Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Publication Account

Date 1986

Event ID 1017427

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


Occupying the summit of a low hill above the Urr estuary, this fort takes its name from Mark, King of Dumnonia, third party in the tragic romance of Tristan and Isolda. The association is a matter of legend, not of history, although interpretation of the archaeological excavations in 1913 and 1973 has shown that the site was occupied in the 5th and 6th centuries AD, broadly contemporary with the historical Tristan, and that the structure and artefacts were indeed of princely character. It was a citadel of some importance which lay within the British kingdom of Rheged and was destroyed in the 7th century, perhaps by Northumbrian Angles.

The hill is steep-sided and craggy to seaward, but more gently sloping on the landward side. The summit is undulating and consists of a pair of flat-topped rocky eminences with a natural soil-filled hollow in the middle. Around the edge there are the remains of a wall, now a low bank of stony debris incorporating pieces of heat-fused granite but originally a massive rampart of timber-laced drystone construction about 3m high and 3m thick. It had two entrances (on the south and north-western sides), and the central hollow, evidently the main area of occupation, had its own protective wall. The main rampart was fIred by attackers, presumed Anglian, in the early 7th century who caused the stonework to become vitrifIed. The defences were later shored up with rubble, but these were soon dismantled and the site subjected to a final phase of squatter settlement.

The picture presented by the assemblage of artefacts is of a community which included metalworkers and jewellery-makers using crucibles and clay moulds for casting bronze objects. Among their products were brooches decorated with early forms of Celtic interlace; scraps of decorated glass, possibly from the Rhineland, were also used for inlays and enamels. Glass beads, jet objects, and quantities of pottery from the Bordeaux region were also among the fmds which are now in the RMS. Here indeed is rich testimony to the life-style of the chieftains or princes of this fortified court, and to the workshops and craftsmen who served them.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Dumfries and Galloway’, (1986).

People and Organisations