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Building(S) (Period Unassigned), Fort (Period Unassigned), Lazy Beds (Post Medieval), Track(S) (Period Unassigned), Triangulation Pillar (19-20th Century)

Site Name Duncarnock

Classification Building(S) (Period Unassigned), Fort (Period Unassigned), Lazy Beds (Post Medieval), Track(S) (Period Unassigned), Triangulation Pillar (19-20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Craig Of Carnock

Canmore ID 43882

Site Number NS55NW 3

NGR NS 5010 5590

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2020.

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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council East Renfrewshire
  • Parish Mearns
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Eastwood
  • Former County Renfrewshire

Archaeology Notes

NS55NW 3 5010 5590.

(NS 5010 5590) Fort (NR)

OS 6" map, (1974)

Fort, Duncarnock: The summit of Duncarnock consists of a broad ridge at the north end of which a rocky knoll rises rather suddenly (to a height of 204m OD) The fort comprises a wall, originally about 10ft thick, which takes in the whole feature, and the suggestion of a partial inner defence round the knoll. The fort measures 630ft by 330ft; the summit of the knoll, 110ft by 80ft. A wide terrace fronts the entire length of the south rampart. A piece of pre-Roman native pottery and a fragment of worked shale were picked up near the north east corner of the fort by Newall in 1958.

F Newall 1958; 1960; R W Feachem 1963.

This fort is generally as described by Feachem (1963) and planned by the RCAHMS (see archive). A field bank crosses the south west corner of the fort; at NS 5007 5585 where it crosses the fort wall, the face of the wall has been cleared of turf, and runs through the field bank without a break although the later appears to be secondary. No further information was obtained about the pottery and shale fragment, they are not in Paisley Museum.

Resurveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (J T T) 2 December 1964.

Laing (1975), comparing this fort with others in the Lothians suggests that it was re-occupied in the Early Christian period.

L R Laing 1975.

A low, stony embankment, across the south approach and 50m from the fort, survives for about 100m. Curving north, it comes to within 20m of the earlier structure and merges with possibly outworks.

T C Welsh 1977, 1978.

for further details see MS/1508

Photographed by the RCAHMS.

Visible on RCAHMS air photograph RE 1054-9: flown 1977.

This fort is generally as previously described. Numerous small quarry scoops are visible close to the inner face of the rampart, which in places, but especially on the SE, exhibits a vertical external wall-face of large boulders. The disused Ordnance Survey triangulation pillar at the NE end of the interior bears a brass identification plate bearing the legend 'OS BSM 3618' .

Visited by RCAHMS (AGCH) 18 June 2007.


Field Visit (19 March 1955)

Fort, Duncarnock.

Duncarnock is a conspicuous rocky eminence which forms the NE end of a broad ridge situated in undulating country two miles S of Barrhead. The N part of the hill is capped by a craggy and inhospitable knoll rising to a height of 668 feet OD, while the S part consists of an extensive rock-strewn plateau the general level of which is some 30 feet less than that attained by the knoll. These two features are connected by a saddle, the central part of which, measuring about 45 feet in both length and breadth, is level with the plateau. From this, narrow sloping valleys fall away to NW and SE, accentuating the separation of the other two features. To W, NW, N and NE the rocky flanks of the hill rise very steeply to a height of about 100 feet above the land below, and to S a steep grassy slope rises about 40 feet from the spine of the ridge to the summit plateau. For a short distance to the N of the crest of this slope there is a minor descent to the general level of the summit plateau, the S end of which is thus marked by a slight knoll. The SE flank of the hill falls only gradually to merge with the slope which forms part of the W side of the valley of the Brock Burn.

The fort [DP 148822] occupies the whole of the top of the hill, the area enclosed by a ruinous drystone wall measuring about 630 feet in length by about 330 feet in breadth. For parts of its length the wall is represented only by the natural line of the crest of the steep flank of the hill, with only an infrequent earthfast boulder to indicate the line. Such is the stretch at the N extremity of the fort, but in the adjacent NE sector, the wall appears as a low stony mound 8 feet to 10 feet in width. This runs for a distance of 50 feet southwards up to the crestline of the highest part of' the knoll, an uneven sub-oval area measuring about 100 feet in length by 80 feet in breadth and flanked by low rocky escarpment. Traces of the wal1 then disappear, but it must have run S and SSE as recognisable remains again appear at a point 200 feet further on. Here, near the SE extremity of a tapering spine of rock which protrudes SE from the knoll, a row of large earthfast boulders must represent the remains of the foundation course of the inner face of the wall. After about 25 feet this row is joined at a distance of 9 feet on its E or outer side by a row of similar boulders representing the grounders of the outer face. The two rows run for 25 feet to the tip of the tapering spine, and where this joins the SE valley of the saddle the inner row ceases. The outer row can however be followed across the 10 feet gap which lies between the tip of the spine and the beginning of a substantial incline which represents the next stretch of the wall. The gap is probably-the entrance to the fort, and the fact that the foundation of the outer face of the wall runs across suggests that that might have been a doorway or portal in the wall at this point.

