Ancient Monuments

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Old Miller's Cottage, motte 95m ESE of

A Scheduled Monument in Nairn and Cawdor, Highland

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Latitude: 57.5704 / 57°34'13"N

Longitude: -3.7855 / 3°47'7"W

OS Eastings: 293301

OS Northings: 854777

OS Grid: NH933547

Mapcode National: GBR K80Q.BP4

Mapcode Global: WH5H7.TZKB

Entry Name: Old Miller's Cottage, motte 95m ESE of

Scheduled Date: 27 September 2007

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM11644

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: motte

Location: Auldearn

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Nairn and Cawdor

Traditional County: Nairnshire


The monument comprises the remains of a later medieval motte visible as a rough grass-covered mound and associated low ditch and outer bank. It lies at the W end of a glacial ridge at about 40 m above sea level.

Mottes are mounds, usually artificial, which formed the foundations for timber (sometimes stone) castles. In Scotland these date from the 12th to the 13th centuries, appearing in the NE in the third quarter of the 12th century. They were generally accompanied by baileys (enclosed courtyards for ancillary buildings). As such, they were common expressions of control, influence and power over surrounding lands and were often located in association with local hunting forests.

The motte is oval on plan. The substantial mound is some 6.5 m high and makes use of the natural, glacial topography as part of its defensive construction. It is roughly conical in form and, with a flat summit measuring approximately 18 m by 7.5 m, it matches the shape and physical extent of other mottes. A broad, enclosing ditch measuring some 6 m wide survives on the N and E sides of the mound. On the S and W sides the ditch has been destroyed by a modern quarry and field boundary. Previous fieldwork has suggested that the remains of an associated bailey surround the motte, although this is now silted and was only visible in the monument's N and E quadrants. Previous records have identified a tentative association (and thus different interpretation) with an earlier cairn and stone alignment 200 m to the NW.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the motte and an area around in which evidence relating to its construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area excludes the top 30 cm of the track running along its W side and the modern fences that bound it on S and, for a short distance, on the N, to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's archaeological and historic significance can be expressed as follows.

Intrinsic characteristics: Despite the invasive nature of soil creep and localised disturbance, the monument retains a substantial proportion of its estimated original shape, extent and earthwork structure. This includes the artificial mound, remains of an enclosing ditch or part of the associated bailey and an undisturbed platform. There is potential for the recovery of evidence for timber structure and associated remains, and for this monument to add to the body of knowledge on medieval dispersed rural settlement.

Contextual characteristics: Around 300 mottes are known in Scotland, 100 or so from the NE of Scotland. Varying in form, they chart the extent of royal power, reflecting where land was granted to incomers in return for military service. The majority are found in peripheral parts of the kingdom where political unrest might be expected. Mottes therefore indicate where local power centres, often undocumented, are to be found. They also have 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 range of later medieval castle types that are found in Scotland

This monument is therefore representative of medieval defensive strongholds across Scotland. It can add to the wider understanding of the advance of power, land tenure and coastal defence during the period.

The position of the monument within view of the Moray Firth, located to the N of the Grampians / Mounth and to the E of the Cairngorms highlights the remote location such defensive structures can occupy.

It is a fairly obvious landscape marker and appears to be aligned with a series of apparently prehistoric monuments to the NW. There is potential to inform our understanding of prehistoric monuments by later peoples.

Associative character: While we still have much to learn about the date, form and development of mottes in Scotland, they reflect the introduction of new, southern political ideas (feudalism) and foreign forms of castle building. With its characteristically prominent form, the construction and occupation of a motte such as this would have spoken loudly of the presence of new lords and new ways of doing things.

National Importance.

This monument is of national importance because it retains a good proportion of its original form and field characteristics. It represents the advance of centralised, royal authority during the 12th and 13th centuries and can contribute to the relatively small body of knowledge relating to landuse, rural settlement and economy of the period in this part of Scotland. More specifically, evidence for dating the monument, its construction and use are all likely to survive and thus contribute to our understanding of how medieval castles developed in the NE, and in Scotland in general. Its physical presence and proximity to prehistoric monuments to the NW has undoubtedly contributed to the character of this coastal landscape throughout history.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the monument as NH95SW 8. It is recorded in the Highland SMR as NH95SW0007.


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

Yeoman P A 1988, MOTTES IN NORTHEAST SCOTLAND, Scot Archaeol Rev 5, 125-135.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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