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Dun Evan

Fort (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Dun Evan

Classification Fort (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Doune Of Cawdor

Canmore ID 15064

Site Number NH84NW 5

NGR NH 8275 4757

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Cawdor
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Nairn
  • Former County Nairn

Archaeology Notes

NH84NW 5 8275 4757

(NH 8275 4757) Dun Evan (NAT) Vitrified Fort (NR)

OS 6" map, (1960)

Dun Evan, a fort with outworks, from which vitrifaction has been recorded (Feachem 1963). The oval fort occupies the fairly level summit of a steep-sided rocky hill and measures about 56.0m NE-SW by 23.0m within a turf-covered wall reduced to an average internal height of c. 0.4m, and spread to a maximum width of c. 10.0m. The entrance in the NE is ill-defined by a dip in the wall. Feachem records outer facing stones at the base of the debris outside the entrance, but these are no longer evident and no facing stones are visible at any point around the wall. No vitrifaction is visible, and none was noted in 1965, though the late Lord Cawdor informed OS (NKB) at that time that he had noted vitrifaction in the fort; the appearance of the wall and the small size of the tumbled stones suggests it was timber-laced.

Around the fort at a lower level is another wall which, except in the N, has tumbled down the slope, its course being marked by a stony terrace. In the SE the terrace is almost obliterated by tumble from the main fort wall and soil creep and is under dense scrub. A break c. 4.0m wide in the S may be an additional means of access through this outwork. In the N the outer wall face is visible intermittently to a height of three courses at the base of the debris, and the wall can be seen to widen from about 5.0m to at least 10.0m where it turns S to join additional heavy defences which protect the NE approach. The plan of these additional works is enigmatic as they are mutilated by trees, quarrying and minor excavations but the vast amount of debris and the larger size of the stones suggests that they were not timber-laced. They overlook the approach to the fort which is up a terrace c. 4.0m wide, which may be partly of modern construction. A circular depression c. 3.5m in diameter and 0.6m deep in the S part of the fort is noted by Feachem as the site of a well.

According to Wallace, pig and other animal bones and an arrowhead have been found within the fort.

Survey Plan Resurveyed at 1:2500 (OS [NKB] 19 November 1965).

Visited by OS (A A) 3 February 1971.

T Wallace 1921; R W Feachem 1963.

This fort, also known as the Doune of Cawdor, occupies the summit of a prominent crag. The defences belong to at least two phases, the earliest represented by a much ruined wall enclosing the summit platform, and the later by a wall which encloses a smaller part of the summit area. The fort has been given added protection by an outer wall and other short stretches of walling on the SW and NE.

RCAHMS 1978, visited April 1978.


Field Visit (20 September 1943)

Fort, Dun Evan, Cawdor.

The celebrated vitrified fort thus named occupies the highest and westernmost extremity of the wooded ridge dividing the valley of the Allt Dearg from the main valley of the Nairn. The ridge is divided by fissures running N and S in to a series of rocky bosses. It is the last of these, rising to 765’ above OD, that supports the fort. The summit is defended on every side by extremely steep slopes, but these natural defences have been supplemented by three concentric ramparts. The slopes are thickly overgrown with stout broom shrubs and tall bracken as well as some larger trees, so that no complete survey was possible and the outer ramparts are much obscured. The crest of the innermost rampart however is a clear grassy-grown ridge of stones that defines a pointed oval area some 210’ long NE to SW by about 90’ wide from crest to crest, the sides being straight for the greater part of their respective lengths. No vitrified stones were noted and no trace of inner or outer faces are exposed anywhere, but the stones visible included many of the small reddened and splintered fragments frequently found on vitrified ramparts. On the NW the middle rampart runs 50’ horizontally outside the inner and some 30’ [?below] it. This is also formed of stones but has left less imposing remains. The exposed stones are mostly large, irregularly shaped blocks, and would not be normally expected in a vitrified wall. At the NE end this rampart seems to come to a very sharp point, but it has been too much disturbed by large trees growing on it for any reliable plan to be recoverable without excavation. The same remarks apply to the outermost rampart that can in fact only be distinguished clearly on the NW side.