The mound, about 15 feet in width and up to 3 feet 6 inches in height, runs S from the entrance for a distance of 60 feet along which no trace of the inner face of the wall and only one stone of the outer face appear. From there outwards, however, for a distance of about 400 feet the lowest courses of the outer face are visible almost continuously. This seems likely to be the result of the clearance of the face of the wall to facilitate the removal of all but the grounders and firm foundation stones, probably in a search for material for build field boundaries. For a distance of about 300 feet the mound continues to appear behind the exposed outer face. It is irregular in size, and its appearance may be a further result of the quarrying. After reaching this point the mound dies away and the cleared face of the wall runs for a distance of about 100 feet round the S face of the slight knoll which occupies the S end of the summit plateau. The line of clearance then ceases, at a point where the slope is very steep. The wall probably ran thence up over the W end of the knoll and on to the of the W flank of the summit plateau where it reappears at a distance of 90 feet NW of the end of the cleared face. Part of the gap is due to the presence of an earthen bank with of a slight ditch on its N. side which crosses the S extremity of the fort from WNW to SSE. The clearance of the outer face of the fort wall was carried out at a later date than that of the construction of the bank, as the cleared face runs right through this.

From its point of reappearance, the wall runs NNW, N and NE round the natural crest of the flank of the hill, appearing as an intermittent stony mound with a few conspicuous earthfast boulders. It crosses the NW end of the NW alley of the saddle, and re-joins the summit knoll.

The summit knoll is thus defended by the fort wall on all sides except the SW where it adjoins the saddle. There is evidence that this side has also defended, as a line earthfast boulders runs up the NE side of the NW valley of the saddle at a distance of about 10 feet from the bottom of the steep rocky SW face of the knoll. It starts a few yards from the fort wall and runs for 135 feet to end on the middle of the saddle. Another line overlapping the former by 10 feet, stands right against the foot of the face of the knoll and runs ESE. along it for 65 feet where it ends at a gully which presumably represents a way up to the knoll. Beyond this point the line is taken up by the foot of the tapering rocky spine which ends at the NE side of the fort entrance. It is thus possible that the knoll was designed as a stronghold of defence; it might have had further walls along the margins of the higher terraces and the sub-oval summit area referred to above.

Among the numerous large boulders which are abundantly strewn over much of the site are some which appear to lie in some order. One such group, forming an L-shaped line, lies at the head of the SE valley of the saddle. The area outside the SSE. stretch of the fort wall contains a great many boulders, some of which may have formed parts of walls or settings. The line of one such is shown on the plan above the slope which leads down to the external line of entrance to the fort. A distinct line of set stones does appear, however, protruding through the turf for a length of about 170 feet at a distance of about 15 feet outside the line of the cleared face of the SE part of the fort wall. The function of this line is obscure; it might represent part of a reinforcement of the defences at this point where the line of approach to the fort is the least difficult.

The fort is one of the principal monuments of its kind in the district, and its character suggests that it may be of Dark Age date.

Visited by RCAHMS (RWF) 19 March 1955.

Reference (1957)

This site is noted in the ‘List of monuments discovered during the survey of marginal land (1951-5)’ (RCAHMS 1957, xiv-xviii). The 286 monuments were listed by county, parish, classification and name, and the list included an indication of whether they had been planned (P), whether they were visible only as a cropmark (C), and whether they were worthy of preservation (*).

Drawings are catalogued to individual site records. Investigator's notebooks are availiable in the MS collection. Site descriptions are availiable in contemporary RCAHMS inventories, or in three typescript volumes availiable in the library.

Information from RCAHMS (GFG) 24 October 2012

Field Visit (March 2009)

This fort is situated on the summit of Duncarnock, a steep-sided volcanic plug which stands immediately SE of Glanderston Dam reservoir and 370m W of Duncarnock Farm steading.

Roughly rectangular with rounded corners on plan, the fort measures about 145m from E to W by 95m transversely within a stone wall up to 4m in thickness, which is pierced by an entrance in the SE corner. The interior of the fort measures about 1.5ha (3.7 acres) in extent and contains a small craggy knoll in the NE corner separated from the undulating and largely poorly drained remainder of the interior by a broad gully which runs from the wall on the N to the entrance.

