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Cairn (Period Unassigned), Fort (Iron Age)

Site Name Dumyat

Classification Cairn (Period Unassigned), Fort (Iron Age)

Alternative Name(s) Castle Law

Canmore ID 47117

Site Number NS89NW 14

NGR NS 8324 9736

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 14 8324 9736.

NS 832 973: A fort is situated just over 1000' OD, on the un-named part of the shoulder c.500 yds SW of the summit of Dumyat. The innermost feature is an oval stone enclosure, occupying the highest part of the site and measuring 90' x 55' within the massive debris of a ruined stone wall (A on plan). No facing stones can be distinguished among the rubble, which is spread to c. 15'. The entrance is not distinguishable with certainty, but was probably in the W arc. The interior is featureless. A shallow depression with a slight external upcast mound, which borders the E arc of the debris may be the result of robbing the outer face of the wall.

A ragged band of rubble (B) appears on the steep slope 35' NE of the NE arc of wall A, and runs thence through S and SW at about the same interval for c.90' before turning sharply to merge with the debris of

A. Another line of rubble (C) branches from the SW arc of A to the debris of the outer walls described below. Possibly B and C represent the ruin of a single wall, partly overlaid by A.

The outer walls D and E are drawn across what is in effect the neck of a promontory. The inner wall, D, a mass of rubble c.18' wide, among which some vitrified material was found, starts on the steep N part of the site, and thence runs W and S to the 20' wide entrance. It continues thereafter along the crest of a knoll for 130' and ends where the flank of this begins to slope steeply S.

Wall E, similar in appearance to D, starts on the lip of a rocky gully; it runs at distances varying between 40' and 65' from D, to the N side of the entrance where it is 40' outside the similar point in D. It resumes on the S side of the entrance only 22' from D, and continues at the same interval, past the end of D, to die out 60' further on, on the crest of a natural rocky slope. On each side of the entrance, D and E are linked by lines of rubble, probably ruined walls. Attached to the outside of E are two enclosures, bounded partly by natural slopes, and partly by ruined walls F and G, only 3' 6" thick. The N enclosure is subdivided by a similar wall.

The chronological relationship between enclosure A and walls D and E is not apparent from the remains and can only be established by excavation. Feachem (1955) assumed that D and E were the contemporary outer

defences of a citadel formed by A. However, A could be a structure of the dun class, built in the interior of an older, presumably abandoned, fort represented by D and E.

The name Dumyat was considered by Watson (1926) to represent Dun Myat, the fortress of the Maeatae, probably the Miathi of Adamnan, and this view is generally held today.

RCAHMS 1963, visited 1952

NS 8324 9736. A fort as described by the RCAHMS. A covering of snow prevented a detailed examination of the site and it is therefore impossible to say whether this is a two-phased fort or whether it is a nuclear fort of Pictish origin.

Surveyed at 1:10,000.

Visited by OS (JP) 14 February 1974.

NS 832 973 This fort is situated at a height of about 300m OD and the defences comprise two main elements: an inner dun-like enclosure, and two outer walls.

RCAHMS 1979, visited September 1978


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

Publication Account (1985)

This multi-period fort occupies the south-west shoulder of Dumyat Hill and commands magnificent views over the Forth to Stirling and beyond. The interest of the fort lies not only in the remains of its impressive defences but also in considering the significance of its elevated position and in the derivation of its name.

The east side of the fort is protected by steep crags and the main weight of the defences are concentrated on the west. The earlier period is represented by two closely-set stone ramparts, enclosing an area which measures 130m by 48m, with an entrance on the west; outside the entrance there are a series of outworks abutting the ramparts. The later work lies around the highest point of the hill and is linked to the earlier rampart by a much ruined wall; it complises a dun-like enclosure measuring 27m by 16m within a massive stone wall. Although the site is normally considered to be a multi-period fortification, with the dun-like enclosure built inside the remains of an earlier iron-age fort, it is possible that it may all be of one period. Recent excavations elsewhere, however, have shown that the sequence on sites such as this may be far more complex than the fieldwork evidence alone might suggest.

The location of the fort, standing at a height of over 300m OD, raises questions about the nature of its occupation, economy and status. Its position is extremely exposed, well above the normal level of cultivation, and must have been a most unpleasant place to have spent the winter. Most forts are found at considerably lower altitudes, where all-year occupation is easier to comprehend, and we must consider whether the fort was ever intended for permanent settlement or was, perhaps, only used on a temporary basis for particular, short-term functions.