No obvious gaps in the ramparts mark the position of any entrance.

In the jungle of bracken and broom occupying the hollow interior no well nor foundations are distinguishable.

Visited by RCAHMS (VG Childe, A Graham) 20 September 1943.

Field Visit (16 April 1957)

Fort, Dun Evan.

This fort occupies a rocky eminence which rises from the high ground between the Allt Dearg and the River Nairn to attain a height of 678 feet O. D. It commands a wide view in all directions, including the lower part of the valley of the River Nairn to its mouth at Nairn seven miles to the NE. The oval summit of the rock is comparatively level and measures about 280 feet in length from NE. to SW. by about 95 feet in width. The ruins of a stone wall (I) lie upon it but do not coincide exactly with the whole of its margin, for although the NW. and SE. sections of the two coincide the NE. and SW. arcs of the wall run across the surface of the plateau at a maximum distance of 35 feet from its edges. The wall, which thus encloses an area measuring 195 feet in length by 85 feet in breadth, consists of a grass-grown mound of stones and boulders rising to a height of 4 feet from the ground outside and spreading to between 15 feet and 25 feet in width. No facing-stones could be distinguished in this substantial ruin. The entrance is in the E.

The two almost semi-circular arcs of the margin of the summit plateau which protrude beyond each end of the enclosure formed by wall I are also bordered with enough stones and boulders to show that they were once defended by a stone wall. The remains of this are very slight, particularly along the NE. arc, but are sufficient to show that the ruin of wall I overlies them at the points of contact. It is thus demonstrated that the two arcs, now separated by wall I, originally formed parts of a wall (II) which ran right round the margin of the summit plateau to enclose the whole of this. Wall II was probably never so stout as wall I, and was doubtless robbed of many of its stones to help in the construction of the latter. The entrance to the enclosure formed by wall II was probably in the E. where the present track comes over the crest on its way to the entrance to the enclosure formed by wall I.

The various elements which comprise the outer defences occur at places lower down the flanks of the rock. On the date of visit, while the upper part of the rock was covered by coarse grass and annual weeds, the lower slopes were to a great extent clothed in scrub, trees and fallen timber, and it was thus not always possible to gain a clear Sight of the remains of outer works. Three principal elements how: ever fall to be described. The first is an arc of ruined walling (III), represented by a scatter of stones along a partly artificial crest-line which traverses the NE. flank of the knoll in an arc 130 feet in length. To the .the wall and the crest die out on the flank, while to the S. they end at the side of the entrance roadway.

Beyond the road to SE. and S. the flanks of the rock increase in steepness so that for a space of nearly 200 feet no defence was necessary. As the steepness begins to decrease again along the SSE. flank, however, a wall (IV) of similar appearance and situation to all three begins to appear. It runs S. and SW. for about 180 feet, at the end of which it reaches the level of the base of the rock, although the ground continues to fall, albeit less steeply, to the SSW.

While to the N. and NW. the rock rises somewhat abruptly from more gradual sloping ground, to the W the land below falls for some distance almost as steeply as do the flanks of the rock. Likewise, while the land immediately S. of the rock falls away only gradually, the steep descent to the W. is carried S. in the form of a low cliff. The next element of outer defences of the fort to be considered is another ruinous wall (V) which originates in the thick scrub which/covers the crest of the low cliff referred to at a point about 60 feet of the S. apex of the rock. The wall appears as a stoney, often grass-grown, mound which runs N. along the crest of the low cliff and, where this merges With the flank of the rock, along an artificial crest formed by an internal quarry ditch to the NW and N, where the ground beyond the rock begins to slope less and less steeply away, the ruin of the wall becomes more and more substantial until, towards its termination near the side of the access road, an immense quantity of blocks and slabs of stone occurs. This part of the was covered structure/in particularly dense scrub, dead timber and living trees; but it was possible to measure the height of the tumbled debris near the NE. end of wall V as 14 feet from the lowest courses of same laid facing stones which appear at the base of the mass. As can be seen on the plan, the NE end of wall V is connected to the NE. arc of wall III by two parallel lines of ruined walling (VI and VII). One of these (VI) flanks the entrance roadway and the other (VII) lies from 25 feet to 35 feet NW. it. Both of these consist of great tumbled masses of stones and boulders, and there is a corresponding additional weight of debris along the course of wall III between the SW ends of VI and VII.

