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Tap O' Noth

Enclosure (Period Unassigned), Fort (Period Unassigned), Ring Ditch House(S) (Prehistoric), Roundhouse(S) (Prehistoric), Vitrified Stone (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Tap O' Noth

Classification Enclosure (Period Unassigned), Fort (Period Unassigned), Ring Ditch House(S) (Prehistoric), Roundhouse(S) (Prehistoric), Vitrified Stone (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Hill Of Noth

Canmore ID 17169

Site Number NJ42NE 1

NGR NJ 4845 2930

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/17169

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2017.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Aberdeenshire
  • Parish Rhynie
  • Former Region Grampian
  • Former District Gordon
  • Former County Aberdeenshire

Treasured Places - HLF funded (13 August 2007)

The Iron Age hillfort on Tap O' Noth is one of the largest in Scotland, consisting of 21 ha enclosed by a stone rampart. More than 100 house platforms have been recorded between the rampart and a massive wall that further protects the hill's summit. This stone and timber wall, more than 6m in width and 3m high, is vitrified in places - the stones have fused together through intense, prolonged heat. The extremely high temperatures generated by the burning timbers causes the surrounding stone to melt, and this phenomenon has been observed at many forts. On the summit there is a rock cut well or cistern.

Information from RCAHMS (SC) 13 August 2007

RCAHMS 2007

Armit, I 1998

Ritchie, A and Ritchie G, 1998

An image of this site has been nominated as one of Scotland's favourite archive images. For more information about the project visit http://www.treasuredplaces.org.uk

Recording Your Heritage Online

Tap o' Noth. Remains of 'an ancient fortress, formerly thought to have been the mouth of a volcano, but now known to

be one of three forts constructed of stones vitrified by the force of fire, of which kind many have been lately discovered in Scotland'.

Francis Douglas, 'A general description of the East coast of Scotland', Paisley, 1782

Taken from "Aberdeenshire: Donside and Strathbogie - An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Ian Shepherd, 2006. Published by the Rutland Press http://www.rias.org.uk

Archaeology Notes

NJ42NE 1 4845 2931.

NJ 4845 2930 Tap o' Noth (NAT) Vitrified Fort (NR) (Remains of); Outer Line of Entrenchment (NR) (Remains of)

(NJ 4845 2927) Well (NR)

OS 6" map, Aberdeenshire, 2nd ed., (1902)

The Tap o' Noth is a conical eminence which rises from the W end of the Hill of Noth to attain a height of 1851 ft (564m) OD, and 1300 ft (396m) above the Water of Bogie at Rhynie; it is visible from the sea, 30 miles to the E.

The fort that crowns this site is the second highest in Scotland and consists of a single wall (now overgrown and heavily vitrified) which may have originally been more than 20ft (6.1m) thick and encloses an area about 335ft (102m) by 105ft (32m). A depression about 90ft (27m) from the S end represents the site of a well or cistern.

A second wall, mainly a row of huge boulders, lies low down the N and E flanks of the hill. Outside to the S of the fort platforms similar to those on which timber-framed houses were built have been noticed.

J MacDonald 1891; J E Kilbride-Jones 1935; M A Cotton 1954; R W Feachem 1963; R W Feachem 1966.

Tap o' Noth: generally as described above. Traces of outworks are discernible outside the entrance to the SE, but are too vague to survey. The interior is featureless, except for the well/cistern which is now choked with stones.

The numerous crescent-shaped 'platforms' on the NE and S side of the fort may be quarries (not surveyed).

Surveyed at 1/10,000.

Visited by OS (NKB) 8 February 1967.

This fort is situated in heather and rough grazing on the summit of a conical hill at an altitude of 563m OD. Field visits have revealed the following:

1. children's scoops in the (main) wall,

2. a second wall (mainly comprising a row of huge boulders) low down on the N and E flanks of the hill,

3. outside the fort (to the S) there are what are possibly either quarries or platforms for timber-framed houses,

4. platforms to NE of fort may be quarries but some are similar to hut-platforms, measuring c. 10m in diameter; there is a further platform immediately S of the entrance,

5. traces of outworks are discernible as breaks of slope outside the entrance to the SE, but are too vague to survey

6. the well or cistern is now choked with stones but contains some water; the interior is otherwise featureless.

