Ancient Monuments

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Castlelaw, fort and souterrain 205m NNW of

A Scheduled Monument in Midlothian West, Midlothian

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Latitude: 55.8618 / 55°51'42"N

Longitude: -3.2333 / 3°13'59"W

OS Eastings: 322903

OS Northings: 663865

OS Grid: NT229638

Mapcode National: GBR 50VN.SK

Mapcode Global: WH6SZ.9XKN

Entry Name: Castlelaw, fort and souterrain 205m NNW of

Scheduled Date: 23 February 1924

Last Amended: 16 August 2016

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM90064

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: 20th Century Military and Related: Fort; Prehistoric domestic and defensive: souterrain, earth-house

Location: Glencorse

County: Midlothian

Electoral Ward: Midlothian West

Traditional County: Midlothian


The monument is the remains of a hillfort dating probably to the Iron Age (between about 800 BC and 500 AD). The visible remains comprise a sequence of defensive ramparts and ditches enclosing an oval interior, with a souterrain cut into the ditch by the east-northeast entrance. The fort occupies a spur 300m above sea level on the southeast flank of Castlelaw Hill, in the Pentland Hills. There are extensive views east-northeast to East Lothian, southeast to the northwest slopes of the Moorfoot Hills, and south to the hills around Peebles.

The fort interior measures about 82m east-northeast / west-southwest by 35m transversely, as defined by the innermost rampart. This rampart stands only 0.5m high when viewed from the interior, but is at least 1.5m in height on the outside for most of its circuit. Beyond the inner rampart are outer defences in the form of an earth rampart with a broad quarry ditch inside it and a deep ditch and counterscarp bank outside. The outer defences are best preserved on the north, while elsewhere they have been reduced by the rig and furrow cultivation that almost completely surrounds the fort. Three entrances pierce the defences: on the west-southwest, south-southeast and east-northeast. Excavation has demonstrated the presence of buried features that provide significant additional evidence, including the remains of a single palisade apparently pre-dating the inner rampart. Excavation also revealed a well-preserved souterrain built into the ditch between the inner and outer ramparts, close to the east-northeast entrance. The souterrain was excavated by Gordon Childe in 1931-2 and is now protected by a concrete roof. The passage measures about 21m in length from north to south, gradually widening from 0.9m at the north entrance to 1.6m at the slightly rounded terminal to the south. The wall also increases in height from 1.3m at the entrance to 1.7m at the terminal. A cupmarked stone is built into the top of the east wall at the terminal. The souterrain passage curves to the south-southwest about half way along its length, where a short side passage leads off to a roughly circular chamber on the west, measuring about 3.6m in diameter and standing up to 1.95m in height. Nine 20th-century marker stones indicate points on the boundary of the guardianship boundary.

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, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling extends up to but excludes a fence that surrounds the fort. The scheduling also specifically excludes the modern structures at the souterrain (such as the railings, steps, jambs, gate and concrete roof), the above-ground elements of the information boards, and the gate and steps through the fence that bounds that fort. The monument was first scheduled in 1924; the present amendment provides documents to current standards.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument has significant potential to enhance our understanding and appreciation of prehistoric forts, the prehistoric settlement pattern and later prehistoric society. In addition to the impressive upstanding remains, the site preserves important buried deposits and structures relating to its construction and use, as demonstrated by the excavated evidence for a palisade which may have been the earliest enclosure, and for the use of timber beams to line parts of the inner rampart. The monument has high potential to expand our understanding of the design and development of enclosed sites in eastern Scotland. The site is also of particular importance because it includes the well-preserved remains of a substantial souterrain, and because of its proximity to a second enclosure, Castle Knowe immediately to the northeast, with which it can be compared. The fort retains its field characteristics to a marked degree and its well-preserved banks and ditches can easily be appreciated. The scale and complexity of the defences suggests that this monument was an important component of the prehistoric landscape, and it is still a significant feature in the modern landscape. Our understanding of the distribution and character of later prehistoric enclosures would be significantly diminished if this monument was to be lost or damaged.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 51871 (accessed on 21/7/2016).

Midlothian Historic Environment Record reference MEL8172 (accessed on 21/7/2016).
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Castlelaw Fort
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HER/SMR Reference

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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