The exact nature and identity of the structure or structures represented by the complex made up of the walls VI and VII and the adjacent stretches of V and III is not at once obvious. Although at first sight the almost rectangular complex might, on plan, suggest a building, this is rendered unlikely by the fact that between walls VI and VII there is a rise of 22 feet between walls III and V. It is possible that walls VI and VII merely represent cross walls designed to strengthen the defences. The great weight of the ruins, and especially the huge mound of wall V as it runs between the NE. ends of VI and VII, gives the observer the impression that the complex was built on a larger scale than were the rest of the walls. The weight of the debris of wall V only attains normal proportions until quite near the end when it rather suddenly increases to the size already remarked. However, an adequate examination of the surface remains must wait until the enveloping living and dead vegetation is cleared from the ruins.

The access road, which runs obliquely up the SE. flank of the rock before turning up through wall II and into the enclosure formed by wall I is bordered along its outer or SE. side by a considerable tumble of stones and boulders. It is possible that these and the roadway represent the original entry and the ruin of a wall designed to cover it; but it is also possible that the stones have first fallen from the various ruins which lie above or NW. of the roadway and have then been cleared off the latter to form a scatter on the slopes immediately below it.

Visited by RCAHMS 16 April 1957

Note (17 March 2015 - 31 August 2016)

This fort is situated on the summit of rocky hill commanding wide views over the valley of the River Nairn. Its defences are evidently complex, comprising two main elements: an inner enclosure on the summit; and an outer enclosure set further down the slope. The inner enclosure, however, represents two phases of construction, the earlier of which, now reduced to no more than a stony scarp, probably extended around the lip of the whole of the summit, though it is only visible where it emerges from beneath the later on the NE and SW; it encloses an oval area measuring about 85m from NE to SW by 23m transversely (0.15ha). In the later phase a new circuit was erected on the summit, enclosing an area of much the same breadth but no more than 56m in length (0.1ha) within a wall reduced to a grass-grown bank about 10m in thickness and standing about 1.2m high externally; a hollow in the SW end of the interior may mark the position of a well, and the entrance is on the E, giving access to a path that doglegs down the slope and out along a terrace past the outer terminal of the outermost rampart on the NE. Comparatively massive, Angus Graham and Gordon Childe believed that some reddened fragments of stone they observed in the core of this inner wall in 1943 were comparable to heated stones they had seen on other vitrified forts elsewhere, but no other evidence of the vitrifaction claimed by John Williams in 1777 has been noted since. The main outer defence contours round the flanks of the hill to enclose an area measuring about 140m from NE to SW by 50m transversely (0.55ha). For the most part its rampart is reduced to a stony scarp, probably broken by an entrance on the SW, but from the N round to the NE it gradually increases in size to its terminal adjacent to the entrance track on the NE, and in places on the N the line of the outer face survives three courses high. At this entrance the wall appears to turn back towards the summit, flanking the entrance track as far as what appears to be the line of yet another intermediate defensive wall running round the slope on this side and lying concentrically to the earliest summit enclosure. The configuration of these heavily ruined defences, and another wall that drops down the slope between them, is not fully understood in the dense undergrowth that clothes the site, and rather than an elaboration of the entrance passage, which would be an unusual feature, it may be the remains of an independent rectangular enclosure overlying these two lines of defence. Apart from the inferred sequence between the two summit enclosures, their relationships to the other defences is unknown.

Information from An Atlas of Hillforts of Great Britain and Ireland – 31 August 2016. Atlas of Hillforts SC2907


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