Ancient Monuments

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Fort, Durn Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Banff and District, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 57.6622 / 57°39'43"N

Longitude: -2.7209 / 2°43'15"W

OS Eastings: 357088

OS Northings: 863816

OS Grid: NJ570638

Mapcode National: GBR M8NG.L9P

Mapcode Global: WH7KN.5NMY

Entry Name: Fort, Durn Hill

Scheduled Date: 23 March 2022

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13748

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Fordyce

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Banff and District

Traditional County: Banffshire


The monument comprises the remains of a fort likely to date to the Early Iron Age (800 – 400BC). The fort is visible as an enclosure formed by three roughly concentric    lines of defences consisting of palisade trenches and earthworks. The monument is located on the summit of Durn Hill at around 200m above sea level.

The monument survives as three lines of palisade trenches and earthworks. At its widest point the outer enclosure measures around 280m north-south by 160m east-west. The outer and inner lines of defence consist of shallow, narrow trenches up to 0.9m wide and 0.3m deep. These would have originally held substantial palisades (walls of driven timber posts). The middle line of defences is similar but on the southwest side there is an earthwork bank and ditch. The ditch is up to 3m wide and the bank is up to 4m wide and 0.6m high. An entrance is visible on this side with corresponding breaks in the outer and inner palisade trenches. The interior is featureless, except for a modern cistern and an Ordnance Survey triangulation point.

The scheduled area is irregular. It includes the remains described above and an area around 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 specifically excludes all modern fences, the Ordnance Survey triangulation point and the above ground elements of the modern cistern.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17): 

a.   The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the past as a fort dating to the Early Iron Age. In particular, it adds to our understanding of Iron Age society in northern Scotland and the function, use and development of forts and other defended sites. 

b.   The monument retains structural and other physical attributes which makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the past. In particular there is significant potential for the survival of buried archaeological deposits. Although no features survive above the ground within the fort, the overall plan of palisades and earthwork defences are clear and understandable. The monument can significantly add to our understanding of domestic settlement, society, agriculture and economy during the Iron Age.

c.   The monument is a rare example of an Early Iron Age fort with palisaded defences and an elaborate entrance surviving as earthworks.

d.   The monument is a particularly good example of an Iron Age palisaded fort, with clear, well preserved extant palisade trenches and is therefore an important representative of this monument type. 

e.   The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding of the past. Limited archaeological investigation has revealed characteristic evidence of the fort's defences and this included the recovery of dateable environmental remains. It can tell us about the character, development and use of forts, and the nature of Iron Age society, economy and social hierarchy in northern Scotland and further afield.

f.   The monument makes a significant contribution to today's landscape and our understanding of the historic landscape. It occupies the locally prominent Hill and is part of a wider regional distribution of Iron Age defended settlements.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The fort comprises an area enclosed by three palisade trenches on the summit of Durn Hill. The site had been interpreted as an unfinished fort (Feacham 1971), but more recent archaeological work has shown that the fort was enclosed by palisades with a short section of rampart and ditch at the entrance on the southwest side (Noble et al 2020). The palisades enclose an area of around 3.6 hectares and are well preserved and clearly defined. Palisaded enclosures (enclosures defined by one or more rows of closely spaced vertical timbers embedded in a narrow foundation trench) are more commonly identified  at cropmarked sites. Durn Hill is therefore a rare survival of an upstanding example of this monument type. Excavations carried out across the innermost line of enclosure have shown that the palisade was 0.4m across and 0.6m deep at this point. Radiocarbon dates from material recovered during these excavations dated the lower fill of the palisade trench to the period between 760-410 BC. 

The presence of three separate lines of palisades may suggest that this monument was constructed over an extended period. The middle set of palisades have been elaborated around the entrance on the southwest side of the monument. This more substantial entrance would have been prominent on approaches from the southwest and suggest that it was created as a demonstration of power and status as well as for defence. Excavations of comparable monuments elsewhere – such as Castle O'er, Dumfries and Galloway (scheduled monument SM651; Canmore ID 67376), Craigmarloch Wood, Inverclyde (scheduled monument SM4379; Canmore ID 42453), Dun Knock, Perth and Kinross (scheduled monument SM9434; Canmore ID 26688) and Finavon, Angus (scheduled monument SM139; Canmore ID 34813) – demonstrate that such forts were typically built and used between around 800 BC and 400 AD. They represent defended settlements that could have accommodated an extended family or small community.

Excavations have shown that there is good potential for the survival of archaeological features and deposits, including occupation and abandonment debris, artefacts and environmental remains such as charcoal or pollen within the monument. It has the potential to add to our understanding of settlement, land-use and environment during the Iron Age. It has the potential to provide information about the economy, diet and social status of the occupants, as well as the structure of contemporary society and economy. Study of the monument's form and construction techniques compared with other forts would enhance our understanding of the development sequence of this site and of Iron Age forts in general.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

Hillforts are a monument type that are found across Scotland. They were sited to take advantage of easily defended locations and often were located to be visible in the wider landscape and inter-visible with contemporary sites. This example is part of a wider distribution in northeast Scotland of similar monuments, such as Tap o' Noth fort (scheduled monument SM63) or Craig Dorney fort (scheduled monument SM13746), which occupy dominant landmarks such as hill tops and other prominent natural features.

The fort occupies a highly prominent landscape position on top of a hill to the south of the coastal plain. The monument has extensive views in all directions as a result of its position. The prominent siting of the forts would have also been a highly visible statement of presence and power to those living nearby or travelling through the area. Study of this monument in the wider landscape has the potential to enhance and broaden our understanding of prehistoric society and community as well as social organisation, land division and land use.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to this monument's national significance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 17973 (accessed on 01/02/2022).

Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 17975 (accessed on 01/02/2022).

Local Authority HER/SMR Reference NJ56SE0003 (accessed on 01/02/2022). Aberdeenshire Council Historic Environment Record - Aberdeenshire - NJ56SE0003 - DURN HILL

Feachem, R W. (1971) 'Unfinished hill-forts', in Hill, D and Jesson, M, The Iron Age and its hill-forts: papers presented to Sir Mortimer Wheeler on the occasion of his eightieth year. Southampton. Page(s): 27, 28.

Lock, G & Ralston, I B M (2017). Atlas of Hillforts. Reference number SC2958. Accessed on 01/02/2022.

Noble, G, O'Driscoll, J, MacIver, C, Masson-MacLean, E, and Sveinbjarnarson, O (2020). 'New dates for enclosed sites in north-east Scotland' in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Vol. 149, pp.165-196. Accessed online at New dates for enclosed sites in north-east Scotland | Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (


HER/SMR Reference


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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