Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

SC2896: Craig Phadrig  

(Craig Phadraig, Craig Phaidraig, Craig Phaidrick, Craig Phatric, Craig Pharuig, Creck Faterick, Craig Phatrick, Craig Phadra and Creek Fateric)

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

HER:  Highland HER MHG3809

NMR:  NH 64 NW 6 (13486)

SM:  2892

NGR:  NH 6400 4527

X:  264000  Y:  845270  (EPSG:27700)



Craig Phadrig, the steep and wooded hill that rises abruptly on the western outskirts of inverness is crowned by a spectacular fort. Its defences comprise two walls, the inner of which is a massive vitrified structure reduced to a bank about 12m thick and 1.4m high internally taking in a subrectangular area on the elongated summit of the hill measuring some 72m from NE to SW by 22m transversely (0.18ha). The outer wall appears to be of slighter proportions around most of the circuit and appears to be accompanied by an internal quarry in some sectors, following a roughly concentric line around the NE, NW and SW, only to diverge along the SE flank to an angle on the E; an external ditch and an outer rampart on the NE follow this same course, the rampart terminating at its S end above what is almost certainly the site of an entrance, though the inner end of the passage is blocked by the collapsed outer wall. In common with other subrectangular forts with heavily vitrified walls, there is no evidence of an entrance into the inner enclosure on the summit; a feature variously described as an entrance (Headland 2011) and a barrow-run (RCAHMS 2014, 8) almost certainly overlies the defences and probably facilitated later access into the interior. Traces of the excavation trenches dug in 1971 can be seen within the interior, where Alan Small identified two main phases of occupation, apparently separated by a long period of abandonment; the later occupation was evidently early medieval, finds from a floor including sherds of E Ware and a fragment of a mould for a hanging bowl escutcheon (Small and Cottam 1972). There are seven radiocarbon dates from various samples of timber from beneath and within the walls, and the interior, but the brackets of their probabilities are so wide as to be of little use in dating the defences. Following the second season of excavation in 1972, Alan Small claimed that the inner wall had been reconstructed following its catastrophic destruction and vitrification (1972), though whether this refortification related to the early medieval occupation is unclear. He also cryptically describes on the NE 'a double rampart, the impression of a third being created by the ditch from which the material for the outer rampart had been upcast' (1972). Apparently he dismissed the outermost rampart that the most recent surveys by Headland Archaeology and RCAHMS have identified in this sector, but there must be some doubt in the light of these surveys and the identification of a blocked entrance on the E whether the ditch was an external accompaniment to the outer of the walls here, which had also been burnt, or was an internal quarry for a robbed rampart on its outer lip. Given the traces of internal quarrying elsewhere around the outer circuit, the latter is perhaps the more likely, in its turn indicating that the outer vitrified wall on this side is a secondary construction that not only blocks the entrance on the E but crosses the internal quarry at this point. As the RCAHMS investigators suggest (RCAHMS 2014), the outer circuit is perhaps the remains of the earliest fortification here, forming a polygonal enclosure measuring about 120m from NE to SW by a maximum of 60m transversely (0.6ha) within a rampart with an internal quarry and an entrance on the E. This rampart was robbed in antiquity to build the rectangular enclosure on the summit, explaining why Small failed to find any trace of it on the NW (1972). The inner enclosure was subsequently burnt and later reconstructed, though the chronology of these events is unknown. The outer vitrified wall on the NE, now appearing as the middle line of defence, appears to be an outwork to the inner enclosure, and given that it does not follow the line of the earlier rampart, we can guess that it was not conceived in the initial construction of the inner enclosure but is a later addition long after the rampart of the earlier fort had been robbed. In 2015, remedial work following the removal of a wind-blown tree, revealed a phase of refurbishment in the medieval period, with a substantial timber palisade set along the crest of the inner ruined wall, which at this point proved to be 6.5m thick (Peteranna and Birch 2015); radiocarbon dates from this work have yet to be published.


Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed


X:  -475305  Y:  7858306  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -4.269735  Latitude:  57.477298  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  Scotland

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Highland

Historic County:   Inverness-shire

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Inverness And Bona


Likely Destroyed:  

Land Use

Clearing in coniferous plantation with public access

Commercial Forestry Plantation:  
Pasture (Grazing):  
Bare Outcrop:  
Coastal Grassland:  


Hillfort Type

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

Topographic Position

Coastal Promontory:  
Inland Promontory:  
Valley Bottom:  

Dominant Topographic Feature:  




Altitude:  170.0m


Boundary Type:  

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  

Dating Evidence

The brackets are sufficiently wide on the old radiocarbon dates from samples from within and below the defences to indicate merely that the fort probably dates from the pre-Roman Iron Age; two substantive phases of occupation were identified in the interior, the later dating from the early medieval period. The new dates, while not yet published, show that rubble from the inner wall had collapsed across material dating from circa 400-250 BC, while a phase of refurbishment of the inner perimeter dated to the 11th-12th centuries AD

Reliability:  C - Low

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

Pre Hillfort Activity:  ✗  

Post Hillfort Activity:  ✓  Early medieval re-occupation, but uncertain whether the defences may have been refurbished

Artefactual:  A bronze pin from the earlier occupation phase; sherds of E ware, a mould for the escutcheon of an early medieval hanging bowl from the upper.
C14:  Seven 'old dates' with very wide probabilities; new work provides another six dates but these have yet to be published


Highland HER holds an archive of photographs, while the RCAHMS collection not only includes aerial views taken on various occasions, but also the archive from the excavations in 1971-2 (RCAHMS 2014).

Excavation (1777):  Thomas West digs in the rampart and collects specimens of burnt stones (West 1777, 387)
Earthwork Survey (1777):  Sketch-plan by James Watt (Williams 1777; RCAHMS SC1376598)
1st Identified Written Reference (1777):  Description published by John Williams (1777, 31-5)
1st Identified Map Depiction (1789):  Annotated 'Vetrified Fort' (Ainslie et al 1789)
Earthwork Survey (1790):  Plan and description by Alexander Fraser Tytler (Lord Woodhouse) (1790, fig 5; RCAHMS 2014 fig 5)
Earthwork Survey (1809):  Plan by Thomas Telford and Alexander Nimmo (RCAHMS SC1367518)
Excavation (1809):  Ten trial pits dug by Thomas Telford and annotated on his plan (RCAHMS 2014, 9, fig 8; SC1367518)
Excavation (1826):  Sir George Steuart Mackenzie (Hibbert 1857, 188)
Excavation (1847):  Digging (Pryer 1847)
Other (1868):  Annotated Vitrified Fort on the 1st edition OS 25-inch map (Inverness-shire 1881, sheet 11.4)
Other (1870):  Notes (Gowans 1870)
Earthwork Survey (1880):  Plan by Thomas Aitken (1880, 348)
Earthwork Survey (1913):  Derived sketch-plan reproducing earlier detail and description (Wallace 1918, 91-3)
Earthwork Survey (1943):  Sketch-plan and description by Angus Graham and Gordon Childe for the RCAHMS wartime Emergency Surveys (RCAHMS 2014, 13, fig 11; SC1453995)
Other (1957):  Description for RCAHMS Survey of Marginal Lands (Feachem 1963, 126)
Other (1962):  Surveyed at 1:2500 by the OS
Other (1969):  Visit and description by the OS
Other (1969):  Scheduled
Excavation (1971):  Directed by Alan Small (Small 1971; Small and Cottam 1972)
Earthwork Survey (1972):  Depicting the excavation trenches (Small and Cottam 1972, fig 2)
Excavation (1972):  Directed by Alan Small (Small 1972)
Earthwork Survey (2011):  Plan and description by Headland Archaeology Ltd on behalf of the Forestry Commission (Headland 2011, fig 17)
Earthwork Survey (2013):  Plan and description (RCAHMS 2014, 1-2 fig 2, 19-21; RCAHMS GV005343 & SC1386712)
Excavation (2015):  Evaluation following tree throw (Peteranna and Birch 2015)

Interior Features

Featureless on the surface, but evidently containing the remains of buried structures; a well was identified by Williams at the NE end of the interior (1777)

Water Source



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


Structures of uncertain size and shape

No Known Excavation:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Nothing Found:  


No Known Geophysics:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Nothing Found:  


No Known Finds:  
Human Bones:  
Animal Bones:  



APs Not Checked:  
Rectangular Structures:  


See main summary

Total Number of Breaks Through Ramparts:  

Number of Possible Original Entrances:   

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Entrance 1 (Northeast):  Simple Gap:  In inner wall and variously interpreted as an entrance (Headland 2011) or a later excavation feature (RCAHMS 2014, 8)
Entrance 2 (East):  Blocked:  The RCAHMS and Headland plans both show, but don't appear to comment upon, a probable blocked entrance at the angle in the line of the outer rampart on the E.
Entrance 2 (East):  Simple Gap

Enclosing Works

Two complete circuits and an outer rampart on the NE

Enclosed Area 1:  0.18ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  0.6ha.
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  0.6ha.

