MHG9658 - Fort, Ben Griam Beg


A probable Iron Age hill fort with a series of contemporary walls and enclosures downslope to the west and south.

Type and Period (3)

  • FORT (Early Bronze Age to Pictish - 2400 BC? to 900 AD?)
  • ENCLOSURE (Early Bronze Age to Pictish - 2400 BC? to 900 AD?)
  • DEER TRAP? (Medieval to 19th Century - 1058 AD? to 1900 AD?)

Protected Status

Full Description

(NC 831411) Fort (NR) OS 6" map, (1962)

The remains of highest hill-fort in Scotland crowning summit of Ben Griam Beg (1903 feet OD). It consists of a roughly oval enceinte 152m by 61m enclosed by a ruinous drystone wall, 1.8m thick and 1m in average height, and flanked at a lower level by enclosures on W and NE. Some way below fort on S the remains of a wall of similar build cross the steep hillside. On either side of this wall there are traces of irregularly shaped enclosures. RCAHMS (1911) noted the remains of a quern, 4 feet in diameter, amid the ruins of this wall. Feachem (1963) implies that the fort is Early Iron Age and suggests that the lower lying walls and enclosures represent an expansion into a much larger defended and occupied area.
RCAHMS 1911, visited 1909; R W Feachem 1963; Visited by OS (J L D) 12 May 1960; Visible on RAF air photographs 106G/Scot/UK 76: 3355-7. <1><2>

The fort, as described and illustrated, occupies flattish summit of hill. Its wall is crudely constructed of slabs, and is of unusually slender proportions, though steep rock-strewn hill slopes afford a good natural defence. The enclosures abutting on W & NE sides, and the crude wall extending southwards from Secorner before turning to W, are of similar construction to fort, except that the wall of NE enclosure is more slight. These appendages to the fort do not appear to be outer defences; they do not utilise any natural defence that may exist.
The several small, irregularly-shaped enclosures at NC 828 409 are visible as platforms set into slope on average 12m across, with their lower edge retained by bands of stone. The interiors are noticeably clear of stones compared to surrounding rocky ground. In no way do they resemble hut circles. There are other enclosures of similar type; those at NC 831 409 being largely obscured by scree, and others at NC 828 410 occurring on more level ground.
The fort and complex of walls and enclosures below it appear contemporary. The extreme remote and exposed situation of the complex probably indicates a temporary refuge or man and beast under threat of attack, rather than a permanent settlement.
Visited by OS (N K B) 29 April 1977.

Surveyed by R Mercer leading a team from University of Edinburgh Department of Archaeology in July 1987.
R Mercer 1988c. <3>

Iain Thornber reports that this site is described as a deer trap by the Rev H A Macpherson, writing in "Red Deer, Fur, Feather and Fin Series", London, 1896 (p49):
"Messrs, Buckley and Harvie Brown tell us that deer were driven into enclosures in Sutherlandshire… on the top of the Little Ben Griam is still to be seen the remains of an old stone dyke, and one wonders what could be the use of such a thing in such an apparently useless place for one; this is all that is left of what once was a deer-trap. The deer were driven up the hill between the two dykes, which are very wide apart at the entrance, and then gradually contracted, ending up in a regular cul de sac ; and there being no escape, unless it were over the precipice, the unfortunate animals were then slaughtered. According to the 1: 50 000 mile OS map there is a fort shown on the summit; this may be an error as the surveyor was unaware of the original purpose of the remains."
Mr Thornber suggests that the fort may have been used as a deer trap after it was abandoned. <4>

The site is included in the Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland online database. See link below for site entry. <5>

Sources/Archives (11)



Grid reference Centred NC 83018 41049 (598m by 439m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NC84SW
Geographical Area SUTHERLAND
Civil Parish FARR

Finds (1)

  • QUERN (Undated)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (3)

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