Macdonald (1886) cut two sections through the wall of the upper fort while samples of vitrified rock were taken from the main enclosure by Prof. R Kazmann for analysis at Louisiana State University.

(GRC/AAS plans and ground and air photographs listed).

Information from Aberdeenshire Archaeological Service, June 1997 (visited May 1978, April 1981 and May 1985).

NMRS, MS/712/19 and MS/712/36.

NJ 484 293. A visit to Tap o' Noth vitrified fort revealed the presence of a hitherto unidentified enclosure within the massive stone walls of the fort, formed by two concentric banks with medial ditch, traceable around the W, S and E sides of the interior of the fort. Within the northern interior of the fort the banks of this enclosure could not be distinguished. The inner rampart measures c 2m wide by 0.5m high; the outer 2.5-3m wide by 0.4m high, and the medial ditch c 2m in width. To the E the enclosure appears to run beneath the vitrified stone wall and also shows evidence of realignment. To the W the double banks show signs of disturbance. To the S, the banks exist in a denuded state where they correspond to the entrance through the vitrified fort.

Two possible hut circles were located within the northern interior of the vitrified fort. One, c 30m from the inner stone wall, is defined as a low mound c 8m in diameter. Its walls measure 1-1.5m wide, contain occasional stone, with a possible entrance present to the SE. Approximately 10m NW of this hut circle, the W half of a possible second hut circle measuring 5m in diameter and extant to c 0.3m could be defined.

A Dunwell and R Strachan 1997.

(Classified as hillfort, enclosures and hut-platforms). Air photographs: AAS/00/02/G4/5-8 and AAS/00/02/CT.

NMRS, MS/712/100.

Without question this is one of the most spectacular forts in Scotland. The summit of the hill lies at a height of 563m OD, rising up from the south-west end of a whale-backed ridge above Rhynie, and the view from the top commands a huge sweep of north-east of Scotland. On a clear day the North Sea can be seen to the east, while the southern shore of the Moray Firth lies to the north, its far coast extending into the distance to Sutherland and Caithness.

The fort itself comprises two main components, one represented by the massive vitrified wall around the summit, and the other by a stone rampart set much farther down the slope. The vitrified wall, which encloses an area measuring about 85m from north-west to south-east by 30m transversely, now forms a mound of rubble at least 15m thick, although it has evidently been quarried for stone internally at a more recent date. Despite the quarrying, the rubble is piled up between 2m and 3m above the level of the interior, but its external scarp forms an even more impressive feature, with a talus of debris spread up to 30m down the slope. At various points around the circuit substantial masses of vitrifaction can also be seen, in part exposed by the quarrying, but demonstrating that the wall was constructed with an internal timber framework and destroyed in a massive conflagration. No entrance is visible and the present access, which can be seen in a 19th-century illustration of the fort (Hibbert 1857), rides over the debris at the south-east end. Two low banks with a medial ditch cut across the south-east end of the interior, presumably indicating the presence of an earlier enclosure on the summit. The only other features visible within the interior are a possible well or cistern, and what may be traces of a large round-house.

The outer fort is defended by a single rampart, though this has been largely wrecked by stone-robbing, and in some places, particularly on the steepest slopes above Rhynie, its line is barely perceptible. Ten gaps in the rampart can be identified, mainly around the northern half of the circuit, though not all are original entrances. Nevertheless, several short lengths of trackway within the interior are probably ancient, servicing the clusters of small circular house-platforms that pockmark its surface.

Visited by RCAHMS (SPH), 6 September 1999.

Activities

Field Visit (27 July 1943)

This site was recorded as part of the RCAHMS Emergency Survey, undertaken by Angus Graham and Vere Gordon Childe during World War 2. The project archive has been catalogued during 2013-2014 and the material, which includes notebooks, manuscripts, typescripts, plans and photographs, is now available online.

Information from RCAHMS (GF Geddes) 2 December 2014.

Field Visit (26 July 1954)

This site was included within the RCAHMS Marginal Land Survey (1950-1958), an unpublished rescue project. Site descriptions, organised by county, are available to view online - see the searchable PDF in 'Digital Items'. These vary from short notes, to lengthy and full descriptions. Contemporary plane-table surveys and inked drawings, where available, can be viewed online in most cases - see 'Digital Images'. The original typescripts, notebooks and drawings can also be viewed in the RCAHMS search room.

