Ancient Monuments

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King's Seat, fort

A Scheduled Monument in Strathtay, Perth and Kinross

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Latitude: 56.5684 / 56°34'6"N

Longitude: -3.6137 / 3°36'49"W

OS Eastings: 300940

OS Northings: 742994

OS Grid: NO009429

Mapcode National: GBR V2.44D0

Mapcode Global: WH5NC.G5FD

Entry Name: King's Seat, fort

Scheduled Date: 11 October 1960

Last Amended: 5 October 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM1598

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Dunkeld and Dowally

County: Perth and Kinross

Electoral Ward: Strathtay

Traditional County: Perthshire


The monument comprises the substantial upstanding remains of a later prehistoric or early historic fort. This defended settlement survives as a series of up to four concentric ramparts and terraces, enclosing a central walled citadel on the summit of a craggy hill known as King's Seat. The fort occupies a commanding position overlooking the River Tay at approximately 150m above sea level, with excellent views to the north, south and west. The monument was first scheduled in 1960, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the current rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be rescheduled is a 'clipped' circle in shape, truncated along its NE and NW sides, to include the remains described above 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 are the upstanding remains of all later boundary features, including the stone walling and modern fencing, to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics:

The fort is located in a naturally defensive position on a prominent hill, overlooking the River Tay and at the southern edge of the Highland boundary fault line. The maximum extent of the fort is defined by the outermost rampart which encloses an area approximately 180m by 140m. A central walled enclosure or citadel, measuring approximately 35m by 22m, is situated at the highest point of the hill and over its summit. The fort appears reasonably intact which, coupled with its remote location, suggests that the remains of occupation and related activities may survive relatively undisturbed. Up to four terraces and ramparts are formed around most of the western circuit of the fort, whilst around most of the NE, E and S sides, the steep craggy landform precludes any need for significant structural works. There is a break in the circuit at the N end of the monument, indicating the likely position of an entrance, from where a trackway drops down to a lower terrace on the west. There are traces of an enclosed terrace on the eastern side of the outermost circuit. One researcher has suggested there is also evidence of a circular enclosure 10m in diameter at the N end of the summit, but this area is obscured by vegetation and it cannot be determined on the ground today. In places the ramparts are up to four metres wide. Occasional stretches of internal quarry-scoops are visible along the western ramparts and terraces.

Excavation of later prehistoric and early historic forts elsewhere has indicated the wealth of material that may be recovered from both the defensive works and the fort interior, relating to its construction, function, occupation and abandonment, as well as the prevailing environmental conditions and land uses at various times in its lifecycle. The presence of archaeological material may well extend beyond the visible extent of the fort, including structures, artefacts, palaeoenvironmental evidence and, possibly, human remains.

This fort forms part of the woodland policies of Dunkeld House, whose designed landscape is included in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes (although this area lies just outwith the boundary of the designated area). As a result the site has been planted with mature coniferous and deciduous trees and is overgrown with rhododendrons at its centre and along parts of its defence works. Today this woodland and shrubbery obscures much of the fort's structural and upstanding remains.

Contextual characteristics:

Similar later prehistoric and early historic defended settlement sites are widely distributed across mainland eastern Scotland, especially south of the Firth of Forth, while isolated examples such as King's Seat occur elsewhere. King's Seat is not a particularly large example of its class. The comparatively low density of forts in this area, at least when viewed against the backdrop of their general distribution further south, suggests that sites such as this might have had increased significance as the strongholds of an elite element in the local population.

Dunkeld emerged as the centre of Atholl in the early historic period, probably because of its prime geographical location at the foot of the Highland Edge, dominating the lines of communication northwards and westwards by way of the valley of the Tay, and marking the transition between fertile lowlands and more marginal upland. It has been suggested that the fort at King's Seat may have been the seat of royal power in Atholl during the early historic period. Its location just above the Roman legionary fortress and other Roman works at Inchtuthil may also be significant in this respect.

Associative characteristics:

Researchers have suggested that this site could be a seat of early historic royal power which originated as a prehistoric (earlier) tribal centre. The evidence of the place name, King's Seat, may support this.

The site is partly surrounded (to the west, south and east) by the garden and designed landscape of Dunkeld House and lies within the woodland policies of Dunkeld House. The woodlands date largely from the mid 19th to early 20th century and it is likely that trees were planted around the fort in this period. Researchers have suggested that the modern form of the monument may in part be the product of landscape design works when the policies of Dunkeld House were laid out.

National Importance

This 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 later prehistoric and early historic landscape of Scotland, and the economy and material wealth of the people of the time. Despite the presence of trees and rhododendrons, the field remains at King's Seat survive to a marked degree, which means there is probably high potential for the survival of structural, artefactual and ecofactual remains across the site. These can help us understand how and why the fort was built here, its layout and function, the activities of the people who used or lived in the fort, and their contacts with the wider world. Its loss would significantly diminish our ability to investigate these issues and would detract from the historic character of the Perthshire landscape.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NO04SW 19. Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust HER record the site as MPK5444.


Feachem, R W, 1966, The hill-forts of northern Britain, in Rivet, A L F (ed), The Iron Age in Northern Britain. Edinburgh. Edinburgh University Press.

RCAHMS, 1963, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Stirlingshire: An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments. Edinburgh, RCAHMS.

RCAHMS, 1994, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. South-east Perth: An Archaeological Landscape. Edinburgh, RCAHMS.

Welsh, T, 2008, King's Seat, Perth and Kinross (Dunkeld and Dowally parish), circular enclosure within fort in, Discovery and Excavation in Scotland, 144.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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