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Achnasoul, medieval earthwork 440m SSE of

A Scheduled Monument in Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh, Highland

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Latitude: 57.5312 / 57°31'52"N

Longitude: -4.5268 / 4°31'36"W

OS Eastings: 248808

OS Northings: 851821

OS Grid: NH488518

Mapcode National: GBR H86T.F5V

Mapcode Global: WH3DT.FYLW

Entry Name: Achnasoul, medieval earthwork 440m SSE of

Scheduled Date: 13 January 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13629

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: earthwork

Location: Urray

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh

Traditional County: Ross-shire


The monument is a moated enclosure of probable medieval date. It is visible as a large earthwork comprising a ditch and concentric internal and external banks, which together enclose a sub-circular area measuring around 43m northwest-southeast by 39m northeast-southwest. A raised mound, levelled area and the footings of two buildings are visible within the interior. The enclosure lies at around 70m above sea level, in a hollow bowl overlooked by higher ground to the north.

The ditch defining the enclosure measures 4m to 5m in width and 1.5m in depth and is broken by two causeways on the northwest and southeast. The outer bank is complete and varies in height, reaching a maximum of 2m, while the inner bank is more fragmentary and is better preserved on the south. Internally, the raised mound lies in the northern part of the enclosed area and measures around 25m at its base, reaching a maximum height of 2m. The summit is encircled by a fragmentary bank, which encloses an area of around 11m diameter. A levelled area to the south of this mound contains the footings of two buildings.

The scheduled area is oval 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.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural significance

The monument's cultural significance has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument is a large earthwork enclosure comprising a ditch and two concentric banks which enclose a sub-circular area measuring around 43m northwest-southeast by 39m northeast-southwest. Two causeways, on the northwest and southeast, give access into the central area, within which a raised mound, levelled area and the possible footings of two buildings are visible. The size and form of the visible remains indicates that the monument is a moated enclosure, likely to date to the later medieval period. In its original form the monument would have been enclosed by a broad, water-filled ditch and would have functioned as a residence which displayed status and also provided a degree of security.

Although heavily covered in vegetation, the monument is in a relatively stable condition at present and there is good potential for the survival of archaeological deposits, artefacts and ecofacts in the base of the ditch, below the banks and within the interior of the monument. There is no evidence that the site has been excavated or significantly disturbed. Waterlogging suggests a high potential for well-preserved, archaeologically significant deposits within the monument. Such deposits have an inherent potential to inform our understanding of the environment within which the monument was constructed, inhabited and finally abandoned. The ditch and other surviving negative features also have an inherent capacity to further our understanding of the forms of domestic activity upon the site. The upstanding remains, the wall footings and earthwork banks, may also preserve environmental evidence within and beneath them. This has the capacity to inform our knowledge of the environment within which the monument was constructed and used, what the landscape was used for and how it looked.

The survival of structural remains also has the potential to further our understanding of domestic architecture on moated sites and changes in fashion and form through the active use of the site. The interior of the site retains evidence of features and these too have a capacity to provide evidence of the daily lives of the occupants.  Associated archaeological deposits have the potential to provide information about the date and nature of the site, while any artefacts and ecofacts would enhance understanding of the economy, diet and social status of the occupants. Scientific study of the form and construction of the earthworks and the remains of any structures would enhance our understanding of the character, structure and development sequence of this site.

Contextual Characteristics

The monument represents a rare survival of a moated homestead of medieval date. Moated homesteads are relatively rare within Scotland as a whole when compared to the frequency of those recorded in other parts of the UK and beyond. There are around 122 known sites in Scotland compared with around 750 in Ireland and 6350 in England. Such sites are particularly rare in the north of Scotland and only one monument of broadly similar character, a moated site 5.3km east northeast (David's Fort, scheduled monument reference SM2500, Canmore ID 12866), can be identified in the local area.

Research into moated homesteads has indicated that they can mark local centres of lordship during the period in which Scotland became a feudal society during the 12th and 13th centuries. Fairburn Tower (A-listed LB14030, Canmore ID 12479), a tower house of probable 16th century date lies about 2km northwest. The close proximity of the two sites is of interest and may indicate an ongoing focus of local power. Although the relationship between the tower house and Achnasoul is unclear, relative dating suggest Fairburn Tower may represents a successor residence. Achnasoul, therefore, has the potential to broaden our understanding of the nature and chronology of medieval moated sites and their place within the landscape of the north of Scotland. It can give important insights into the form of the medieval landscape and add to our understanding of social organisation, settlement hierarchy and land-use.

Associative Characteristics

The lands of Achnasoul are mentioned in historical sources, which indicate they were under royal control in the 15th and 16th centuries; they are mentioned in the Exchequer Rolls and were awarded as part of a charter of lands by James V in 1542.

Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it makes a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the date, use and development of moated homesteads in the north of Scotland. Moated homesteads are a relatively rare type of monument in Scotland, with few examples identified in highland areas of Scotland. The example at Achnasoul is impressive and retains its field characteristics. Moated homesteads are interpreted as local power centres in the medieval period and as such this monument would have been an important component of the wider medieval rural landscape. The loss or damage of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the character of medieval rural settlement, including the extent and nature of the feudalisation of this part of Scotland, and the structure and organisation of society and economy more widely during this period.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 274702 (accessed on 15/09/2016).

The Highland Council HER reference is MHG48738.

Tabraham, C 2005 Scotland s Castles, BT Batsford/ Historic Scotland.

Marshall, M 2005 Report of the Archaeological Survey of the Earthwork/possible Motte and Bailey at Achnasoul Wood, near Marybank, Ross-shire by members of the North of Scotland Archaeological Society, 11th and 12th January 2015, North of Scotland Archaeological Society (NOSAS), Digital report.


HER/SMR Reference


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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