Ancient Monuments

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High Castlehill, enclosure 55m WSW of

A Scheduled Monument in Inverclyde East, Inverclyde

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Latitude: 55.9153 / 55°54'55"N

Longitude: -4.6406 / 4°38'26"W

OS Eastings: 235064

OS Northings: 672282

OS Grid: NS350722

Mapcode National: GBR 39.08E9

Mapcode Global: WH2MK.PLC4

Entry Name: High Castlehill, enclosure 55m WSW of

Scheduled Date: 11 February 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12886

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Kilmacolm

County: Inverclyde

Electoral Ward: Inverclyde East

Traditional County: Renfrewshire


The monument comprises the remains of an enclosure with evidence of at least one internal structure. The monument is probably a homestead, a small defended settlement, occupied in later prehistory, sometime between around 800 BC and AD 400. The monument is visible as a low grass-grown stony bank indicating the position of an irregular enclosure. The site occupies a prominent position on the summit of High Castlehill, at approximately 140m above sea level, with good views over the surrounding landscape.

The enclosing bank surrounds an area measuring 34m N-W by 24m transversely. The bank stands up to 1.5m high on the SE side of the monument and 0.3m high in the north. The feature is less distinct to the west, where gorse bushes mask the bank. A break in the bank on the E side marks the position of an entrance around 17m wide. The entrance is of elaborate form, with its S wall turning outwards to flank the entrance for around 5m. In the south of the enclosure is a large circular platform, potentially the remains of a roundhouse, measuring about 12m across.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Specifically excluded from the scheduling to allow for their maintenance are the above-ground elements of the stone dyke marking the northern boundary of the scheduled area and the post-and-wire fence crossing the eastern edge of the monument, and the water trough in the NW of the scheduled area.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

This monument represents a later prehistoric defended settlement with evidence of at least one structure in the interior. The hilltop setting and indications of a stone wall or bank around the site demonstrate the defensive intent of the inhabitants. There is no evidence of excavation or significant disturbance of the monument. Although the upstanding remains are relatively low, there is good potential for the survival of below-ground archaeological remains of the enclosure bank, and the presence of the circular platform indicates a high potential for the survival of parts of a structure, probably a domestic dwelling. These remains can help us to understand more about defensive structures in general, and the design, construction, phasing and use of internal dwellings in particular.

The lack of disturbance of the interior indicates a high potential for buried deposits to survive, including both artefacts and ecofacts. These could help us build up a picture of the activities that took place on the site, the physical conditions on the site, and the contemporary environment and land uses. The upstanding banks and house footings may contain evidence relating to the creation, use and abandonment of the settlement, helping to inform our understanding of the character of late prehistoric defended settlement, including local variations in domestic architecture and building use.

Potential exists for the survival of buried land surfaces beneath the enclosure wall. These could preserve information about the environment before the site was constructed. Negative features, such as post-holes and pits, or the ditch probably created to form the enclosure bank, may contain archaeologically significant deposits that can further our understanding of society, ritual, economy, agriculture and domestic architecture. The presence of probable house remains gives the potential to explore issues such as the duration of house occupation, the nature of abandonment processes and the extent to which occupation of the site was continuous. Excavations at comparable later prehistoric settlement sites have also demonstrated the potential for the deposition of fragmentary human remains in and around such monuments. Some of these show evidence of curation and structured deposition. This monument may therefore have the potential to further our understanding of the treatment of human remains during this period.

Contextual characteristics

Defended settlements were built at various times from at least the end of the late Bronze Age (around 800 BC) until probably the end of the early Middle Ages (around 1000 AD). It is clear that at some sites the first defensive systems began to appear in the Bronze Age. However, the majority of monuments excavated so far have produced evidence for Iron-Age occupation, ranging from the mid to late 1st millennium BC. Evidence for potentially earlier human activity in this landscape includes stone tool finds and the presence of a cairn field 765m to the west in Craigmarloch Wood.

Researchers have identified relatively few defended settlements in the former country of Renfrewshire. The known sites range from small settlements, such as this example, often known as 'homesteads' and measuring less than around 50m in diameter, to larger forts. Most are characterised by relatively small-scale defences compared to those in other parts of Scotland, typically stone banks or walls built on or near to hilltops to enhance the natural relief. Excavations at a comparable site at Knockmade Hill around 10.5km to the south indicated that it might be a relatively early example, occupied possibly in the late Bronze Age, from before 800 BC. Another comparable site at Knapps near Kilmacolm may be of similarly early date. The complete excavation of this site produced evidence of a wooden palisade, erected early in the history of the site. Larger settlements also have the potential to be relatively early and the hillfort at Craigmarloch, around 755m to the south-west, where the palisade predated a timber-laced rampart, may date to around 800 BC. The monument has the potential to add to our knowledge of the chronology of such defended settlements and the ways in which they may have developed through time.

Small homesteads appear to have continued in use through much of the late 1st millennium BC, at around the same time that larger hillforts were appearing in the landscape, which has been interpreted to suggest the emergence of small tribal units.

High Castlehill is located 755m NE of the hillfort at Craigmarloch, and can also be considered alongside the fort at Marshall Moor (around 9.8km to the SSE) and the fort at Castle Hill (7.9km to the SSE). At all of these sites, relatively slight banks or walls appear to enhance the natural relief of hilltops. This monument thus has particular potential to contribute towards a better understanding of prehistoric defended settlements in this area, particularly those sited in elevated positions. The construction and layout of defended settlements and associated dwellings, including their size, number of entrances, design and position in the landscape are all important in understanding this type of monument. By comparing this monument to others of its type we can learn more about defended settlements and associated dwellings in the former county of Renfrewshire and more widely across Scotland. The monument also complements other types of prehistoric settlement sites identified in the vicinity, to provide a fuller picture of the development of prehistoric landscape and society in the region over time.

Associative characteristics

The OS 1st Edition map published in the later 19th century does not depict the monument itself, but the hill is called 'High Castlehill' implying it was a known place of fortification.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past, in particular the study of defended settlements in later prehistoric SW Scotland. It survives in good condition above ground and it is probable that extensive and complex archaeological remains relating to the construction and use of the monument survive beneath the present ground surface. The potential roundhouse remains and any associated pits and post-holes have a high potential for the survival of buried material, including structural features and artefacts and ecofacts relating to its construction, use or abandonment. The monument has the potential to provide information about wider prehistoric society, its architecture, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contacts with. Its importance is increased by its proximity to other monuments of potentially contemporary date and its capacity to inform us about the nature of relationships between monuments of different type. Spatial analysis of sites may inform our understanding of patterns of landholding and the expansion of settlement. The loss or diminution of this site would impede our ability to understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape, both in the former county of Renfrewshire and in other parts of Scotland, as well as our knowledge of later prehistoric social structure, economy and building practices.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NS37SE 7. The WoSAS SMR records the site as WoSASPIN 6985.


Alexander, D (ed) 1996, Prehistoric Renfrewshire; Papers in Honour of Frank Newall, Renfrewshire Local History Forum.

Newall, F 1962, 'Early open settlement in Renfrewshire', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 95 (1961-2), 159-70.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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