Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

SC0346: Mcculloch's Castle  

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HER:  Dumfries & Galloway MDG5829

NMR:  NX 95 NE 4 (65369)

SM:  1083

NGR:  NX 9962 5769

X:  299620  Y:  557690  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

This tiny fortification, which backs onto the coastal cliffs at Arbigland, was excavated by General J Scott-Elliott over two seasons 1962-3 (Scott-Elliott 1963). Roughly semi-circular on plan, the interior measures about 20m from NE to SW along the cliff-edge by a maximum of 15m transversely (0.03ha). Although the rampart does not seem to have extended along the cliff-edge, this side may have been closed off by a palisade, traces of which were uncovered dismounting from the southern terminal of the rampart, where there was thought to have been an entrance. Elsewhere the rampart forms a bank up to 4m in thickness by 1.3m in height, and is fronted by a massive external ditch some 10m in breadth, which in excavation in the central sector proved to have a flat bottom at a depth of about 3m, though at its ends on the cliff-edge it displayed a V-shaped profile. The leading edge of the rampart was probably revetted with stonework, and a later wall had been built on its crest, perhaps when the interior was incorporated into the gardens of Arbigland House in the late 19th century. A scatter of post-holes and pits was found in the interior, and finds from a hearth close to the NE terminal of the rampart included a sherd of Samian Ware of 2nd century date.

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed:  Although this falls well below the 0.2ha threshold, the character of the perimeter leaves little doubt that it has been fortified

Location

X:  -397082  Y:  7343224  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -3.567045  Latitude:  54.903833  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  Scotland

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Dumfries & Galloway

Historic County:   Kirkcudbrightshire

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Kirkbean

Condition

Extant:  
Cropmark:  
Likely Destroyed:  

Land Use

Woodland:  
Commercial Forestry Plantation:  
Parkland:  
Pasture (Grazing):  
Arable:  
Scrub/Bracken:  
Bare Outcrop:  
Heather/Moorland:  
Heath:  
Built-up:  
Coastal Grassland:  
Other:  

Landscape

Hillfort Type

Contour Fort:  
Partial Contour Fort:  
Promontory Fort:  
Hillslope Fort:  
Level Terrain Fort:  
Marsh Fort:  
Multiple Enclosure Fort:  

Topographic Position

Hilltop:  
Coastal Promontory:  
Inland Promontory:  
Valley Bottom:  
Knoll/Hillock/Outcrop:  
Ridge:  
Cliff/Plateau-edge/Scarp:  
Hillslope:  
Lowland:  
Spur:  

Dominant Topographic Feature:  

Aspect

North:  
Northeast:  
East:  
Southeast:  
South:  
Southwest:  
West:  
Northwest:  
Level:  

Elevation

Altitude:  20.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  

Dating Evidence

While finds from a hearth include a sherd of Samian of 2nd century date, this does not necessarily date the construction of the earthwork itself.

Reliability:  C - Low

Pre 1200BC:  
1200BC - 800BC:  
1200BC - 800BC:  
400BC - AD50:  
AD50 - AD400:  
AD400 - AD 800:  
Post AD800:  
Unknown:  

Pre Hillfort Activity:  ✗  

Post Hillfort Activity:  ✓  Utilised as a garden

Artefactual:  No details.

Investigations

Though apparently shown as hedged enclosure on Roy's map (1747-55), and annotated 'McCullochs Cast.' on John Ainslie's map of the Stewartry (1797), it is first depicted in any detail on the 1st edition OS 6-inch map in 1851 (Kirkcudbrightshire 1854, sheet 47). It was subsequently described by Frederick Coles about 1892 with the aid of measured profiles (Coles 1893, 124, fig 25). In 1911 it was planned, either by Fred Macgibbon or Patrick Watson, during the preparation of the County Inventory for The Stewartry (RCAHMS 1914, 106-7, fig 73). It was revisited by Kenneth Steer of RCAHMS in 1951, when despite the impenetrable brambles he concluded that it was probably a dun. Subsequently excavations in 1962-3 by General James Scott-Elliot with the assistance of Dr Ian Rae (Scott-Elliot 1963) made clear that it was not a stone-walled dun. The OS re-surveyed the earthworks at 1:2500 in 1965.