Information from RCAHMS (GFG) 19 July 2013.

Field Visit (8 February 1967)

Tap o' Noth: generally as described above. Traces of outworks are discernible outside the entrance to the SE, but are too vague to survey. The interior is featureless, except for the well/cistern which is now choked with stones.

The numerous crescent-shaped 'platforms' on the NE and S side of the fort may be quarries (not surveyed).

Surveyed at 1/10,000.

Visited by OS (NKB) 8 February 1967.

Field Visit (13 July 1969)

Aerial Photography (1977)

Aerial Photography (22 August 1978)

Field Visit (May 1978 - May 1985)

This fort is situated in heather and rough grazing on the summit of a conical hill at an altitude of 563m OD. Field visits have revealed the following:

1. children's scoops in the (main) wall,

2. a second wall (mainly comprising a row of huge boulders) low down on the N and E flanks of the hill,

3. outside the fort (to the S) there are what are possibly either quarries or platforms for timber-framed houses,

4. platforms to NE of fort may be quarries but some are similar to hut-platforms, measuring c. 10m in diameter; there is a further platform immediately S of the entrance,

5. traces of outworks are discernible as breaks of slope outside the entrance to the SE, but are too vague to survey

6. the well or cistern is now choked with stones but contains some water; the interior is otherwise featureless.

Macdonald (1886) cut two sections through the wall of the upper fort while samples of vitrified rock were taken from the main enclosure by Prof. R Kazmann for analysis at Louisiana State University.

(GRC/AAS plans and ground and air photographs listed).

Information from Aberdeenshire Archaeological Service, June 1997 (visited May 1978, April 1981 and May 1985).

NMRS, MS/712/19 and MS/712/36.

Aerial Photography (1978)

Aerial Photography (22 January 1981)

Aerial Photography (6 June 1983)

Publication Account (1986)

Two defensive episodes have been identifled on this most spectacular hillfort which is, at 563m OD, the second highest in Scotland (after Ben Griam Beg in Sutherland, at 620m). The larger, and possibly earlier, enclosure covers a massive 21 ha and consists of an outwork, a stony wall with a core of boulders, running round the break of slope on all but the steepest southeastern side. At least 145 platforms have been found within this enclosure, as well as substantial tracks. The platforms are most numerous on the north-east and north-west sides. Although some of the larger ones are on the more southerly slopes, the concentration on the north side may be the result of the prevailing wind. It is presumed that many of the platforms Cat least near the upper fort) must be quarries; nevertheless, the existence of any hut sites at this altitude and their relative remoteness from good agricultural land suggest a date no later than the early first millennium BC, before the climate deteriorated. The site is, however, formally undated, although three glass beads and other late iron-age fmds came from very close to this lower enclosure.

The upper fort consists of a truly massive wall, vitrified extremely heavily in places, enclosing a rectangular area 105m by 40m. When the wall was excavated in 1891, it was found to be from G m to 8m wide at the base and to rise to 3.5m in height. The cistern, at the south end of the fort, was found to be 2.2m deep. The severe vitrification could only have been produced by substantial quantities of timber and brushwood; once alight the fort must have been visible as a glowing beacon for days. It is not known when, or by whom, this great work, at once of defence and of display, was destroyed.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Grampian’, (1986).

Aerial Photography (27 February 1996)

Publication Account (1996)

Two defensive episodes have been identified on this most spectacular hillfort which is, at 563m OD, the second highest in Scotland (after Ben Griam Beg in Sutherland, at 620m). The larger, and possibly earlier, enclosure covers a massive 21 ha and consists of an outwork, a stony all with a core of boulders, running round the break of slope on all but the steepest south-eastern side. At least 145 platforms have been found within this enclosure, as well as substantial tracks. The platforms are most numerous on the north-east and north-west sides. Although some of the larger ones are on the more southerly slopes, the concentration on the north side may be the result of the prevailing wind. It is presumed that many of the platforms (at least near the upper fort) must be quarries; nevertheless, the existence of any hut sites at this altitude and their relative remoteness from good agricultural land suggest a date no later than the early first millennium BC, before the climate deteriorated. The site is, however, formally undated, although three glass beads and other late iron-age finds came from very close to this lower enclosure.

