It is therefore an important representative of this monument type.

e. The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding of the past in relation to its archaeological and historic interest, in particularly in relation earth and timber fortifications in Scotland. It has the potential to retain significant information about the date, environment, housing, status and lifestyle of its occupants of this site over an extended period.

f. The monument makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the historic landscape. The motte is located in a prominent position above the Ken Water at a traditional crossing point, with good visibility to and from the monument both up and down stream and from the approach to the monument to the west.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This 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 good example of a motte, the remains of a medieval earth and timber castle. This was a defensive structure which would have had a wooden palisade around the summit as well as structures such as a substantial wooden tower. The motte may have acted as an estate centre and a symbol of prestige for the owner and residents. Mottes are often have associated with baileys (enclosed courtyards adjacent to or surrounding the motte). At this motte a potential bailey may have been located to the south. However, this area is much altered and built over as St John's Town of Dalry has developed and does not form part of the scheduled monument.

The motte survives in a significant upstanding and extant form. Its profile, a truncated cone, is typical of this characteristic of this class of monument. It retains a good proportion of its estimated original shape, extent and structure despite the impact of subsequent localized disturbance around its base in the form of infilling of its perimeter ditch on the south and west sides. It is likely to preserve evidence of its construction, use and abandonment phases. It may also seal evidence for settlement or other activity that predated it.

There is high potential for the survival of evidence for timber buildings and defensive works on the summit of the motte. The enclosing ditch and other surviving features have an inherent capacity to retain palaeoenvironmental evidence within their fills. Such deposits can help us reconstruct the environmental conditions when the monument was built and in use, as well as details of the diet and economy of the inhabitants. The lack of evidence for stone buildings on the site suggests it may have been abandoned relatively early, enhancing the likelihood that archaeological remains of the timber castle are well preserved.

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

The National Record of the Historic Environment of Scotland records almost 340 motte sites in Scotland. Almost 25% of these (86) are located in Dumfries and Galloway. The motte at St John's Town of Dalry is large and comparison with other example can tell us about the construction, use and form of these early timber and earth castles. Varying in form, they chart the extent of royal and aristocratic power reflecting where land was granted by the Crown, often to incoming Anglo-Norman lords, in return for military service. Many are found in what were the peripheral parts of the medieval Scottish kingdom, where there were significant challenges to royal authority. Mottes were therefore local power centres that extended royal control to these areas but are often undocumented. They also have the potential to enable us to understand the impact of feudalism, patterns of land tenure and the evolution of the local landscape. Mottes are one of the ranges of later medieval castle types found in Scotland.

The motte at St Johns Town of Dalry was located at key crossing point of the Water of Ken above a natural ford. The location of the motte provided a method of controlling this crossing. The terrace upon which the motte sits is elevated above the river and the motte is a prominent landmark from north and south (along the river valley) and from the approach to the west.

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

The monument is traditionally associated with the Knights Hospitaller who were invited to Scotland by King David I in the 12th century. There is, however, no surviving documentary evidence to corroborate the link between St John's Town of Dalry and the Knights Hospitaller.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 64314 (accessed on 09/08/2019).

Cowan I B, Mackay P H R and Macquarrie A 1983. The Knights of St John of Jerusalem in Scotland. Edinburgh.

Tabraham, C 1984. 'Norman settlement in Galloway: recent fieldwork in the Stewartry', in Breeze, D J, Studies in Scottish antiquity presented to Stewart Cruden. Edinburgh. Pg. 102, no. 14.

Tabraham C 1997. Scotland's Castles. Batsford/ Historic Scotland.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Other nearby scheduled monuments is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself. is a Good Stuff website.