1st Identified Map Depiction (1755):  Roy's Map (1747-55)
Other (1851):  Named in Gothic type on the 1st edition OS 6-inch map (Kirkcudbrightshire 1854, sheet 47)
Earthwork Survey (1892):  Profiles and description (Coles 1893, 124, fig 25)
Earthwork Survey (1911):  Plan by Fred Macgibbon or Patrick Watson (RCAHMS 1914, 106-7, fig 73)
Other (1938):  Scheduled
Other (1951):  Description during RCAHMS Survey of Marginal Lands
Excavation (1962):  in two seasons in 1962-3 (Scott-Elliot 1963)
Excavation (1963):  in two seasons in 1962-3 (Scott-Elliot 1963)
Other (1965):  Resurveyed at 1:2500 by the OS

Interior Features

Scatter of pit and postholes in no discernable pattern, and a single hearth

Water Source

None:  
Spring:  
Stream:  
Pool:  
Flush:  
Well:  
Other:  

Surface

No Known Features:  
Round Stone Structures:  
Rectangular Stone Structures:  
Curvilinear Platforms:  
Other Roundhouse Evidence:  
Pits:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  

Excavation

Hearth

No Known Excavation:  
Pits:  
Postholes:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  
Nothing Found:  

Geophysics

No Known Geophysics:  
Pits:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  
Nothing Found:  

Finds

In addition to the sherd of Samian Ware, finds from the hearth include several other sherds of possibly Roman pottery, an iron bar, three pieces of hematite, a stone palette, a whetstone, a pice of flint and a piece of jet.

No Known Finds:  
Pottery:  
Metal:  
Metalworking:  
Human Bones:  
Animal Bones:  
Lithics:  
Environmental:  
Other:  

Aerial

APs Not Checked:  
None:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Pits:  
Postholes:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Other:  

Entrances

See main summary

Total Number of Breaks Through Ramparts:  

Number of Possible Original Entrances:  0:  Thought to be on the S, but not clearly defined

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Enclosing Works

Single rampart with ditch

Enclosed Area 1:  0.15ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  0.2ha.

Total Footprint Area:  

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✗  

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✗  

Number of Ramparts:  1

Number of Ramparts NE Quadrant:  1
Number of Ramparts SE Quadrant:  
Number of Ramparts SW Quadrant:  1
Number of Ramparts NW Quadrant:  1

Current Morphology

Partial Univallate:  
Univallate:  
Partial Bivallate:  
Bivallate:
Partial Multivallate:  
Multivallate:  
Unknown:  

Multi-period Morphology

Partial Univallate:  
Univallate:  
Partial Bivallate:  
Bivallate:  
Partial Multivallate:  
Multivallate:  

Surface Evidence

None:  
Earthen Bank:  
Stone Wall:  
Rubble:  
Wall-walk:  
Evidence of Timber:  
Vitrification:  
Other Burning:  
Palisade:  
Counter Scarp Bank:  
Berm:  
Unfinished:  
Other:  

Excavated Evidence

Ditch

None:  
Earthen Bank:  
Stone Wall:  
Murus Duplex:  
Timber-framed:  
Timber-laced:  
Vitrification:  
Other Burning:  
Palisade:  
Counter Scarp Bank:  
Berm:  
Unfinished:  
No Known Excavation:  
Other:  

Gang Working

Gang Working:  ✗ 

Ditches

Ditches:  

Number of Ditches:  1

Annex

Annex:  ✗  

References

Page(s): 118-24

Coles, F R (1893) 'The motes, forts, and doons in the east and west divisions of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 27, 92-182

RCAHMS (1914) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Fifth report and inventory of monuments and constructions in Galloway, II, county of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, Edinburgh.

Scott-Elliot, J (1963) 'McCulloch's Castle, Arbigland', Trans Dumfriesshire Galloway Natur Hist Antiq Soc 3 Ser, 41

Terms of Use

The online version of the Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland should be cited as:

Lock, G. and Ralston, I. 2017.  Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland. [ONLINE] Available at: https://hillforts.arch.ox.ac.uk.

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