MHG10863 - Fort - Duchary Rock


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Type and Period (1)

  • FORT (Early Bronze Age to Pictish - 2400 BC? to 900 AD?)

Protected Status

Full Description

NC80SE 3 850 048.
Fort (NR), (NC 8511 0478) Rock Shelter (NR) OS 6"map, (1964)

The fort on Duchary Rock is defended at its N and SE ends by a stone wall and elsewhere by natural rock. There is an outer wall 7 feet thick on the NW side protecting an entrance; a second entrance occurs in SE wall.
A natural rock shelter occurs some 30 feet below the wall in the SE. RCAHMS 1911, visited 1909.

The fort was Scheduled in 1935.

The fort, measuring about 300.0m NW-SE by about 110.0m maximum transversely, is defended by steep natural cliffs along the NE and SW sides, the latter reinforced towards the NW end by a denuded wall, most of which has tumbled over the cliff edges. The relatively easy approaches from the N and SE are defended by massive bare stone walls largely obscured by tumble, but measuring 4.0m average width and surviving up to 1.5m in height. There are two opposing entrances at the NW and SE extremities. The former is 1.8m wide, faced on the W side with two upright slabs. The SE entrance is 1.3m wide with indications of a mural chamber on the W side choked with debris. No evidence of wall faces can be seen in the "outer wall" in the NW mentioned by RCAHMS and it is probable that this is tumble from the fort which has been piled up later. The interior of the fort is overgrown with peat and no domestic structures can be seen. The "rock shelter" is a natural cave with no visible evidence of human occupation. The covered area measures approximately 5.0m by 4.0m.
Revised at 1:10,560.
Visited by OS (E G C) 7 April 1962 and (N K B) 26 August 1975.

In PPS (PPS 1989), Bowden, Mackay and Blood comment on the unusual construction of the dry stone rampart of Ingleborough hillfort, North Yorks. "The rampart is divided transversely, sometimes at inetrvals of only about 2m, by 'throughs' of stones set on edge. The boxes or compartments thus formed are filled with rubble ...... (possibly a feature of lower levels only ?)... ".
In the light of similar features noted at Duchary Rock, and also Cnoc an Duin (NH67NE 1), a new visit was made to Duchary Rock to inspect again the 'entrances' or alternatively 'through joints' noted by eg Hogg, and JCB in Exploring Scots heritage, The Highlands.
The visit was hurried, and no conclusive decisions were reached, but some points emerged.
The possible Southern Entrance, 1.3m wide or so, in S rampart. This one is not slab-lined, but had dry-stone walls (contra Hogg); it also appears to be filled only by tumble, not deliberate blocking, which would support the idea that this feature at least is a genuine entrance. The Inventory for Caithness (RCAHMS 1911), mentions signs of a chamber W of the entrance; this we did not pick up; but there are two upright slabs near the middle (possibly why Hogg suggested slab linings ?)which just could be door-checks, though not exactly opposite one another.
Most curiously, on the east side and just next one (?) check (on its inner side) is something very like a door bar-hole, which runs a long way into the wall, with lined sides. It could perhaps be due to just one square stone falling out, but it is very suggestive; and door-checks and a barhole would fit well with a chamber, if there was indeed one.

North Rampart
Midhole Entrance - E1 on Hogg plan. This, some 2m wide, is probably the original and ? only entrance. It has extra massive stones in the drystone wall each side of it, and is lined with very large thin slabs, against a drystone wall, each side. it is blocked by tumble.
West of this is a feature, marked as E2 on Hoggs plan, of the same width, also with drystone walls running through the rampart each side, also lined with slabs, but filled with deliberate blocking with a well built face to the front of the rampart. This could be either a blocked entrance or a feature like those at Ingleborough; and since there seems no good reason for a second entrance, it may be these are transverse building joints again forming boxes. The use of the 'lining' slabs is curious, but perhaps linked to the Ingleborough practice of using stones set on edge.
The two further instances of single built faces crossing the rampart, noted by Hogg east of the main entrance, were not observed on this visit due to lack of time, it is just such a feature which can be seen clearly in one rampart at Cnoc an Duin.
Visited by Dr J Close-Brooks, 19 May 1990.

Thumbnail Photo - Possible entrance into/out of Fort?

The fort was re-scheduled in 2016 by Historic Environment Scotland to better represent its extent and area of importance. <1> <2>

The site is included in the Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland online database. See link below to site entry. <3>

Sources/Archives (12)



Grid reference Centred NC 8505 0479 (257m by 277m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NC80SE
Geographical Area SUTHERLAND
Civil Parish CLYNE

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