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King's Causeway

Road (Period Unassigned)

Site Name King's Causeway

Classification Road (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 14544

Site Number NH77NE 2

NGR NH 7628 7633

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Logie Easter
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Ross And Cromarty
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Archaeology Notes

NH77NE 2 7628 7633 to 7768 7974.

(NH 7640 7640 - NH 7705 7890) King's Causeway (NR)

OS 6" map, (1959)

The King's Causeway, a rough footpath, is said to have been constructed about 1527 for the convenience of King James V, who was making a bare-foot pilgrimage to the shrine of St Duthac at Tain.

King's Bridge, a steep old bridge over the river near Balnagown Castle, being so near the line of the causeway, was probably associated.

New Statistical Account (NSA, written by C C Mackintosh) 1845; W J Watson 1904.

All trace of the original path known as King's Causeway has disappeared except for a section at NH 7665 7797, c.80.0m long. Here, a turf-covered track 5.2m wide, flanked by ditches and revetted with large stones, 0.3m high, can be seen. The remainder of the Causeway is either overlaid by modern roads and forestry tracks or destroyed by ploughing. The tradition of the pilgrimage is still known locally.

King's Bridge was constructed during the modernisation of the castle in either 1670 or 1750 (Information from W Hunter, Estate Factor, Balnagown Castle, Eater Ross).

Visited by OS (N K B) 25 March 1966;

The remnants of King's Causeway are generally as described by previous OS field surveyor. Deturfing of a section at NH 7665 7799 by Tain schoolchildren in June 1972 has revealed the roughly paved roadway 5.3m wide flanked by silted ditches.

Revised at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (I S S) 30 August 1972.


Field Visit (October 2009)

NH 56887 50573 and at various given points to NH 7664 7795 This project, which started in October 2009, is being undertaken with the aim of characterising and recording a series of double embanked features that are believed to indicate a possible network of relict routeways in Easter Ross. The main objectives are to identify a new monument class of early roadways in this part of the Highlands and to increase understanding of the narrative of their creation, use, re-use and abandonment.

Following informal walkover surveys of the linear earthworks, it has become apparent that, for the most part,

they possess a suite of characteristics distinguishing them from simple tracks. At other places along the continuous route from the Beauly to the Dornoch Firths the routeway is preserved in currently used wide paths and field boundaries. The initial walkovers followed the trajectories suggested by the positioning of these features. Additionally, surfaces were probed for sub-surface cobbling and bottoming stones, using a stainless steel survey arrow. The results have been variable and, until a benchmark roadway sub-surface can be identified, further investigation is being concentrated on a desk-based assessment of the historical maps, aerial photographs and the District Roads Trustees’ Minute Books and the Roads Commissioners’ Reports, to clarify if these features represent pre-parliamentary and 18th-century military roads.

A measured survey is also being conducted of a sample of the double embanked roadway fragments and likely

associated features along the route. The defining characteristic is the relative straightness of the main road at the centre of the network. Changes in direction occur but in between these changes the road generally takes a direct route from point to point. Most of the road is delineated by parallel turf embankments, of no more than 1m high, on either side of a levelled surface 5–11m wide. There is no discernible camber. These double embanked linear features have been identified at the locations given below.

To the N of the Beauly Firth, parallel embankments, conforming to the description given above, have been

identified at NH 56887 50573, continuing 1.86km NNW to NH 55067 51063. Similar double embanked features have been identified at Balavil Wood, in the vicinity of David’s Fort (NH55SW 4), beginning at NH 53782 52308 and continuing NNW for 1.29km to NH 53692 53608 and again at Tallysow Wood beginning at NH 52987 55338 and extending 613m to NH 52682 55888.

Continuing N, parallel embankments, defining a levelled routeway have been identified in the vicinity of Meikle

Ussie at NH 51802 57918, extending for 70m to NH 51792 57968 and at Coill an Righe, beginning at NH 51727 58398 and extending N for 423m to NH 51452 58688. Here the route reaches a ford on a tributary of the River Peffery. The possible stone remains of a simple bridge abutment have been identified at this location. At St John the Baptist’s Well (NH55NW 8), just below the shoulder of Knockfarrel, the route appears to coincide with the Fodderty ‘Corpse Road’. The parallel embankments and levelled surface begin at NH 51397 58883 and continue down the N facing slope for 150m to NH 51452 58993.

At the part of the suggested routeway that continues along the high ground above the N shore of the Cromarty Firth, a double embanked line has been identified beginning at NH 55216 60511, continuing E for 356m to NH 55566 60631. Within the policies of Foulis Castle, double embankments have been identified at NH 58347 63056, traversing a line NNE for 40m, ending at NH 58368 63090. At Skiach, further embankments are visible at NH 63617 68360 and can be traced, for 220m to NH 63808 68432. The characteristic features are picked up

again in the vicinity of Kincraig House, at NH 68430 70842, continuing for 662m and ending at NH 68825 70932, and also at Brenachie at NH 75745 76049, where they extend NNE for 244m until NH 75935 76194.

At NH 7664 7795 the projected route coincides with The King’s Causeway (NH77NE 2), the fragmentary remains of a cobbled roadway with two ditches running either side of a c7m wide, occasionally cambered, surface. This is described on the Highland HER as a post-medieval road, dated to between 1560 and 1900. A slightly earlier terminus post quem of 1527 is given in both the Old and New Statistical Accounts, where the cobbling of the route is described as being necessary in preparation for a pilgrimage of King James IV to the Sanctuary of Saint Duthus, Tain. The creation of this surface infers an attempt to sustain the route across what

was, presumably, marshy ground, as is later depicted on Alexander Sangster’s c1750 map of Tain. It is proposed that the suggested routeway does indeed continue to coincide with the pilgrimage route, ending at Tain.

Although archival research is ongoing, examination of the topography of some sections of the proposed routeway indicates pre-modern construction and use. For example, heading S it appears to follow a line from Tulloch Castle (NH56SW 8) to Fodderty Lodge (NH55NW 160). It then crosses the Peffery valley and climbs a steep hillside, avoiding the area around Dingwall, which is believed to have been tidal marshland until the later medieval period.

Early interpretation suggests that the route, although surviving physically only in part, is a roadway linking the

whole length of the former Earldom of Ross, extending c50km from S to N. A number of medieval castles and apparently later ‘grand’ houses sit either directly on the route or very close to it. It would appear to be the main communication route through the former Province of Ross. We are aware that a substantial, possible early roadway, variously known as ‘The Wine Road’, ‘The Comyn’s Road’ and ‘Rad na Pheny’, believed by some commentators to be capable of supporting wheeled transportation, has been identified in the southern

Highlands. However, we have not recovered any evidence for the similar identification of an extensive early linear communication feature in Ross-shire.

In this last year the project’s coordinators have worked to develop ‘Pathways into the Past’ with colleagues from Archaeology for Communities in the Highlands (ARCH). The programme consists of community learning sessions and fieldwork workshops. It offers participants opportunities to learn how to research and record the feature in their area. Participants are also being helped to display and publish their findings. The research and fieldwork findings are being publicised in a series of touring exhibitions. We wish to thank our colleagues in ARCH, Janet Hooper and Cathy MacIver, for their collaboration and for their tremendous work in facilitating the invaluable community research into what we believe may be a new monument class for the Highlands.

Archive: Highland Council Archives

Funder: Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Community Highland LEADER 2007–2013 Programme for the ARCH Pathways into the Past Programme.

Allan MacKenzie and Cait McCullagh – North of Scotland Archaeological Society (NOSAS)


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