MHG2385 - Promontory Fort, Holburn Head


No summary available.

Type and Period (1)

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

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Full Description

Torfeus (1866) mentions that in beginning of 11th century, Count Moddan quartered his army at Thurso... He adds that Moddan had his camp on the promontory of Thurso - 'promontario Thorsnesia' ie. Holburnhead. <1> <2> <3>

The wall, now ruinous, is constructed of the local shaley slabs and appears to have been 7-8ft thick. In several places the outer face is exposed to a height of 2-3ft. The entrance is aligned on a 60 yd wide approach fringed by deep fissures and chasms. <4>

A fort formed by a broad wall cutting off a precipitous headland. <5>

The wall of this fort is spread to a fairly consistent width of about 6m, and can be seen in mutilations to be composed partly of large quantities of earth, suggesting that it has been a rampart faced on either side with stones. The inner face of small slabs set vertically can be seen intermittently to NW of entrance, and footings of outer face can be seen in same stretch giving a wall thickness of 5.3m. The outer face is occasionally visible to a height of about 0.7m and consists of small slabs set into bank at an angle of up to 45, giving impression of a considerable batter. Although there has probably been a batter, this effect may be mainly due to the compression or collapse of the core material allowing face to slip inwards. No structural details of entrance, about 5m wide, are visible. The outer 'rampart' may not be a defensive work but may be due to natural causes.
Surveyed at 1:10 000. Visited by OS (NKB) 21 10 1964 and (AA) 20 April 1972.

Fort (NR) OS 1:10,000 map, (1976)

No change. Visited by OS (N K B) 19 August 1981.

Immediately seaward of inner of two parallel chasms, which reduce width of cliff-headland to about 55m, is a bank, 0.75m high, of loose material derived from a quarry-scoop behind it. There is then a stiff climb to the headland crowned by a wall, 0.5 to 0.9m high and 2.4m broad, of small flat slabs with a facing of larger ones. The entrance gap, now featureless, was in the middle. Nothing else is visible on promontory except some erect, earthfast slabs on cliff-top on W side, immediately behind rampart. <6> <7>

The site is included in the Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland online database. See link below for site entry. <8>

Sources/Archives (8)



Grid reference Centred ND 1082 7155 (226m by 145m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND17SW
Civil Parish THURSO
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

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