MHG9112 - Possible Crannog, Redcastle, Beauly Firth


Site of a possible crannog. It has also been suggested that this feature is a beacon and the causeway is a fish trap.

Type and Period (1)

  • CRANNOG (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

Excavated by Alex Hale 1994-5.

NH54NE 2 5857 4895.
Cairn (NR) OS 6"map, Ross-shire, 2nd ed., (1907)

Urns and human bones have been found in cairns which are exposed at low water in the Firth near Redcastle.
ISSFC 1885

A low cairn of stones of considerable size. Its position, and faint, but quite definite remains of a causeway leading to it, leave little doubt of it being a crannog.
A A Woodham 1956; A J Beaton 1882; OSA 1794.

Site inaccessible. It is obviously an artificial heap of stones and is on a slight rise. The info from (AA Woodham 1956) suggests it may be a cairn and not a crannog. There are traces of a causeway leading due N from it, but it cannot be ascertained whether this is contemporary, and it could be modern
Visited by OS (A A) 10 January 1971

Probably a beacon stance standing between high and low water marks. Measures 28m diameter and 1.5m in height.
RCAHMS 1979.

Aerial photographs were taken of this feature at different stages of tide. One shows a linear feature to one side, and an apparent 'message in stones' on other side. (See Archive for details.)
Info from J Harden 1989.

Situated 300m from N shoreline on an intertidal mud flat, at low tide uncovered oval mass of boulders measures max 40m by 25m. The site is uncovered for between 4 and 6 hours at each low tide. The site's max absolute height above surrounding mud flats is 1.85m.
Surface covering consists of boulders beneath which are cobbles, pebbles, intestitial estuarine sediments, substantial timbers and other well-preserved organic remains. Preliminary excavation revealed 3 phases of timber construction. A foundation of wattle-lined pits lined with clay and packing stones underlies a horizontal rectangular framework of worked alder timbers. The framework consists of 4 alder timbers held in place with oak piles driven through square cut slots and a substantial corner crosspiece.
Above framework are remains of a superstructure including wattling, timbers, organic remains and sedimentary deposits of sand and clay. Amongst these sediments were found seeds, cherry pips, shells, beech nuts, brushwood and animal and fish bones.
The timber remains are dominated by Alnus sp with some Quercus sp and wattling consists of Solix sp and Corylus sp. Uncalibrated radiocarbon dates from two subsurface timbers were: 2150 ? 60 bp (Beta 48763) and 1750 ? 90 bp (Beta 48764).
Sponsors:Historic Scotland, The Russell Trust, University of Edinburgh.
A G C Hale 1994.

The supposed causeway leading to this feature may be the remains of a tidal fish trap, similar to others in the area.
J Wordsworth, 1992.

NH 585 489. The fieldwork was carried out during low tide periods of June and July 1995. Survey discovered a number of further horizontzl, sub-surface timbers associated with the SW timbers found in 1994 (Hale 1994), and two substantial vertical piles, probably driven through square mortise holes in the horizontals. A course of drystone walling was noted adjacent to the timbers and a number of stone features seen elsewhere on the site. A contour survey of the site was carried out and the site was levelled into OD for contemporary sea-level research.
Beyond the visible extent of the site, probing and two small trenches established that the margins are extensively covered by estuarine sediments. One of the trenches produced bones and a substantial timber, sampled for dating purposes.
Limited excavation inside one of the wattle-lined pits, found in 1994, revealed the design of the wattle-work. Sampling beneath the internal packing stones exposed fragments of animal hide. Other remains found inside the pit included bark, beech seed cupules, twigs and a layer of organic debris. Scattered outside the two wattle-lined pits were substantial quantities of fragmentary and butchered animal bones.
Radiocarbon assay on two of the sails, one from wattle-lined pit 1 and one from pit 2 were: (GU-4094) 2310 +/- 50 bp and (GU-4095) 2330 +/- 50 bp. A radiocarbon date from one of the horizontal cross piece timbers was: (GU-4097) 2480 +/- 50 bp.
Sponsors: Historic Scotland, Council for British Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, Department of Archaeology and Highland Regional Council.
A G C Hale 1995.

