Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

SC2780: Langwell, Tor a' Chorcain  

(Torr a' Chorcain)

Sources: Esri, DigitalGlobe, Earthstar Geographics, CNES/Airbus DS, GeoEye, USDA FSA, USGS, Getmapping, Aerogrid, IGN, IGP, and the GIS User Community

HER:  Highland HER MHG44797

NMR:  NC 40 SW 3 (4874)

SM:  5302

NGR:  NC 4104 0088

X:  241040  Y:  900888  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

This fortification occupies the summit of a steep-sided hillock overlooking the right bank of the River Oykell to the W of Langwell. The defences comprise two elements: a circular dun with a heavily vitrified wall at the W end of the crest; and a larger fort that takes in the whole of the elongated crest of the hillock. The dun, which overlies the inner wall of the fort, measures about 15m in diameter within a wall 5m in thickness and standing some 2m high internally, with well-built faces encasing the heavily vitrified core; its entrance is on the E and has a guard chamber. Excavations carried out by Helen Nisbet 1973-4 revealed a complex history of occupation of the dun both before and after the fire that partly destroyed the wall. The defences of the fort comprise three circuits, the inner two marked by thin bands of rubble and the outer by a marked scarp, a cut feature which in places develops into a ditch with a counterscarp bank. The interior measures about 80m from ENE to WSW by about 24m transversely (0.15ha), taking in both the low summits on the crest of the hillock. There was probably an entrance on the S, though the outer circuit is unbroken on this flank, but there is also evidence of an entrance through the middle wall at the ENE end, though the depiction of the wall with hornworks on the plan published by Nisbet is ambiguous (1994, 53, fig 2). Nisbet sectioned the inner wall on the S, not only showing that it had been heavily robbed, but that the rubble overlay 'at least two occupation horizons' (1994, 51), indicating that the defences themselves may represent several periods of construction. The main finds from the excavations were a hones and hammerstones, but a serpentine bead, a bone bead and an iron knife blade were found, while a fragment of shale bracelet came from outside the dun. The only radiocarbon dates are now old dates, probably indicating that the dun belongs in the last quarter of the 1st millennium BC, while the attempt to date the destruction of the dun by thermoluminescence should be discounted.

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed

Location

X:  -521976  Y:  7960781  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -4.688989  Latitude:  57.96887  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  Scotland

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Highland

Historic County:   Ross-shire

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Kincardine (Sutherland)

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:  47.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  

Dating Evidence

Old c14 dates in the final quarter of the 1st millennium BC, indicating an earlier history for the fort.

Reliability:  B - Medium

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

Pre Hillfort Activity:  ✗  

Post Hillfort Activity:  ✓  Occupied by the dun

C14:  Five dates in all, one apparently a contaminated re-run sample

Investigations

The RCAHMS collection holds the excavation archive.

1st Identified Map Depiction (1966):  Description and discovery by Keith Blood of the OS. Surveyed at 1:2500 by the OS
Excavation (1973):  Excavation and outline survey (Nisbet 1973; 1994; RCAHMS DC43920)
Excavation (1974):  Excavation (Nisbet 1974; 1994)
Other (1976):  Surveyed at 1:10,000 by the OS
Other (1992):  Scheduled

Interior Features

Featureless apart from the later dun

Water Source

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

Surface

Western end occupied by the dun

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

Excavation

The excavation mainly relates to the later dun

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

Hammer-stones and numerous whetstones. Otherwise only an iron knife blade, a serpentine bead and a fragment of shale bracelet, this last from outside the dun

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

Aerial

Western end occupied by the dun

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

Entrances

See main summary

Total Number of Breaks Through Ramparts:  2:  Circuits intermittently visible

Number of Possible Original Entrances:   

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Entrance 1 (South):  Simple Gap:  Through inner walls
Entrance 2 (East):  Simple Gap
Entrance 2 (East):  Hornwork:  Ambiguous depiction of entrance with hornworks (Nisbet 1994, 53, fig 2)

Enclosing Works

Two walls and an outer ditch. The inner wall overlay evidence of occupation, suggesting that at least one of the outer circuits may have been a free-standing fortification. Here considered as two univallate enclosures.

Enclosed Area 1:  0.15ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  0.4ha.
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  0.4ha.

Total Footprint Area:  0.8ha.

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✓  Wall of the dun is discounted

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✓  Wall of the dun is excluded

Number of Ramparts:  2

Number of Ramparts NE Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts SE Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts SW Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts NW Quadrant:  2

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

While vitrification was initially claimed from the fort defences, none was located by Nisbet. Contrastingly the dun wall displays massive vitrifaction.

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

Excavated Evidence

The fort defences were heavily robbed and no structural elements survived in situ and there was no evidence of in situ vitrifaction, unlike the dun on the summit.

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

Nisbet, H C (1973) 'Langwell Tor a' Chorcain: hill fort and vitrified dun'. Disc Exc Scot (1973), 48-9

Nisbet, H C (1974) 'Langwell, Tor a' Chorain: vitrified dun'. Disc Exc Scot (1974), 59-60

Nisbet, H C (1994) 'Excavation of a vitrified dun at Langwell, Strath Oykel, Sutherland'. Glasgow Archaeol J 19 (1994), 51-73

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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