Total Footprint Area:  0.8ha.

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✓  

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✓  

Number of Ramparts:  3

Number of Ramparts NE Quadrant:  3
Number of Ramparts SE Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts SW Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts NW Quadrant:  2

Current Morphology

Partial Univallate:  
Partial Bivallate:  
Partial Multivallate:  

Multi-period Morphology

Partial Univallate:  
Partial Bivallate:  
Partial Multivallate:  

Surface Evidence

Earthen Bank:  
Stone Wall:  
Evidence of Timber:  
Other Burning:  
Counter Scarp Bank:  

Excavated Evidence

Earthen Bank:  
Stone Wall:  
Murus Duplex:  
Other Burning:  
Counter Scarp Bank:  
No Known Excavation:  

Gang Working

Gang Working:  ✗ 



Number of Ditches:  1:  A ditch is noted at least on the NE, but see main summary text


Annex:  ✗  


Ainslie, J, Ainslie, J & Faden, W (1789) Scotland, drawn from a series of angles and astronomical observations. National Library of Scotland: Shelfmark Newman 986/EMS.s.26A

Aitken, T (1880) 'Vitrified Forts'. Trans Inverness Sci Soc Fld Club 1, 347 _ 8

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

Gentles, D S (1989) Archaeomagnetic Directional Studies of Large Fired Structures in Britain. PhD thesis, Plymouth Polytechnic

Gentles and Harden, D and G (1986) 'Craig Phadrig (Inverness and Bona p) Iron Age hill fort'. Disc Exc Scot (1986), 17

Gowans, J (1870) 'Letter from George Anderson'. Trans Edinburgh Geol Soc 1, 302 _ 04

Headland Archaeology Ltd (2011) A Topographic Survey of Five Pictish Forts in the Highlands. Report to the Forestry Commission

Hibbert, S (1857) 'Collections relative to vitrified sites'. Archaeologia Scotica 4 (1857), 181 _ 201

Peteranna, M and Birch, S (2015) Craig Phadrig Hillfort, Inverness: Archaeological Evaluation Data Structure Report. Data Structure Report AOC Archaeology Project Number: 70011

Pryer, T (1847) 'Proceedings of the Association'. J British Archaeol Assoc 2, 276

RCAHMS (2014) Craig Phadrig, Inverness: Survey and Review. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland & Forestry Commission Scotland: Edinburgh

Small, A (1971) «Craig Phadrig, Vitrified Fort. Disc Exc Scot (1971), 23

Small, A (1972) 'Craig Phadrig, Vitrified Fort'. Disc Exc Scot (1972), 23

Small, A & Cottam, M B (1972) Craig Phadrig: interim report on 1971 excavation. University of Dundee, Dept of Geography Occasional Papers No. 1, Dundee

Tytler, A F (1790) 'An Account of some Extraordinary Structures on the Tops of Hills in the Highlands; with Remarks on the Progress of the Arts among the ancient Inhabitants of Scotland'. Trans Roy Soc Edinburgh 2, Part II (ii), 3 _ 33. Part of this paper was originally read to Philosophical Society of Edinburgh in 1783

Wallace, T (1918) 'Notes on the parish of Petty'. Trans Inverness Sci Soc Fld Club 8 (1912-18), 87-136

West, T (1777) 'An Account of a Volcanic Hill near Inverness, In a Letter from Thomas West, Esq. To Mr. Lane FRS'. Philosoph Trans Roy Soc London, Part 2, No 20, 385 _ 387

Williams, J (1777) An account of some remarkable ancient ruins, lately discovered in the highlands and northern parts of Scotland: in a series of letters to G.C.M. Esq [Sir George Clerk-Maxwell]. Edinburgh

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