Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

SC2796: Carn Liath  

(Dunrobin)

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HER:  Highland HER MHG10872

NMR:  NC 80 SE 4 (6546)

SM:  90060

NGR:  NC 8704 0137

X:  287040  Y:  901370  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

The broch known as Carn Liath stands roughly in the centre of a what no appears to be a flat-topped hillock, but the steep flanks between 4m and 5m high, which have been deliberately scarped, mask one enclosing wall extending round the rim of the hillock, otherwise only clearly visible on the NW, while excavations in 1986-7 revealed a second wall lower down the slope on the NE. The inner encloses an area measuring about 40m from NE to SW by about 35m transversely (0.11ha). The broch itself is relatively well-preserved, standing over 3m high and displaying numerous architectural features including the checked entrance with a guard cell on the E, a mural stair, a scarcement and an inserted internal skin of masonry. The area between the foot of the broch and the inner of the outer walls is evidently infilled with numerous structures and an extended entrance passage seems to have been added, leading from the broch outwards to the probable entrance through the outer wall on the ESE. The excavations recovered evidence of occupation and use pre-dating the construction of the broch and the outer walls (Love 1988). The relationship between the outer walls and the broch are unknown.

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Unconfirmed:  Conventionally regarded as an outwork and falls well below the 0.2ha threshold, though there is no reason why it should not have been a free-standing enclosure

Location

X:  -435499  Y:  7964641  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -3.912153  Latitude:  57.987258  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  Scotland

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Highland

Historic County:   Sutherland

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Golspie

Condition

In Guardianship

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

The majority of the artefact assemblage is probably associated with the broch and the later occupation. It includes artefacts of Roman date

Reliability:  D - None

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

Pre Hillfort Activity:  ✓  Food vessel burial and evidence of pre-broch occupation

Post Hillfort Activity:  ✗  

Artefactual:  No details.

Investigations

Eaun MacKie also visited in 1971, 1985, and 2003. RCAHMS holds the excavation archives and both it and Highland HER have extensive photographic archives.

1st Identified Written Reference (1769):  Visited by Thomas Pennant (Pennant 1772, 156-7)
Excavation (1868):  By the 3rd Duke of Sutherland (Joass 1873, 102-7)
Other (1872):  Annotated Pictish Tower on the OS (Sutherland 1879, sheet 106)
Other (1909):  Description (RCAHMS 1911, 91-2, no.270)
Other (1935):  Scheduled
Other (1962):  Resurveyed at 1:2500 by the OS
Other (1963):  Description by Eaun MacKie (2007, 647)
Other (1971):  Clearance of the interior of the broch by a school party
Excavation (1972):  By John Corcoran
Earthwork Survey (1975):  Visited by the OS; plan at 1:625 by John MacRae
Excavation (1984):  Directed by Paula Love on behalf of the fore-runners of Historic Scotland (1984; 1988)
Excavation (1986):  Directed by Paula Love (1986; 1988)
Excavation (1987):  Directed by Paula Love (1987; 1988)

Interior Features

Occupied by the broch and the secondary structures around its foot

Water Source

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

Surface

The various building remains are incoherent; broch

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

Excavation

Incoherent structural fragments

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

Extensive assemblage of finds from the broch and the secondary structures built around it; includes evidence of shale working and ironworking, and crucible fragments. Roman goods include a fibula

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

Aerial

NO APPARENT FEATURES

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:   

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Entrance 1 (East):  Simple Gap

Enclosing Works

At least one wall encircles the hillock, and a second has been located on the NE; the outer revealed evidence of two phases of construction.

Enclosed Area 1:  0.11ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  0.1ha.

Total Footprint Area:  

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✗  

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✓  Excludes the broch wall

Number of Ramparts:  2

Number of Ramparts NE Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts SE Quadrant:  1
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

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:  

Annex

Annex:  ✗  

References

Joass, J M (1890) 'The brochs or "Pictish Towers" of Cinn-Trolla, Carn-Liath, and Craig-Carril, in Sutherland, with notes on other northern brochs'. Archaeol Scot 5 (1890), 95-130

Love, P (1984) 'Cairnliath (Golspie p) Broch'. Disc Exc Scot (1984), 15-16

Love, P (1986) 'Cairnliath (Golspie p) Broch'. Disc Exc Scot (1986), 18

Love, P (1987) 'Carn Liath (Golspie parish) Broch'. Disc Exc Scot (1987), 30

Love, P (1988) 'Recent excavations at Carn Liath broch, Golspie, Sutherland'. Glasgow Archaeol J 15 (1988), 157-69

MacKie, E W (2007) The Roundhouses, Brochs and Wheelhouses of Atlantic Scotland c.700 BC-AD 500: architecture and material culture, the Northern and Southern Mainland and the Western Islands, BAR British series 444(II), 444(1), 2 V. BAR: Oxford

Pennant, T A Tour in Scotland MDCCLXIX (2nd ed). R White: London

RCAHMS (1911) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Second report and inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of Sutherland. HMSO: Edinburgh

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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