Ancient Monuments

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Castle Hill, castle and site of church 70m north east of Clunie Church

A Scheduled Monument in Strathtay, Perth and Kinross

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Latitude: 56.58 / 56°34'48"N

Longitude: -3.4499 / 3°26'59"W

OS Eastings: 311029

OS Northings: 744062

OS Grid: NO110440

Mapcode National: GBR V6.DDGN

Mapcode Global: WH5N7.ZWB1

Entry Name: Castle Hill, castle and site of church 70m NE of Clunie Church

Scheduled Date: 24 July 1968

Last Amended: 30 May 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM1638

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: castle

Location: Clunie

County: Perth and Kinross

Electoral Ward: Strathtay

Traditional County: Perthshire


The monument is a castle likely to date from the 12th century AD, and the site of an associated church. The castle is visible as a substantial flat topped sub-rectangular mound with at least two concentric terraces to the north and west. On the southeast of the mound are the remains of mortared stone structures. The site of the church is a small hill about 200m to the northwest of the castle. The monument is located in Strath Tay, on the western shore of Loch of Clunie at about 60m above sea level.

The castle is situated on high, level ground directly above Loch of Clunie. The site takes advantage of steep natural ground, particularly on the northern and eastern sides where it meets the loch. The mound, an altered natural hillock, measures approximately 90m by 40m at the level summit. The remains of a structure, surviving as several large fragments of mortared stone walls, can be seen at the southern extremity of the summit. The north and northwest sides of the summit are surrounded by at least two artificial terraces and earthworks providing additional defensive lines. Below the castle is a large, open and fairly level area which extends to the west. Immediately southeast of the castle are the remains of a probable entrance causeway leading to the area containing stone wall fragments. To the northwest of the castle is Chapel Hill - the site of an early church. A small, low wooded knoll measuring around 25m in diameter contains the remains of the church. Visible as a sub-rectangular depression, on the summit of the knoll, the church measures around 12m by 7m.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan and includes 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 scheduled area extends 5m east, into the loch, from the mapped water mark. The schedule excludes all boundary walls, gate piers and post and wires fences.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic Characteristics.

The castle is a substantial mound with related earthworks and stone built structures. It is visible as a substantial mound with at least two concentric terraces at the northwest. The earthwork appears to survive close to its original profile and extent. The remains of a structure on the southeast of the mound may represent the remains of a gatehouse or later structure and possible curtain wall. The adjacent open area to the west of the castle may provide evidence for site expansion or related settlement. On the southeast end of the mound are the remains of a raised entrance trackway.

The mound and terraces of the castle are in a stable condition and there is good potential for the survival of archaeological deposits, artefacts and ecofacts within, beneath and around the castle, and on the terraces. The proximity of the loch may also have allowed waterlogged deposits of organic material to have survived. The buried archaeological deposits have the potential to provide information about the date and character of the site, while any artefacts and ecofacts would enhance understanding of the economy, diet and social status of the occupants, as well as provide information about contemporary landuse and environment. Scientific study of the form and construction of the monument and the remains of any structures would enhance our understanding of the character, structure and development sequence of this site and add to our knowledge of early castle architecture.

In Scotland, earth and timber castles were primarily constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries. Some of these sites subsequently had stone castles constructed on the same location. The evidence of stone structures on the summit of Castle Hill indicates that the site had an extended development sequence and the summit of the site has the potential to contain traces of other features related to the occupation of the site. The site may have been the location of an earlier timber castle or motte and potentially provides evidence for a period of abandonment and then reuse. Scientific study of the monument would allow us to develop a better understanding of the chronology of the site, including its date of origin, the nature of any structures and later re-use.

The remains of the chapel on nearby Chapel Hill have been reduced to a depression on the summit of a low knoll. The dimensions of the structure and the east-west orientation, along with historical documentary evidence of a chapel at the site, indicate that the remains are of a medieval church or chapel. It location in the vicinity of Castle Hill suggests that it may be contemporary with the castle. Historical accounts also mention the presence of a well, believed to be a Holy Well related to the chapel, located adjacent to the knoll. Further scientific investigation could help us understand the relationship between the castle and the chapel.

Contextual Characteristics

There are around 300 fortified earthworks in Scotland dating from the 12th and 13th centuries. Many early castles were associated with the establishment of Anglo-Norman lordships during and after the reign of King David I. They played a role in the consolidation of royal power and the development of centralised authority.

