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Moss Castle, fort

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale South, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.0703 / 55°4'13"N

Longitude: -3.4289 / 3°25'43"W

OS Eastings: 308855

OS Northings: 576023

OS Grid: NY088760

Mapcode National: GBR 49HT.G7

Mapcode Global: WH6XR.9TGF

Entry Name: Moss Castle, fort

Scheduled Date: 7 November 2007

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12114

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Dalton

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale South

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the remains of hillfort, visible as a series of ramparts and ditches. There are several natural platforms within the interior, possibly stances for buildings. The fort is Iron-Age, likely to date to the late first millennium BC or early first millennium AD, and forms part of wider pattern of later prehistoric defensive and domestic structures. It lies on the centre peak of a ridge on the W side of the valley of the River Annan, at 220m above sea level.

The fort is irregular in shape and may be unfinished. Overall, it measures a maximum of 190 m NNW/SSE by about 120 m WSW/WNE and covers the top of an un-named hill. It consists of a univallate enclosure defined by a single earth and stone rampart up to 1.9m high. On the E and W the rampart merges with and utilises natural scarps. There are no defences on the N. There is an entrance on the S.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around them within which related material may be expected to be found, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is a well-preserved example of a large, univallate hillfort, likely to date to the late 1st millennium BC or early 1st millennium AD. Despite some minor erosion caused by cattle, the ramparts are still extant. Given the site's current and historic use as pastureland, it is likely that archaeologically significant deposits relating to the construction, use and abandonment of the fort remain in situ. In addition, it is likely that deposits survive that could provide data relating to the later prehistoric environment.

Contextual characteristics

This monument has the capacity to contribute towards a better understanding of forts and defended settlements, and in particular the place of hillforts in the later prehistoric settlement pattern. The commanding location of Moss Castle, overlooking the Annan valley, suggests that control of the landscape and visibility from within it were important to its builders. Proximity to the similar fort of Range Castle, located less than 500m to the NNW, enhances its significance. Moss Castle overlooks Range Castle and this may reflect either a potential hierarchy (if the sites are contemporary) or a change in social structure and economy and thus preferred settlement location (if the sites are sequential).

Information gained from the preservation and study of this site can be used to gain an insight into the wider knowledge of Iron-Age forts across Scotland. In eastern Dumfries and Galloway forts may provide evidence of native-Roman interaction. As a potentially unfinished fort, however, Moss Castle has the near-unique potential to enhance understanding of fort construction in the later prehistoric period, even without excavation. Unfinished forts are rare, and their distribution in Scotland is thought to be confined almost entirely to the NE; Moss Castle is therefore well outside the core distribution.

Associative characteristics

The Ordnance Survey (OS) 1st, 2nd and 4th edition maps mark this hill as Moss Castle, suggesting knowledge of a monument at this site, but do not depict a plan of the fort. The fort was discovered, or perhaps re-discovered, during RCAHMS' Survey of Marginal Lands of 1951-1955.

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, particularly of a settlement type that characterises the wider Iron-age defended domestic landscape and forms an intrinsic element of the later prehistoric settlement pattern along the Annan valley. The survival of marked field characteristics, its unfinished nature and proximity to a well-preserved multivallate fort enhance this potential. 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, and may offer an insight into the function of forts. The old ground surfaces sealed by the ramparts may provide information about the nature of the contemporary environment and the use prehistoric farmers made of it. Spatial analysis of sites may inform our understanding of patterns of landholding and the expansion of settlement. The loss of this example would significantly impede our ability to understand the Iron Age within the landscape both in eastern Dumfries and Galloway and across Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the monument as Moss Castle, fort, NY07NE7.


Feachem R W 1955, ?Iron Age and Early Medieval Monuments in Galloway and Dumfriesshire?, TRANS DUMFRIESSHIRE GALLOWAY NATUR HIST ANTIQ SOC, 3rd ser 33, 58-65.



Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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