The upper fort consists of a truly massive wall, vitrified extremely heavily in places, enclosing a rectangular area 105m by 40m. When the wall was excavated in 1891, it was found to be from 6m to 8m wide at the base and to rise to 3.5m in height. The cistern, at the south end of the fort, was found to be 2.2m deep. The severe vitrification could only have been produced by substantial quantities of timber and brushwood; once alight the fort must have been visible as a glowing beacon for days. It is not known when, or by whom, this great work, at once of defence and of display, was destroyed.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Aberdeen and North-East Scotland’, (1996).

Field Visit (1997)

NJ 484 293. A visit to Tap o' Noth vitrified fort revealed the presence of a hitherto unidentified enclosure within the massive stone walls of the fort, formed by two concentric banks with medial ditch, traceable around the W, S and E sides of the interior of the fort. Within the northern interior of the fort the banks of this enclosure could not be distinguished. The inner rampart measures c 2m wide by 0.5m high; the outer 2.5-3m wide by 0.4m high, and the medial ditch c 2m in width. To the E the enclosure appears to run beneath the vitrified stone wall and also shows evidence of realignment. To the W the double banks show signs of disturbance. To the S, the banks exist in a denuded state where they correspond to the entrance through the vitrified fort.

Two possible hut circles were located within the northern interior of the vitrified fort. One, c 30m from the inner stone wall, is defined as a low mound c 8m in diameter. Its walls measure 1-1.5m wide, contain occasional stone, with a possible entrance present to the SE. Approximately 10m NW of this hut circle, the W half of a possible second hut circle measuring 5m in diameter and extant to c 0.3m could be defined.

A Dunwell and R Strachan 1997.

Field Visit (June 1998)

Aerial Photography (9 March 1998)

Aerial Photography (26 October 1998)

Measured Survey (3 August 1999 - 6 September 1999)

Field Visit (6 September 1999)

Without question this is one of the most spectacular forts in Scotland. The summit of the hill lies at a height of 563m OD, rising up from the south-west end of a whale-backed ridge above Rhynie, and the view from the top commands a huge sweep of north-east of Scotland. On a clear day the North Sea can be seen to the east, while the southern shore of the Moray Firth lies to the north, its far coast extending into the distance to Sutherland and Caithness.

The fort itself comprises two main components, one represented by the massive vitrified wall around the summit, and the other by a stone rampart set much farther down the slope. The vitrified wall, which encloses an area measuring about 85m from north-west to south-east by 30m transversely, now forms a mound of rubble at least 15m thick, although it has evidently been quarried for stone internally at a more recent date. Despite the quarrying, the rubble is piled up between 2m and 3m above the level of the interior, but its external scarp forms an even more impressive feature, with a talus of debris spread up to 30m down the slope. At various points around the circuit substantial masses of vitrifaction can also be seen, in part exposed by the quarrying, but demonstrating that the wall was constructed with an internal timber framework and destroyed in a massive conflagration. No entrance is visible and the present access, which can be seen in a 19th-century illustration of the fort (Hibbert 1857), rides over the debris at the south-east end. Two low banks with a medial ditch cut across the south-east end of the interior, presumably indicating the presence of an earlier enclosure on the summit. The only other features visible within the interior are a possible well or cistern, and what may be traces of a large round-house.

The outer fort is defended by a single rampart, though this has been largely wrecked by stone-robbing, and in some places, particularly on the steepest slopes above Rhynie, its line is barely perceptible. Ten gaps in the rampart can be identified, mainly around the northern half of the circuit, though not all are original entrances. Nevertheless, several short lengths of trackway within the interior are probably ancient, servicing the clusters of small circular house-platforms that pockmark its surface.

Visited by RCAHMS (SPH, JRS, IP) 6 September 1999.

Aerial Photography (24 January 2000)

Photographic Record (28 June 2000)

Aerial Photography (8 May 2000)

Aerial Photography (3 June 2003)

Aerial Photography (3 March 2003)

References

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