Castle, Fort, Tower House, Unidentified Pottery
- Council Aberdeenshire
- Parish Insch
- Former Region Grampian
- Former District Gordon
- Former County Aberdeenshire
Castle of Dunnideer, c.1260. Weather-beaten rectangular tower, partly built from the remains of the prehistoric vitrified
fort in which it stands. Possibly the earliest tower-house on the Scottish mainland, its masonry is close-packed and striated; it is gathered to a rough course every 6ft or so in a manner seen at other early castles such as that other Balliol property, Red Castle, Angus, or at Boharm, Moray (qv). Single great shattered lancet of the first-floor great hall pierces the west gable.
Taken from "Aberdeenshire: Donside and Strathbogie - An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Ian Shepherd, 2006. Published by the Rutland Press http://www.rias.org.uk
For possible church within the fort, see
For unenclosed platform settlement centred at NJ 612 280, see
For bronze spearhead, socketed axe and sword from Dunnideer (NJ c. 61 28), see respectively.
For adjacent rig (centred NJ 6099 2809), see
(NJ 6124 2815) Castle of Dunnideer (NR)
Vitrified Fort (NR)
Gregory's Wall (NR)
OS 6" map, (1959)
The summit of Dunnideer Hill is occupied by a mediaeval tower, within a vitrified fort with outer works, which in turn is surrounded by an incomplete trivallate system of defence.
The highly vitrified fort (A on plan) is oblong and measures 220ft by 90ft internally, with a contemporary cistern near the W end (Feachem 1963). Slight traces of outer works (B) appear as a ruinous stony bank, best seen in the N and E, and absent on the steep SW flank.
The outermost line (E) of the trivallate defences, is represented only by the remains of a marker trench seen as a slight terrace, and situated well down the hill, enclosing an area c.950ft by c.600ft. Gaps for entrances have been left in the E and W. The inner line (D), slightly uphill is similar, but construction of a rampart has been started on either side of each entrance. The top line (c) is again similar, but cannot be followed across the steep SW hill slope (Feachem 1966).
The remains must represent at least two main structural phases, but no evidence exists to indicate whether the vitrified fort preceded the unfinished outworks or vice versa (Feachem 1963).
The Castle of Dunnideer was traditionally built by Gregory the Great in AD 890, but more likely by David, Earl of Huntingdon and Garioch in 1178: (Laing 1828). Simpson (1943) states that it is first mentioned in 1260 as the stronghold of Sir John de Balliol. It is built largely of material from the vitrified fort, (Feachem 1963) and probably represents the earliest authenticated example of a tower house in Scotland (Simpson 1943). The name Gregory's Wall applied to one of the walls of the castle (Ordnance Survey Name Book [ONB] 1867).
A Laing 1828; W D Simpson 1943; Name Book 1867; W D Simpson 1943; R W Feachem 1963; 1966.
Dunnideer Castle: remains of a mediaeval tower, vitrified fort (b) and unfinished fort, generally as described, illustrated and planned. There are also several hut platforms on the hill, for which see
Feachem's (1966) plan indicates the remains of a wall bisecting the vitrified fort. This is actually the E wall of a building oriented N-S, whose turf-covered footings, c.0.2m high, measure c.13.0m by c.4.3m. Vague traces of another building oriented E-W are attached to its N end. They are presumably associated with the tower, which possibly had a courtyard on its E side, but they may be connected with St John's Chapel (See ) which allegedly stood hereabouts.
Smith has found 14th-15th century pottery on the hill (information from Mr W Smith, Curator, Provost Skene's House, Aberdeen).
The name Gregory's Wall is no longer known locally.
Surveyed at 1/2500.
Visited by OS (RL) 12 March 1969; Information from MoW plaque.
Situated in an area of rough grazing on a prominent conical hill at an altitude of 265m OD, this vitrified fort and its outer works are in turn surrounded by an incomplete trivallate system of defences. Slight traces of outer works appear as a ruinous stony bank which is seen best on the N and E but absent on the steep SW flank.