The following radiocarbon dates have been obtained from wood and timbers from this crannog:
Unspecified sample 200 +/- 60 bc (Beta-48763)
Unspecified sample 200 +/- 90 ad (Beta-48764)
R. (Alnus) 360 +/- 50 bc (GU-4094)
R. (Quercus) 380 +/- 50 bc (GU-4095)
R.94.0.s.0.34 (Alnus) 530 +/- 50 bc (GU-4097)
Information from Mr A Hale (University of Edinburgh), 6 April 1995.

NH 585 489 10m SSW of the visible extent of the Redcastle intertidal crannog, a stray find of a small cauldron was found. The rim, some of the body and part of the handle were exposed. There were substantial amounts of iron concretion build-up and the interior was obscured by sediment. The rim was 260mm in diameter and the emergent body was 150mm high.
The find was excavated and packaged within a single block and taken to Inverness Museum. It was declared to the Receiver of Wreck.
Sponsors: Historic Scotland, Council for British Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, Department of Archaeology and Highland Regional Council.
A G C Hale 1995.

NH 585 489. Possible erosion on the SW side of the site since 1995 fieldwork exposed further horizontal timbers. These are part of the well-preserved, extensive framework found in 1994/5 (Hale 1995). The framework consists of three parallel lines of timbers which are braced at right angles. Unlike other crannog sites where a horizontal platform formed a circular convex plan, the Redcastle remains represent a concave feature, possibly reflecting the underlying stratigraphy. This suggests a quite different structure to previous crannog-type analogies and future investigations will pursue this possibility. Beneath the horizontal framework further wattle work features were noticed, similar to the wattle-lined pits found in 1994. Off-site and margin trenches were excavated to investigate the underlying and surrounding stratigraphy. Preliminary results suggested that the site was constructed on top of a large upstanding sand mound.
In the S part of the site a linear stone structure was noticed on the surface, consisting of three courses of walling. Outside the walling a number of piles were found, including a very substantial (500mm diameter) oak pile. Beneath the wall were substantial accumulations of well-preserved organic remains.
Timber samples taken from the horizontal framework and vertical retaining piles were submitted for radiocarbon assay. The results were: 2510-50 bp (GU-4541); 2570-50 bp (GU-4542); 2550-50 bp (GU-4543).
The metal pot found adjacent to the Redcastle site during 1995 fieldwork was sampled and cleaned. Large iron concretions typically found on such objects had damaged parts of the external structure and the interior contained some very substantial concretions. The exterior was patterned only by three fine circumferential lines. The handle and body design exemplified a typical iron cooking pot found throughout the country over the past 300 years or more. A date of late 19th century was suggested by the NMS.
During the fieldwork season of 1995 one of the wattle-lined features found adjacent to the horizontal timber framework was partially excavated in order to interpret the internal sedimentary remains and structural components. A number of animal hide fragments were found beneath the internal packing stones and one of these was identified as a piece of leather. The method by which it had been treated could not be ascertained, however, it had been cleaned and dehaired. An AMS sample was dated to 2220-70 bp (AA-21249).
Sponsors: Historic Scotland, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Edinburgh University Archaeology Department, Wingate Foundation.
A G C Hale 1996

A photograph of this site has been submitted by a member of the public. <1>

See link below to Scottish Radiocarbon Database for radiocarbon dates.

Sources/Archives (20)



Grid reference Centred NH 5857 4895 (40m by 40m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH54NE
Geographical Area ROSS AND CROMARTY

Finds (10)

  • URN (Undated)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Undated)
  • FISH REMAINS (Undated)
  • PLANK (Undated)
  • BOARD (Undated)
  • POT (Undated)
  • VESSEL (Undated)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (4)

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