Although the summit to the north-east is now called Dumyat, it is possible that the name originally referred to the fort itself Professor Watson considered that it might be interpreted as 'Dun Myat' (the Dun (fort) of the Maeatae). The Maeatae were a local late iron age/Dark Age tribe and it is possible that they lent their name to the tribal capital. For another possible example of the association of a tribal name and an archaeological feature see the Clackmannan Stone (no. 91).

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Clyde Estuary and Central Region’, (1985).

Measured Survey (30 April 2014)

NS 8324 9736 A topographic survey was undertaken on 30 April 2014 of the fort known as Castle Law, c400m SW of the summit of Dumyat. The site was surveyed in 1963 by the RCAHMS, and the description given at that time remains largely unchanged by the current survey.

The site occupies a craggy buttress with commanding views over the hillfoots area and the Forth plain to the S, and makes use of the naturally defensive location formed by cliffs and gullies to the N, E and S. The central area of the site consists of a dun-like enclosure (I), comprising a substantial rubble wall, up to 4m thick in places and sub-oval in plan. No facing stones were obvious and the position of the entrance is not apparent, though the RCAHMS are probably correct in estimating that this was located in the SW area. The interior of the enclosure is largely featureless, though a crescentic depression in the SE area could represent the remains of a building. Two walkers’ cairns have been constructed on the rampart, one in the SW and a second in the NE; the latter is not marked on the RCAHMS plan of 1963 and as such has probably been built since that date.

To the E of enclosure, two light earthworks (II and III) curve across the promontory. The innermost of these, II, is c1m wide and appears to respect the curve of enclosure I, suggesting they are contemporary, but earthwork III may predate both features. The relationship between enclosure I and earthwork III is not clear, but it is possible that I overlies

III, which may have originally enclosed a larger area on the summit of the ridge. Vitrified material was observed both within the rubble of enclosure I and in the rubble spreads to the NW of I.

The outer areas of the fort are defined by two outworks, IV and V. The chronology of these defences is uncertain, and the merging of rubble from both around the entrance area means that they cannot be separated sequentially from one another. The innermost wall, IV, is slightly thicker,

averaging between 3–4m wide. In one area in the SW outer face of the southern rampart, a few possible displaced facing stones were observed, though elsewhere the rampart is entirely ruinous. The outermost rampart, V, is of very similar composition; vitrified material was observed in several places in both ramparts. The outworks are conjoined at the entrance area and, although they are ruinous, it seems probable that they were linked, forming an entrance passage leading to the interior. Excavation would be required in order to demonstrate a sequence of construction.

Outside the ramparts, to the W, lighter walls have been constructed (VI and VII), visible and turf covered banks forming a series of enclosures. It is likely that these post date the fort although a ruinous bank, VIII, may have helped to define the route into the site via a natural gully leading up the hill.

Two small structures, perhaps shielings or shelters have been constructed from the ruins of the ramparts. The first, A, is little more than an arc of stones built against the bedrock outcrop to the W of the fort while B is a small circular cell dug into the rubble collapse of rampart IV.

Archive: RCAHMS

Funder: Ochils Landscape Partnership Scheme and Society of Antiquaries of Scotland

Graeme Cavers – AOC Archaeology Group

(Source: DES)

Note (20 August 2014 - 2 August 2016)

This fort is situated on a subsidiary spur to the SW of the summit of Dumyat, utilising the topography to create what is in effect a promontory fort defended on the NE, SE and SW by cliffs and steep slopes falling away from its crest at 335m OD down virtually to sea level. The defences comprise two main elements: an oval enclosure on the summit; and two ramparts cutting off the only accessible line of approach from the W. The inner enclosure measures 27m from E to W by 16m transversely (0.03ha) within a band of rubble spread some 4.5m in thickness. The outer defences enclose a much bigger area measuring about 95m from E to W by 50m transversely (0.4ha); spread up to 5.5m in thickness, they return and unite to either side of the entrance on the W. The date and purpose of several other walls reduced to rickles of stones within the interior, and forming external enclosures to either side of the entrance, are unknown. In 1952 RCAHMS investigators found several pieces of vitrified stone in the inner of the two outer ramparts, but in 1978 only a single piece was located, and this came from the wall of the inner enclosure. While the chronological relationship between these two elements is not known, it is likely that the inner enclosure has been inserted into the interior of an earlier fort. This is one of two forts (see Atlas No.1492) that stand on hills bearing a placename derived from the ancient tribal grouping of the Maeatae (Watson 1926, 59, 100).

Information from An Atlas of Hillforts of Great Britain and Ireland – 02 August 2016. Atlas of Hillforts SC1593


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