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Fairholm, fort 430m NNE of

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.1212 / 55°7'16"N

Longitude: -3.3714 / 3°22'17"W

OS Eastings: 312634

OS Northings: 581615

OS Grid: NY126816

Mapcode National: GBR 49W7.W0

Mapcode Global: WH6XL.5JTW

Entry Name: Fairholm, fort 430m NNE of

Scheduled Date: 3 March 1964

Last Amended: 7 November 2007

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2385

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Dryfesdale

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises a large circular fort measuring approximately 80m NNE/SSW by 60m ENE/WSW within three well-defined concentric ditches. Likely to be of Iron-age date, the fort is situated just off the summit of a low hill at about 75m above sea level, in a natural defensive position overlooking Turnmuir Burn, Dryfe Water, and the River Annan.

Preserved as a buried feature and visible on aerial photographs, the circular fort sits just off the summit of a small hill overlooking low-lying ground between the Turnmuir Burn, the River Annan, and Dryfe Water. The fort is defined by three concentric ditches, each likely to have been associated with a rampart, and is preserved in a field of improved pasture that is regularly ploughed. The interior of the fort measures approximately 80m NNE/SSW by 60m ENE/WSW within an inner ditch up to 4m wide. The medial ditch measures approximately 2.5m wide, and an outer ditch approximately 1.5m wide. The inner ditch and medial ditch are spaced about 7m apart, and the medial and outer ditch approximately 5m apart. A possible entrance may be on the west side of the fort. Excavation in the 1950s revealed a palisade trench buried beneath a now ploughed-out turf rampart. A fence runs immediately adjacent to the S boundary of the fort.

The area to be scheduled is a cropped circle on plan to include the fort, its ditches and ploughed-out ramparts, and an area around within which evidence relating to its construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area extends up to, but excludes, the fence and field to the south of the fort.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's archaeological significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

Preserved as a negative (buried) feature and visible as a cropmark, the monument is an excellent example of a multi-vallate defended site, likely to be late 1st millennium BC or early 1st millennium AD in date, surviving in an area of high agricultural activity. Although the interior has been regularly ploughed, buried deposits inside the fort may preserve evidence relating to potential domestic structures and economy, which may enhance our understanding of the social structures and domestic architecture of the Iron-age people who built and used this monument. It is likely that a rampart would have lain just inside each of the ditches, and potential exists for preservation of a buried soil not only beneath the ramparts but also within the ditches, providing evidence of the environment within which Iron-age people built the fort. As has been partially shown by excavation, the ditches and ploughed-out ramparts may also contain deposits and archaeological features relating to the construction and occupation of the site, and its association with possible surrounding field systems. It is possible that the multiple ramparts and ditches may represent several phases of construction, which may be why a distinct entrance is not evident from the aerial photographs.

Contextual characteristics

This monument has the capacity to contribute towards a better understanding of forts and defended settlements, particularly those sited on low rises in or adjacent to the floors of valleys, as most forts that are characteristic of the wider distribution of Iron-age sites in eastern Dumfries and Galloway are located on the crests of hills above 250m above sea level. Forts are often located nearby to smaller sites such as scooped or enclosed settlements, suggesting either a potential hierarchy if the sites are contemporary, or reflecting a change in social structure and economy and thus preferred settlement location if the sites are sequential. Comparing and contrasting the monument to other nearby forts (as Iron-age forts and defended settlements tend to be constructed in close proximity to each other) can enable an understanding of how such sites are positioned within the landscape, as well as provide enhanced contexts for the understanding of Iron-age economy and structure of society. We can use information gained from the preservation and study of this site to gain an insight into the wider knowledge of Iron-age forts across Scotland.

Associative characteristics

The monument is named on the Ordnance Survey (OS) 1st edition map as being a 'camp', and is depicted as having three concentric ditches on the north, east, and south sides, each associated with an inner rampart, and with a counterscarp depicted outside the outer ditch. The OS 2nd edition map, in contrast, just annotates the monument as being the 'site of a fort'. Roy depicted the fort in 1769 as a square enclosure with upstanding earthworks; this depiction probably lead to the site being mistakenly ascribed by the OS as a Roman signalling fortlet, with its elevated position 600m south-east of the adjacent Roman camp.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular to Iron-age forts located in slightly atypical locations when compared to the wider Iron-age defended domestic landscape. It forms an intrinsic element of the later prehistoric settlement pattern along Dryfe Water and the River Annan. Domestic remains and artefacts from forts have the potential to tell us about wider prehistoric society, its architecture, how people lived, where they came from, who they had contacts with, provide us with evidence of native-Roman interaction, and may offer an insight into the function of forts. Archaeological deposits preserved beneath ...

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as NY18SW 12.


Christison D 1891, 'A general view of the forts, camps, and motes of Dumfriesshire, with a detailed description of those in Upper Annandale, and an introduction to the study of Scottish Motes' PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 25, 251-2, No. 60.

Macdonald J 1894, 'Notes on the "Roman Roads" of the one-inch Ordnance Survey map of Scotland. The Dumfriesshire Roads', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 28.

RCAHMS 1997, EASTERN DUMFRIESSHIRE: AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL LANDSCAPE, Edinburgh, HMSO, 4, 121, 134, 154, 173, 298, No. 634.


St Joseph J K 1952, 'Forts. From the Esk to Dalmakethar'. In Clarke J et al (eds.) 1952, THE ROMAN OCCUPATION OF SOUTH-WESTERN SCOTLAND, Glasgow, 98-101.

St Joseph J K 1965, 'Air reconnaissance in Britain, 1961-4', J Roman Stud 55, 98-101.

St Joseph J K 1976, 'Air reconnaissance of Roman Scotland, 1939-75', Glasgow Archaeol J. 4, 6.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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