Ancient Monuments

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Rait Castle, enclosure 320m north east of

A Scheduled Monument in Nairn and Cawdor, Highland

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Latitude: 57.5536 / 57°33'13"N

Longitude: -3.8518 / 3°51'6"W

OS Eastings: 289286

OS Northings: 853012

OS Grid: NH892530

Mapcode National: GBR J8VR.QB2

Mapcode Global: WH4G8.TD0P

Entry Name: Rait Castle, enclosure 320m NE of

Scheduled Date: 15 October 2007

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM11805

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: enclosure (domestic or defensive)

Location: Nairn

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Nairn and Cawdor

Traditional County: Nairnshire


The monument is a bivallate, roughly circular enclosure visible as a cropmark on oblique aerial photographs and interpreted as the site of a later prehistoric defended settlement. It lies in arable land 3km SSE of Nairn at a height of approximately 60m above sea level.

Cropmarks represent negative archaeological features, the fills of which retain more moisture than the surrounding subsoil, resulting in the enhanced growth of the crops above. The enclosure appears to consist of two concentric ditches measuring approximately 50m by 40m in diameter overall. These enclose the relatively flat top of a natural hillock. No convincing archaeological features are yet identified from existing aerial photography in the interior of the enclosure.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, to include the remains visible on the aerial photography and an area around in which evidence relating to the construction and use of the site 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: Archaeologists have identified the double-ditched enclosure from aerial photography where it is visible as a clearly identifiable cropmark within an arable field. As a bivallate defended settlement or fort, it is a rare class of monument in the lowlands of the NE of Scotland. The boundary ditches and interior of the monument are likely to preserve archaeological deposits. It therefore has the potential to reveal valuable information about local variations in prehistoric settlement.

Contextual characteristics: The prehistoric settlement record N of the Mounth is mainly composed of unenclosed roundhouses and souterrains, but a small number of enclosed settlements are also scattered across this area. With the exception of a handful of rectilinear examples, these are mainly circular or oval enclosed by single ditches 2m to 5m wide, and ranging from 20m to 80m in internal diameter. Aerial photographs reveal few details of the interior of these enclosures. The bivallate enclosure at Raitcastle is clearly a rare form of monument in the region, but more common in the lowlands of southern Scotland. The possibility exists that the two ditches are not contemporary but represent different phases in the life of the monument.

The dating of oval and circular enclosures is uncertain. The only excavated examples in the region have provided radiocarbon later prehistoric dates in the 1st millennium BC (the end of the Bronze Age and the early Iron Age).

As the remains of a late prehistoric enclosed settlement site, the monument has the potential to reveal much about domestic life and the economic base in the later prehistoric communities of NE Scotland. Comparing and contrasting it to other lowland cropmark sites and extant upland enclosures, both within and outside the region, can create an understanding of regional identity, economy and society. Sites such as this are rare survivors in the ploughlands of NE Scotland and the few identified so far occur mainly on the gravel flood plains of the major rivers flowing into the Moray Firth.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it is rare surviving evidence of later prehistoric defended settlements in the ploughlands of this region. It has the potential to make a significant contribution to our knowledge of landuse and society in this locality and, by association, the rest of Scotland in the later prehistoric period. The loss of this rare site in this area would affect our future ability to appreciate and understand the prehistoric landscape and its inhabitants.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the monument as NH85SE 3. It is recorded in the Highland Council SMR as NH85SE0003.

Aerial photographs:

RCAHMS, 1976 N/242, Raitcastle, earthwork.

RCAHMS, 1977 N/260, Raitcastle, earthwork.



Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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