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Abbey Craig

Fort (Period Unassigned), Path (Viking)(Possible)

Site Name Abbey Craig

Classification Fort (Period Unassigned), Path (Viking)(Possible)

Canmore ID 47113

Site Number NS89NW 10

NGR NS 8094 9565

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Stirling
  • Parish Logie (Stirling)
  • Former Region Central
  • Former District Stirling
  • Former County Stirlingshire

Archaeology Notes

NS89NW 10 8094 9565.

(NS 8094 9565) Fort (NR)

OS 1:10000 map (1979)

Fort, Abbey Craig: Near the N end of Abbey Craig there is a fort, which has been damaged by the construction within it of the Wallace Monument. All that remain is a substantial turf-covered bank, crescentic on plan and 260ft in length, the ends of which lie close to the brink of the precipice that forms the W face of the hill. The bank stands to a maximum height of 5ft above the level of the interior and presumably represents a ruined timber-laced wall since numerous pieces of vitrified stones have been found on the slopes immediately below it. The entrance presumably lay between one end of the bank and the lip of the precipice, but both of the areas concerned have been disturbed by the construction of modern approaches. The featureless interior of the fort measures about 175ft N-S by about 125ft. Nimmo's editor reports that 'eleven brazen spears' were discovered on Abbey Craig in 1784 (W Nimmo 1880).

A partly polished dolerite axe, 3 by 1in, found on the top of Abbey Craig, was donated to the Smith Institute, Stirling, in 1888 (Acc No: AC 4).

RCAHMS 1963, visited 1952; Smith Institute 1934

The remains of a fort as described.

Revised at 1:1250.

Visited by OS (JP) 11 December 1973

NS 809 956 The erection of the Wallace Monument on the precipitous N end of Abbey Craig has severely damaged what was probably a vitrified fort measuring about 53m by 38m internally. All that survives is a turf-covered bank situated E of the monument and consisting of the core material of what has been a substantial wall.

RCAHMS 1979, visited September 1978

About 30m outside the main rampart of this fort on the E side of the hill are the remains of a second rampart. Running SE from the precipitous NW edge of the hill as a stony bank 3.5m thick and 0.9m high for 18m before being cut by a sunken path, it continues as a level terrace with a face 1.2m high round the E side of the hill for a distance of 75m, for the last 14m of which the rubble wall core is showing. After this its course is obscured by modern debris but may continue on the N side of the approach road. Few vitrified rocks were noted in its fabric.

N B Aitchison 1981

Photographed by the RCAHMS in 1979.

NS 8094 9565 An archaeological watching brief was conducted on all ground-breaking works associated with the insertion of a new floodlighting system for the Wallace Monument. Much of this work was carried out within the Scheduled area around the remaining rampart of the Abbey Craig hillfort. Two phases of rampart building were identified, comprising the secondary building of an earth and stone rampart over a timber-laced rampart which had been vitrified. In addition, an upstanding stretch of vertically faced rampart was uncovered during the works. Four charcoal samples were recovered during the monitoring and two of these are to be sent for radiocarbon dating.

Full report lodged with the NMRS.

Sponsor: Stirling District Tourism Ltd.

B Glendinning 2001


Archaeological Evaluation (September 2011)

NS 8094 9565 The Abbey Craig Dig is intended to be the first of many community archaeological training projects run by Stirling Council and the Ranger Service. Season One in September 2011 looked at the portions of the Abbey Craig Hillfort which lay beyond the outer rampart and a Late Victorian toilet block associated with the Wallace Monument. Local volunteers, tourists and schoolchildren undertook all the work.

The results confirmed the presence of an outer terrace beyond the second rampart, as well as the toilet block. Finds included a hammerstone, a mason’s chisel, pottery and glass associated with the Victorian tea room and a hoard of 1970s halfpennies, presumably stolen from the Wallace Monument and dropped by the thief as they ran from the scene.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Stirling Council, Murray Cook, Claire Bird, Stuart Dinning and Doug Rocks-Macqueen

Stirling Council, 2011

Field Visit (7 September 2012 - 10 September 2012)

NS 80940 95650 A community research programme was undertaken in conjunction with Stirling Council’s Archaeology and Ranger Service 7–10 September 2012. The work consisted of a walkover survey and excavation of test pits at one of the quarries used to construct the National Wallace Monument and putative rampart identified in 2011.

