MHG1897 - Site of Possible Castle, Alterwall


Site of possible medieval castle shown on Pont's map of 1585-1600. The site is now nothing more than a mutilated mound and the interpretation of castle cannot be confirmed.

Type and Period (2)

  • CASTLE (Medieval to 19th Century - 1058 AD to 1900 AD)
  • (Alternate Type) MOUND (Medieval to 19th Century - 1058 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Mound (NR) OS 6" map, (1970)

A mutilated and grass-grown roughly circular mound, 23m diameter and 2.2m high. No walling is visible but the mound contains many stones suitable for building purposes. There are no surface indications suggestive of a castle. Mr Nicolson is now dead and the fragments of the jug lost.
Resurveyed at 1:2500. Visited by OS (N K B) 6 September 1965.

The turf-covered mound now measures 21m NW-SE by 18.5m. Apart from a short stretch of apparent walling exposed by excavation in the SW, the mound survives as an unintelligible collection of trenches and hummocks in an arable field.
Visited by OS (N K B) 6 September 1965.

The mound, on former islet in Loch Alterwall, is apparently partially excavated remnant of small medieval castle with dry-built walls, 5ft thick (RCAHMS 1911).
It is shown as tower on Pont's map of 1585-1600 and in 1577 mention is made of hereditary office of 'keeper of the island and lake of Alterwall'. About 1726 site is described as 'the ruins of an old house to which there is no access but by boat.' The loch was drained in mid-19th century.
From site have come fragments of a medieval jug, found in 1910 and restored and in possession of John Nicolson, Nybster, until at least 1913. Various finds from an excavation of site formed part of collection of Sir Francis Tress Barry, donated to NMAS in 1908. These included a latten (brass) candlestick, 6 3/8ins high, upper part open-work (? 15th/16th century - Curle 1926); a fragment of jet armlet, circular in section; a squarish piece of sandstone, 4.5ins long with incised lines resembling a merchant's mark (? gaming board); and two bone implements.
W Macfarlane 1906-8; Orig Paroch Scot 1855; Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1909; RCAHMS 1911, visited 1910; F O Blundell 1913; A O Curle 1926.

Pottery (possibly prehistoric) from Loch Alterwall is listed in the Caithness Horizons catalogue. It may be from this site but cannot be confirmed without further information. Listed under Acc. No. ARC69. <1>

Sources/Archives (7)



Grid reference Centred ND 2793 6452 (300m by 300m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND26SE
Civil Parish BOWER
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (6)

  • ARMLET (Undated)
  • CANDLESTICK (Undated)
  • SHERD? (Undated)
  • GAMING BOARD (Undated)
  • JUG (Undated)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (1)

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