On the E and N, the wall of the fort has been reduced to little more than a heather-grown spread of rubble with only the occasional facing-stone visible, although short runs of both inner and outer facing-stones are visible immediately NE of the entrance. On the S and W, the surviving wall is more substantial, reduced to a grass-grown bank up to 7m thick and 1.5m high. On the S, much of the outer edge of this bank has been removed, revealing the external face of the wall, which comprises large boulder footings and drystone upper courses, still standing up to 1.2m high. Small-scale quarrying immediately behind the wall provides the only evidence for contemporary features within the fort.

Evidence for later activity on and around the summit of the hill takes the form of cultivation remains, buildings, trackways and quarries. Several small patches of lazy-beds, in which the very low ridges measure between 2.5m and 3.5m in breadth, occupy almost all of the area of the rocky knoll in the NE corner of the fort. The only areas that have not been cultivated here are the very steep slopes and where rock outcrop is exposed. Slight traces of broad rig-and-furrow cultivation are visible on the steep SW flank of the hill, immediately below the fort, and in the semi-improved field just to the W. The thick bank that crosses the SW corner of the fort and descends the S flank of the hill before being lost in an improved field may have been a field boundary around this cultivation. Other evidence of comparatively recent activity on the hill is provided by the small plot of improved ground which lies immediately S of the fort and E of the field boundary mentioned above. Measuring about 60m from E to W by up to 20m transversely, the plot has been cleared of stone and its N edge is marked by a well defined plough scar.

The remains of three subrectangular buildings have been recorded in and around the fort. The first (NT 50111 55929) is situated within wet, peaty ground at the centre of fort. It measures about 7.5m in length and probably has an entrance in the middle of its S side. A length of what appears to be a ruinous rubble wall, which springs off the NE corner of the building, may represent the E side of a small enclosure. The second building (NT 50071 55857) overlies the bank that traverses the SW corner of the fort. Measuring about 9m in length, the front of this building, which contains two compartments, each with an entrance on the S, directly overlies the exposed boulders footings of the outer face of the fort wall. The third building (NT 50513 55873) is situated immediately S of the fort, some 30m SW of the entrance. It measures about 4.4m in length and has a possible entrance on the NE. The structure lies on the SE side of a D-shaped enclosure which measures about 15m from NE to SW by 9m transversely, the arc of the D formed by a low, grass- and heather-grown spread of rubble and the chord by the outer edge of the fort wall. Both the NE and SW walls of the enclosure have been cut by the trench that was dug to expose the outer face of the wall of the fort. It is not possible to state whether the rectangular structure is contemporary with the enclosure or whether it overlies it.

Of the trackways in the vicinity of the fort, one ascends the SE flank of the hill and eventually enters the SW corner of the fort by breaking through its wall. Branching off this trackway is a short length of track which approaches the entrance to the fort from the SW. The upper side of this track has been cut into the natural slope and its lower side is revetted. Whilst the line of this track may reflect a much earlier path to the entrance, its width and the way it has been engineered suggests that it is probably of much more recent date, possibly associated with the cultivation of the summit area or, more likely, the removal by cart of stone from the fort wall and the numerous small quarries that are still visible throughout the interior.

A disused Ordnance Survey triangulation pillar stands on the summit of the rocky knoll in the NE corner of the fort. On its side is a brass flush bracket bearing the number 'S3618'.

Visited by RCAHMS (JRS) March 2009.

Note (8 August 2014 - 16 November 2016)

This fort is situated on Duncarnock, a rocky hill which rises abruptly from the SE shore of the Glanderston Dam reservoir. An irregular polygon on plan, it measures a maximum of 185m from NE to SW by 105m transversely (1.6ha) within a thick stone wall up to 4m in thickness; for much of the circuit the wall has been reduced to a band of rubble, but along the S side it forms a mound some 7m thick and 1.5m high, and the rubble has been pulled away from its leading edge to reveal an outer face of large blocks and boulders; there is also an entrance on the SE, though the terraced trackway dropping obliquely down the slope below it may be more recent. The interior is rocky and uneven, incorporating across a saddle at its NE end a knoll that in 1955 Richard Feachem suggested may have been enclosed as a strongpoint in the defences, though the more recent survey of 2009 was not convinced that there was any evidence that this had been the case. Traces of rig-and-furrow cultivation are also visible on this knoll, while roughly in the centre of the fort there are the footings of a small rectangular building, with a second overlying the fort wall on the SE. In 1958 Frank Newall picked up a sherd of pottery and a fragment of worked shale near the NE end of the fort (Newall 1958).

Information from An Atlas of Hillforts of Great Britain and Ireland – 16 November 2016. Atlas of Hillforts SC1433


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