The work in the quarry recovered a variety of Victorian and Edwardian rubbish from the nearby tea room including fragments of commemorative pottery saying ‘A present from the National Wallace Monument Stirling’. A series of spoil heaps derived from the dressing of the quarried blocks were identified. Further excavation around the putative rampart identified a terminal and reused piece of vitrified stone, indicating that the rampart may relate to a refortification of the hillfort after its vitrification.

Archive: Stirling SMR

Funder: Stirling Council

Murray Cook, Stirling Council


Excavation (September 2013 - October 2013)

NS 80940 95650 Work continued, September–October 2013, to investigate features identified in 2012 (DES 2013, 177). The test pits and trenches excavated on Abbey Craig identified a terraced stone structure, which incorporated reused vitrified stone. This is more likely to be a Victorian path than an early medieval structure.

Archive: Stirling HER

Funder: Stirling Council

Murray Cook and Fiona Watson, Stirling Council, 2013

(Source: DES)

Note (20 August 2014 - 16 November 2016)

The Wallace Monument stands within the interior of a fort backing onto the cliff-edge that forms the western flank of the Abbey Craig. Elsewhere, drawn in a broad arc around the E half a rampart can be seen, forming a bank up to 10m in thickness by 1m in height, and enclosing an area measuring 53m from NNE to SSW by 38m transversely (0.16ha). Some 30m outside this line a second rampart has been identified, largely reduced to a terrace about 3.5m broad and up to 1m high, swinging around the E flank of the hill (Aitchison 1981). A watching brief carried out in 2001 identified two phases of construction in the inner rampart, the earlier of which was a timber-laced wall, which, following its destruction by burning and vitrifaction, had been rebuilt with earth and stones (Glendinning 2001); samples of charcoal have returned dates of AD 560-730 (SUAT 2001). A more recent community-based excavation confirmed the character of the outer rampart and also recovered pieces of vitrified stone from it (Cook et al 2011).

Information from An Atlas of Hillforts of Great Britain and Ireland – 16 November 2016. Atlas of Hillforts SC1592

Metal Detector Survey (31 July 2018)

NS 80953 95442 A small metal detector survey (50m2)

was undertaken, 31 July 2018, prior to the installation of

interpretation material on Abbey Craig, to the N of Alloa

Road. The only finds consisted of modern detritus.

Archive: NRHE (intended)

Funder: Inner Forth Landscape Initiative

(Source: DES Volume 19)

Archaeological Evaluation (6 September 2018 - 8 September 2018)

NS 80946 95714 The Abbey Craig vitrified fort was first noted in

the 18th century, and its first plan was by Christian MacLagan,

who identified two ramparts. The site was thought to be Sir

William Wallace’s Camp for the Battle of Stirling Bridge and

was chosen for the construction of the Wallace Monument. The

outer rampart was forgotten and overlooked and not included

in the RCAHMS’s 1960s plan. In 2001, a watching brief on new

lighting cables identified charcoal and vitrified material in the

inner rampart which was dated to AD 500–780. Excavations by

local authority Archaeologist Murray Cook in 2011 identified

a possible third rampart which was associated with reused

vitrified material and charcoal dating to around AD 900.

Two small trenches were opened, 6–8 September 2018,

over a section of the middle rampart by Murray Cook with

local volunteers and students as part of Scottish Archaeology

Month. The first trench confirmed that the rampart is c3–4m

wide and the other exposed a section of the rampart which

had been impacted by a Victorian path and was at least

0.7m high. The excavations confirmed the presence of a

timber laced rampart, constructed on a bedrock outcrop and

identified burnt in situ charcoal and vitrified stone at the

rampart’s core, which with assistance from Gordon Noble was dated to AD 689–930. This allows the possibility that

the fort was vitrified twice and may also suggest that Abbey

Craig was one of the last forts in Scotland.

Archive: Stirling Council

Funder: Murray Cook

Murray Cook – Stirling Council

(Source DES, Volume 19)


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