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Denoon Law

Building (Period Unassigned)(Possible), Fort (Prehistoric)

Site Name Denoon Law

Classification Building (Period Unassigned)(Possible), Fort (Prehistoric)

Canmore ID 32139

Site Number NO34SE 1

NGR NO 3546 4440

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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Administrative Areas

  • Council Angus
  • Parish Glamis
  • Former Region Tayside
  • Former District Angus
  • Former County Angus

Archaeology Notes

NO34SE 1 3546 4440.

The grass-covered remains of a well-preserved, probably timber-laced fort. The plan is somewhat trapezoid, as dictated by the shape of the hill, the interior measuring axially a maximum of 370' in length by 220' in width, within a massive and lofty mound which stands to a height of 14' from the inside and is spread to 50' in width. The easiest approaches to the fort, from the NW and NE, are covered by the denuded remains of three very much slighter ramparts, and it must be questioned whether all are contemporary or whether the fort occupies an older site. On the face of it, the former alternative may seem the more probable.

No vitrified material has been found, but the size and proportion of the main ruin have little room for doubt that it must contain the remains of a timber-laced wall, which could be 30' thick or more.

The Statistical Account (OSA) notes traces of internal buildings, while Christison mentions hut circles cut into the terraces on the N and SE slopes.

OSA 1792; D Christison 1890; R W Feachem 1963.

This fort is generally as described. Only two of the three ramparts below the main fort are worthy of survey and there are at least three probable hut platforms (only one of which is surveyable) scooped into the rampart immediately below the main rampart on the N side. Within the fort are the foundations of at least five rectangular structures (three of which are open-ended), probably of a late period, and below the W end of the fort are traces of a stone wall along the edge of the rock face.

Resurveyed at 1:2500 scale.

Visited by OS (W D J) 16 January 1970.

This roughly trapezoidal fort occupies the summit of Denoon Law and measures 112m by 67m within a massive wall up to 8m thick and 5m high. The entrance is on the E, and the NW and NE flanks are protected by three low ramparts.

R W Feachem 1977; RCAHMS 1983.


Field Visit (6 August 1956)

Fort, Denoon Law (cf PSAS 34, 91 No.41).

This is quite definitely a fort of the Abernethy class. The northmost defence has been a wall presumably of the same type as Barry Hill (NO25SE 23), Alyth, although I saw no sign of vitrifaction here. The extent of the outer defence on the NW and NE sides is indicated by triple terraces, now intermittent, and there is an annexe on the SW (not seen by Christison) which is denoted by a single bank and has an entrance on the SW end approached by an oblique terraced track. A similar annexe is present at Barry Hill. As far as can be seen all four ramparts are homogenous, and there is no suggestion of more than one period of occupation. The position of the entrance is doubtful; the gap on the NE looks modern, and the threshold mentioned by Christison (one stone of which can still be seen) is obviously the outer face of the wall as it crosses the gap. The NW gap is also of doubtful antiquity. There is no sign of structures in the interior apart from a U-shaped foundation which is probably nothing more than the remains of a sheep shelter.

Visited by RCAHMS (KS) 6 August 1956

Field Visit (2 August 2013)

This fort crowns the summit of Denoon Law, a steep-sided volcanic plug on the NW side of Denoon Glen, a narrow valley at the N end of the Sidlaw Hills. The fort is roughly D-shaped on plan with the chord of the D formed by a long straight rampart that stands above the precipitous SE flank of the hill. It measures 105m from NE to SW by 55m transversely within a rampart that measures up to 17m in thickness and over 5m in external height but is clearly of more than one phase. Where the differentiation is clear, the latest phase of rampart measures about 6m in thickness and overlies the remains of a much thicker earlier rampart. Intermittently visible at the SW end of the fort is an outer face to the later rampart, comprising drystone walling that has, in places, been displaced downslope by the weight of core material behind. This outer face comprises no more than four or five courses of thin sandstone slabs and, although what is currently visible will only be the top of the surviving wall-face, a wall constructed of such material cannot have stood to any great height and what we see today is likely to be the remains of some form of comparatively low revetment. In both the earlier and later ramparts there is very little evidence of stone within the core and it appears that the material (boulder clay) for both has largely been derived from several large quarries within the interior of the fort. At the SW corner of the fort most of the rampart has been removed, leaving only the lower part of the outer talus. The fort, or at least its latest phase, had two entrances, one on the NE and another on the NW, both of which are crossed by the remains of a narrow, later, wall that runs around the entire circuit of the fort and may be associated with at least some of the buildings within the interior.