Castle Hill is located near the Lunan Burn in Strath Tay. There are five recorded castles within 10km of Castle Hill and all are within the area where Strath Tay meets Strathmore. Only 4km northwest, also on the Lunan Burn, is Laighwood Castle, a possible motte and site of a castle, (Canmore ID 27055). The proximity of these monuments can give important insights into the distribution and chronology of medieval fortified earthworks in the region and add to our understanding of social organisation, patterns of land tenure and land-use. More specifically, the potential connection between Castle Hill and Laighwood is of interest as the castles may have controlled access through Strath Tay, along the Lunan Burn and east into Strathmore.

The monument broadens our understanding of the nature of medieval lordship and crown control, landownership and the organisation of territories in this area. It contributes to our understanding of the nature and chronology of medieval castles and fortified earthworks and their place within the landscape of Highland Perthshire. Only 250m east southeast of Castle Hill is Clunie Castle (scheduled monument SM5508 and Canmore ID 28959), a tower house dating from the 16th century situated on what is thought to be an artificial island. The close proximity of Clunie Castle to Castle Hill, coupled with its later date, indicates that the seat of power for the local area moved from Castle Hill to Clunie Castle.

The close association of the church site and castle offers further interest. Some early castles had churches built in close proximity, often in association with a settlement. The association of the chapel and castle can enhance our understanding of the relationship between, and role of, the church and seats of power in the medieval period, and in this case may indicate the existence of a medieval settlement nearby.

Associative Characteristics

There is a tradition the site of the castle was the summer residence of King Kenneth McAlpin and a place of Clunie is recorded in The Chronicle of the Kings of Alba as having been wasted by the Danes in 849 (during Kenneth McAlpin's reign). Stray finds from the vicinity of the castle also suggest that this place may have been of significance during this period.

Historical documents indicate that the castle was a royal seat from the mid-12th century. Alexander II, King of Scots, is recorded as residing in the castle in the year 1215. The importance of the site is also highlighted by records stating that King Edward I occupied the castle in 1296.

The lands of Clunie were a royal forest from the 12th century and the castle would, in part, have functioned as a hunting seat.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance as an early royal castle with associated church site. As such it makes a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the date, construction and function of medieval castles and their role in kingship. The monument retains its field characteristics and is a well-preserved example of an early castle site. The slight remains on the southeast of the mound might be those of a gatehouse and curtain wall. The earthworks and related banks indicates that this castle site potentially has a complex development sequence. This site can enhance our knowledge of the distribution and chronology of medieval fortified earthworks and castles in the region. The site of a nearby church also provides potential to enhance our knowledge of the association of church sites with castles. The traditional association of the site with Kenneth MacAlpin is of interest due to the reference to Clunie in 849, a number of stray finds of Pictish material culture from the immediate area, and the later utilisation of the wider area as a royal hunting forest and the site as a royal castle. This evidence sugget that the site may have been of significance earlier that the 12th century, potentially as a royal power centre. The loss or damage of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the character and development of royal castles in Scotland.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE IDs 28970 and 28985 and 29003 (accessed on 09/02/2017).

Alcock, L. (1981). 'Early historic fortifications in Scotland', in Guilbert, G, Hill-fort studies: essays for A H A Hogg. Leicester.

Anderson, A O. (1922). Early sources of Scottish history, A.D. 500 to 1286, 2v. Edinburgh.

Coventry, M. (2008). Castles of the Clans: the strongholds and seats of 750 Scottish families and clans. Musselburgh.

Dunkeld Rentale. (1915). 'Rentale Dunkeldense, being accounts of the bishopric (AD 1505-1517) with Myln's 'Lives of the Bishops' (AD 1483-1517) and a note on the Cathedral Church by F C Eeles, in Hannay, R K. Edinburgh.

Lawrie, A C. (1905). Early Scottish charters prior to A.D. 1153. Glasgow.

MacGibbon and Ross, D and T. (1887-92). The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries, 5v. Edinburgh.

NSA (1834-45) The new statistical account of Scotland.

Oram, R. (2012.) Alexander II: King of Scots 1214-1249. Edinburgh.

OSA. (1791-9). The statistical account of Scotland, drawn up from the communications of the ministers of the different parishes.

RCAHMS. (1994). The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. South-east Perth: an archaeological landscape. Edinburgh.

Reg Reg Scot. (1971). 'Regesta Regum Scottorum, volume 2: the acts of William I, King of Scots, 1165- 1214', in Barrow, G W S and Scott, W W. Edinburgh.

Stell, G. (1972). 'Provisional list of mottes in Scotland', in Simpson, G G and Webster, B, Charter evidence and the distribution of mottes in Scotland, Chateau Gaillard, vol. 5, 1972, Appendix 1.

Stell, G. (1985) 'Provisional list of mottes in Scotland', in Stringer, K J, Essays on the nobility of medieval Scotland. Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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