Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

SC2823: Buaile Oscar, Beinn Freiceadain  

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HER:  Highland HER MHG783

NMR:  ND 05 NE 18 (7632)

SM:  530

NGR:  ND 0594 5574

X:  305940  Y:  955740  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

This fort is situated on the summit of Beinn Freiceadain, the central of three summits along this ridge that dominates the moorland interior of Caithness. Oval on plan, it measures about 290m from NW to SE by 145m transversely (3.5ha) within a single wall that has probably been in the order of 2.4m in thickness, which can be traced everywhere except the NE, where a cliff-edge takes up its line. Where best preserved around the NW end the wall has been reduced to a stony scarp up to 4.5m broad and 1m high, in which the line of the outer face can be detected in places and there are a few external quarry pits at its foot. Along the steeper SW flank, however, it follows a natural terrace halfway down the slope and there is evidence of quarrying along the rock-faces to its rear. Towards the SE end the wall mounts the slope obliquely, but there are also Intermittent traces of what may be an outer defence continuing along this lower line. While there is one gap in the wall on the N, and a second in a gully midway along its SW side, the only certain entrance is on the NW, where a single massive inner facing slab has been set up on end to mark the inner angle on the E, while other slabs were set along its sides to forma passage 4.5m in length by 1.5m in width. Apart from a chambered cairn and a shepherds cairn, the interior is featureless.

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed

Location

X:  -402385  Y:  8068791  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -3.614683  Latitude:  58.4798  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  Scotland

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Highland

Historic County:   Caithness

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Reay

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:  Commands an extensive outlook across Caithness and to Orkney

Aspect

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

Elevation

Altitude:  239.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  

Dating Evidence

In the absence of excavation, there are neither stratified artefacts nor radiocarbon dates to provide a chronology for the defences.

Reliability:  D - None

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

Pre Hillfort Activity:  ✓  Neolithic chambered tomb within the interior

Post Hillfort Activity:  ✓  Shepherds cairn

None:  No details.

Investigations

RCAHMS holds ground views, while Highland HER also have aerial photographs

1st Identified Written Reference (1750):  Undated early 18th century estate plan depiction (SUD 87/1)
1st Identified Map Depiction (1872):  Annotated Fort on the 1st edition OS 25-inch map (Caithness 1877, sheet 17.9)
Other (1910):  Description (RCAHMS 1911, 95, no.354)
Other (1933):  Scheduled
Earthwork Survey (1955):  Plan and description for RCAHMS Survey of Marginal Lands (RCAHMS CAD 1/1-3 & DP147566-7, DP147574; Feachem 1963, 114)
Other (1962):  Visited by the OS
Earthwork Survey (1981):  Sketch plan at 1:2500 by John MacRae of the OS
Earthwork Survey (1982):  Plan and description by R J Mercer (1985, 108-9, fig 67; RCAHMS DC722-3)
Other (1997):  Visited by the Hill-Fort Study Group

Interior Features

Featureless apart from the chambered tomb

Water Source

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

Surface

Chambered tomb

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

Excavation

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

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

Aerial

Chambered tomb

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 (Northwest):  Simple Gap

Enclosing Works

Single wall

Enclosed Area 1:  3.5ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  3.5ha.

Total Footprint Area:  

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✗  

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✗  

Number of Ramparts:  1

Number of Ramparts NE Quadrant:  
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

Feachem, R (1963) A guide to prehistoric Scotland. Batsford: London

Mercer, R J (1985) Archaeological Field Survey in Northern Scotland Volume III 1982-1983. University of Edinburgh, Department of Archaeology, Occasional Paper No. 11. Edinburgh

RCAHMS (1911) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Third report and inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of Caithness. HMSO, London

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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