Outwith the main rampart there is a series of three outer ramparts, again with very little evidence for the use of stone in their construction, which run from the edge of the very steep slope at the NE end of the fort, around the N side to the entrance on the NW. All three lines of defence have been reduced to little more than terraces, though there is no evidence for them ever having been cultivated. At the entrance on the NW, the terminals of these ramparts (on both sides of the entrance) are obscured below outwash deposits from the slope above. To the SW of the entrance it is not at all clear what the relationship is between the defences of the fort and the enclosure that occupies the rocky and extremely uneven SW flank of the hill. This enclosure, which has an entrance on the W, could be some form of annexe or it could represent the SW end of an enclosure that once took in both this area and the rest of the summit.

Within the interior of the fort there are the remains of at least nine rectangular buildings, two of them large and open-ended and each overlain by a smaller, later structure. The freestanding buildings are represented by the footings of walls with inner and outer stone faces; close to the entrance on the NE, however, there are two buildings represented by simple rectangular platforms cut into the rear scarp of one of the prehistoric quarries in one case and the hollow of the entrance passage in another. On the N flank of the hill, overlying the outer defences, there are a number of structures, either taking the form of subrectangular structures with walls (and in one case an entrance) or simple scoops into the slope.

Visited by RCAHMS (JRS, IP, GG and AM) 2 August 2013.

Measured Survey (August 2013)

RCAHMS surveyed Denoon Law fort in August 2013 with GPS and plane-table and self-reducing alidade and at a scale of 1:500. The resultant plan and sections were redrawn in vector graphics software.

Note (22 May 2015 - 19 October 2016)

This fort stands on the summit of Dennon Law, which falls away steeply on all sides and particularly along the rocky SSE flank. Roughly trapezoidal on plan, it measures 105m from NE to SW along the SE side by 55m transversely (0.6ha) within a rampart reduced to a massive bank some 17m in thickness by up to 5m in height externally. In 2013 RCAHMS investigators proposed that this bank was the composite remains of several ramparts, suggesting that the outer face visible high up on the external scarp of the bank was possibly the remains of the latest, measuring about 6m in thickness and overlying an earlier and much thicker mound of debris. This hypothesis cannot be demonstrated without excavation, but there is no doubt that the crest of the rampart is also crowned by a later wall or bank, which not only encircles the whole interior, but has also been carried across the entrances on the NE and W. Below the entrance on the NE the approach rises obliquely through gaps in three outer ramparts to expose the left side of the visitor. These ramparts, each reduced to little more than a scarp, can be traced round the NE and NW flanks as far as the second entrance, beyond which only the upper apparently continues, taking in a lower terrace on a spur below the summit on the SW. At first sight an annexe to the fort, it has an entrance approached by a trackway on the SW and is possibly part of an earlier circuit enclosing the hilltop at a lower level, perhaps taking in as much as 1.2ha. The interior of the summit enclosure has been heavily quarried, presumably to provide the material for the ramparts, but it also contains the footings of at least two large rectangular buildings, which are not typical of those found in later townships and may be the remains of a medieval caput enclosed within the wall on the crest of the rampart.

Information from An Atlas of Hillforts of Great Britain and Ireland – 19 October 2016. Atlas of Hillforts SC3072


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