Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

SC2832: Sgarbach, Auchingill  

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HER:  Highland HER MHG608

NMR:  ND 36 SE 5 (72044)

SM:  

NGR:  ND 3729 6375

X:  337290  Y:  963750  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

This fort is situated on a precipitous promontory below Nybster, about 600m further north from the Nybster broch. The promontory describes a V on plan, the W arm of which forms the neck on the landward side, and the E arm projects ENE out into the sea. The defences comprises a single thick wall, now reduced to a broad but heavily disturbed bank, which bars access along the W arm from the NNE, cutting off an area of about 0.15ha, measuring 50m from NNE to SSW and 70m from ENE to WSW along the respective arms. The disturbance visible today is largely the result of collapse of masonry exposed by the excavations by Sir Francis Tress Barry about 1897 and has taken place since it was visited by Alexander Curle during the preparation of the County Inventory for Caithness (RCAHMS 1911, 18, no.45). Curle records that the wall was 3.8m in thickness and still stood 1.2m high, and contemporary photographs show the neatly coursed faces at the entrance, which lies a little E of the centre and was furnished with a raised sill at a door-check in the passage, and a bar-hole in the wall; he also describes an oval chamber measuring about 3m by 2.1m on the E of the passage, but whether this was constructed within the thickness of the wall or to its rear is not entirely clear from his description. More definitely a drain ran out beneath the paved floor of the entrance passage, and a slab-built hearth was discovered with pottery to the rear of the entrance.

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed:  Falls below the 0.2ha threshold, but the topographical position and character of the perimeter works indicate that this is a small promontory fort.

Location

X:  -342799  Y:  8085325  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -3.079415  Latitude:  58.557365  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  Scotland

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Highland

Historic County:   Caithness

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Canisbay

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:  15.0m

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 modern 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:  ✗  

Post Hillfort Activity:  ✓  The description of the hearth suggests it may have post-dated the fort

None:  No details.

Investigations

RCAHMS hold a range of photographs, including several from the original excavations.

1st Identified Map Depiction (1873):  Annotated 'Tumulus' on the 1st edition OS 25-inch map (Caithness 1877, sheet 14)
Excavation (1897):  By Sir Francis Tress Barry (Photo in RCAHMS collection dated 1897)
Other (1910):  Description (RCAHMS 1911, 18, no.45)
Other (1965):  Surveyed at 1:2500 by the OS
Earthwork Survey (1971):  Plan and description by Raymond Lamb (1980, 23, fig 8, 75; RCAHMS CAD 86/1)
Other (1982):  Visited by the OS
Other (1982):  Caithness Coastal Survey (Batey 1982, 65; archive held in RCAHMS)

Interior Features

Excavation spoil and disturbance around the wall but otherwise featureless

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

Oval chamber, possibly freestanding, and a 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

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 (North):  Other Forms:  Door-checks and bar-hole

Enclosing Works

Single wall across a promontory

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:  
Number of Ramparts NW Quadrant:  

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

Batey, C E (1982) Caithness coastal survey 1982: interim reports 1980-2, typescript Durham University.

Feachem, R (1963) A guide to prehistoric Scotland. Batsford: London (p 180)

Lamb, R G (1980) Iron Age promontory forts in the Northern Isles. Brit Archaeol Rep, British Ser 79. BAR: Oxford

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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