The outermost line (E) of the trivallate defences is represented only by the remains of a marker trench seen as a slight terrace and situated well down the hill to enclose an area measuring about 950 ft (290m) by 600 ft (183m); gaps for entrances have been left in the E and W. Line (D) is similarly marked-out and lies between 50 ft (15.2m) and 150 ft (45.7m) inside line (E); in this case, work on the construction of a rampart has begun on either side of each entrance-gap. The third line (C) cannot be followed across the steep SW flank of the hill but is otherwise similar to the outer pair. The fourth line (B) is a ruinous stony bank which is feeble at best and absent on the steep SW flank of the hill, but otherwise similar to the outer pair (D and E); it probably represents an outwork.
The highly-vitrified innermost defence (A) encloses an area measuring 220 ft (67m) by 90 ft (27.4m) internally and is oblong on plan with a contemporary cistern near the W end; there is also a medieval tower within the interior.
These remains must represent at least two main structural phases, but no evidence exists to indicate whether the vitrified fort preceded the unfinished outworks or vice versa.
Visited by GRC/AAS, November 1977, May 1985, August 1990 and September 1988; air and ground photographs listed.
NMRS, MS/712/19 and MS/712/36.
Air photographs: AAS/77/3/SC/15 and AAS/94/02/G4/9-13.
(Additional bibliography and newspaper references cited).
NMRS, MS/712/21 and MS/712/58.
Air photographs: AAS/00/02/G2/14-15 and AAS/00/02/CT.
Scheduled as Hill of Dunnideer, fort, platform settlement and tower... the remains of a prehistoric fort with fine visible lines of defence, and possible related settlement and a medieval tower, situated in an area of rough grazing on a prominent conical hill at an altitide of 265m OD..
Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 2 December 2003.
(Classification amended to: Fort; Castle; Tower-house; Pottery). The Castle of Dunnideer, which stands within the remains of the vitrified fort on the summit of the hill of Dunnideer, is now in a sadly ruinous state and from a distance resembles nothing more than a folly. It comprises a tower and the traces of a robbed-out structure to the east, all of which are confined within the inner rampart of the vitrified fort. Consolidation, presumably in the 19th century, has rendered interpretation of the remains difficult, and the only facts that can be stated with certainty are the shape of the tower, which is rectangular, measuring 15m by 12.5m over coursed-rubble walls 1.9m thick. A splayed plinth on the W wall and a blocked opening central to the same wall at ground level may or may not be original. A ground-floor opening at the N end of the E wall is slightly more convincing as an original feature. The only feature to survive at first-floor level is the apex of an arch of a pointed window, which must have lit a first-floor hall. The building does not appear to have been vaulted.
In 1260 Josceline de Baliol, Lord of Dunnideer, granted to the abbey of Lindores permission to construct a lade from the River Urie to the mill of Insch `by the middle of the land which he has on the east of his castle of Donidor' (Lindores Chartulary 1903). That his castle is the ruin on Dunnideer seems the inescapable conclusion. The apparent lack of vaulting, the arch-pointed first-floor window and the builder's skilful use of rubble, all point to an early date. It certainly bears little resemblance to any late medieval tower-houses
Visited by RCAHMS (PJD) 8 June 2000
Lindores Chartulary 1903.
NJ 612 281 An assessment was conducted in December 2005 to record in three dimensions the extent of the damage to archaeological resources caused by a fire that burnt over a considerable proportion of the southern slopes of Dunnideer Hill in early October 2005. The assessment established the extent, varying character and severity of damage caused by the fire to archaeological remains. Archaeological survey within the burnt area led to the discovery of several previously unrecognised features, including lengths of bank/rampart and small artificial scoops or platforms. Test-pitting indicated that burning had not penetrated through the topsoil in the areas examined, but provided some limited information on the character of certain archaeological features. In one test-pit a short length of the outside face of the wall of the vitrified fort was exposed.
A small assemblage of artefacts was recovered from fieldwalking, metal-detecting and test-pitting within the burnt area, including one possible sherd of prehistoric pottery, sherds of medieval and post-medieval pottery, and flint flakes. Medieval pottery had also been recovered from the burnt area by representatives of Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service. Full results and management recommendations are in a report lodged with the NMRS and Aberdeenshire Council SMR.
Archive to be deposited in NMRS. Report lodged with Aberdeenshire SMR and NMRS.
Sponsor: Historic Scotland
S Badger and A Dunwell, 2006.