Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Cowie Line, pillbox and earthworks 945m south west of Stonehouse

A Scheduled Monument in Mearns, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 56.9761 / 56°58'33"N

Longitude: -2.3899 / 2°23'23"W

OS Eastings: 376395

OS Northings: 787275

OS Grid: NO763872

Mapcode National: GBR X8.7Z9L

Mapcode Global: WH8Q7.8X6F

Entry Name: Cowie Line, pillbox and earthworks 945m SW of Stonehouse

Scheduled Date: 28 August 1996

Last Amended: 23 January 2015

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM6437

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: 20th Century Military and Related: Earthwork

Location: Glenbervie

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Mearns

Traditional County: Kincardineshire


The monument is part of a Second World War anti-invasion 'stop-line' dating from 1940. It is visible as a steep earthwork bank forming an anti-tank defence line along the S bank of the Cowie Water, overlooked by a shellproof concrete pillbox on the W. The earthworks were formed by scarping the natural slope of the stream to a very steep slope, around 2m high, rendering it impassable to tanks and other vehicles. The pillbox is a Type 22 form, with walls around 1m thick, and has single firing loops in the NW, N and SE walls, with a double loop on the NE where the pillbox faces the anti-tank line and the ford of the Cowie Water. The monument is located on the S bank of the Cowie Water where it is met by the Burn of Finglennie and the Queel Burn, with the ford over the Cowie Water used by Cryne Cross Road to the E of this confluence. The monument was originally scheduled in 1996, but the documentation did not meet modern standards: the present amendment rectifies this.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction and use is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of the post-and-wire fences around the site, along with the concrete bridge and its supports (which have been built since the monument was in use). Also excluded is the upper 500mm of the modern road which crosses the site, and the concrete weir which was constructed across Cowie Water as part of a water management scheme in the 1930s.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the anti-invasion defences of the Second World War, and the logistics, construction methods, strategies and training involved in this war effort. These defences were part of preparations ordered by the War Office /Scottish Command in 1940 when it was thought likely that German forces would invade from Norway, using beaches in NE Scotland to establish a foothold and then moving south by land. This area was characterised as the UK's 'back door' and the defensive works were deemed vital to deter or at least slow down a German invasion. This is a well-preserved example of a stop-line, utilising and enhancing the natural terrain to provide a strong defensive feature. The monument offers considerable potential to study the relationship between the various elements of the site, and its relationship both with the other elements of the Cowie Line and the wider defences in place around NE Scotland and beyond. The monument has a significant place in the national consciousness as a tangible and powerful reminder of one of the defining events of the 20th century. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the construction and use of anti-invasion defences in Scotland during the early years of the Second World War.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Other information

RCAHMS records the site as NO78NE 10.


Barclay, G 2005, 'The Cowie Line: a Second World War 'stop line' west of Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 135, 119-161.

Barclay, G 2013, If Hitler Comes - Preparing for Invasion: Scotland 1940, Birlinn Ltd.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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