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Castle Greg

Fortlet (Roman)

Site Name Castle Greg

Classification Fortlet (Roman)

Canmore ID 48988

Site Number NT05NE 1

NGR NT 05020 59250

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council West Lothian
  • Parish Mid Calder
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District West Lothian
  • Former County Midlothian

Archaeology Notes

NT05NE 1 05020 59250

(NT 0501 5925) Castle Greg (NAT) Roman Fortlet (R)

OS 6" map (1961)

A one-eighth mark of James VI, 1601, found "at the Roman Camp, Harburn," was donated to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS) in 1853 by J Cochrane, Harburn.

Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1855

Many coins and other articles of Roman workmanship are said to have been dug up at Castle Greg from time to time. A round hollow near the centre of the fortlet, locally called the Well, but supposed to have been the foundation of a flagstaff, was excavated about 1830, when under a large stone was found a considerable number of Roman coins, including denarii of Vespasian, Domitian, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius, indicating a date of about 170 AD. Some of the coins were sold to a goldsmith in Edinburgh, but the remainder were in the possession of the proprietor, Mr Young of Harburn, who presented a complete set of the coins to Charles X of France in 1832.

Further excavations were carried out in 1846 by Mr Cochrane of Harburn, who found fragments of Roman pottery.

H B M'Call 1894

This Roman fortlet is rectangular in plan, with rounded corners, measuring internally between crests 180ft by 152ft. It is surrounded by a well-defined rampart, best preserved at the S end where it is 28ft wide, rising 4ft above the interior, and 7ft above the ditch immediately in front: 7ft away is a second ditch, both ditches being 8 ft wide and 2 1/2 ft deep. They surround the fortlet except in the centre of the E side, where there is a 22ft wide causeway, leading to a 9ft gap in the rampart. Some 28ft N of this entrance is an oval hollow, possibly the site of a hut. Near the centre of the fort is a circular hollow, 12ft in diameter, which contained a well.

When excavated in 1851, fragments of Roman pottery were found; the well was excavated to 11ft without anything being found, but it was said by an old local inhabitant that about 1810, a "bull's hide" filled with silver coins was taken from the well. Macdonald (1918) discounts this story, but quotes the Statistical Account (OSA), stating several coins, on which the Roman eagle was apparent, had been dug up near this fortlet. If this statement is accurate, the coins could have been of Mark Antony, Vespasian, or Titus.

When visited by the OS in 1953 (JLD, 25 February 1953 and FDC, 9 May 1953) this fortlet was found to be as described above, in a fair state of preservation except for a small part of the ditches at the NW and SW angles which had all but vanished. No signs of internal habitation, or of a tutulus, were found. The track of a road could also be made out, running from the entrance in the E, curving NE for some 40.0m, after which it disappeared.

T H Holbert's notes (19, Thomson Drive, Currie, 23 May 1964) mention that there are indications of a track ascending SW towards Castle Greg, and of the exit from the gateway, visible on air photographs (RAF/541/A/ 393:3451, F58/RAF/3544:0197).

R G Collingwood and I Richmond 1969; RCAHMS 1929, visited 1914; D Wilson 1855; OSA 1796

No change to the previous field report.

Surveyed at 1/10,000.

Visited by OS (MJF) 24 April 1979

Inspection of RCAHMS aerial photographs, shows that the E-facing gate has a 'parrot's beak', indicative of a Flavian date.

S S Frere 1989


Publication Account (1985)

This is a fortlet rather than a full-sized fort. Standing close to 275m above sea-level, on a slight plateau amongst what formerly were mainly peat-mosses, it may indicate the presence of a minor Roman route west of the Pentland Hills, used perhaps for troop movements into Lothian from forts or fortlets at Carstairs and Carnwath close to the River Clyde. That no such road is known, however, may suggest early construction, before the proper establishment of the Roman road network.

Almost intact, the fortlet is rectangular (some 55m by 46m) with rounded corners and a well-defined rampart that is best preserved at the southern end. Two ditches, with a mound between, surround the rampart except at the gateway in the centre of the east side. The roadway is some 6.7m wide at the ditches, narrowing to about 2.7m where it passes through the rampart, whilst near to the centre a roughly circular hollow marks the site of a well. The fortlet could have held about 80 men.

Information from 'Exploring Scotland's Heritage: Lothian and Borders', (1985).

Geophysical Survey (24 March 2012 - 25 March 2012)

NT 05020 59250 A ground resistance survey was carried out 24–25 March 2012 over the fort platform and defences of Castle Greg Roman fortlet. The site is located in Camilty Forest and has been dated to the 1st century AD on the basis of the incurved ‘parrot’s beak’ ditch terminal at the E gate. Excavations in 1830 and 1851 found coins, a well and the stone base of a flagstaff.

The survey clearly recorded the lines of the rampart, double ditches and upcast and revealed some internal anomalies, including internal roadways and high resistance ‘blobs’ which may be ovens built into the inner part of the rampart. Additional interpretation of the results identified a continuation of ditch lines, which might be associated with a possible annex, and this may be the subject of further survey.

Archive: RCAHMS, West Lothian Council Local History Library and WoSAS

Funder: Historic Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland and Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society

Ian Hawkins, Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society

Donald Matthews,


Geophysical Survey (26 October 2013)

NT 05020 59250 A ground resistance survey was carried out on 26 October 2013 on areas to the NE and NW of the Castle Greg Roman fortlet, where previous work (DES 2013, 182–3) had suggested the presence of a possible annexe. Two 20 x 20m grids and three partial grids running to the forest edge were surveyed. The results indicated that the spur from the outer ditch at the NE corner did continue, but veered off to the NE making it unlikely that there was an external defended area, although it is feasible that there could have been an annexe under the present forested area. A 3.8m wide area of higher resistance could be a trace of the road exiting the fort from the E gate towards the supposed line of the Roman Road to the N of the fortlet.

Archive: Forestry Commission Scotland, RCAHMS, West Lothian Council History Library and WoSAS (intended)

Funder: Historic Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland and Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society

Ian Hawkins, Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society, 2013

(Source: DES)

Measured Survey (3 February 2014)

NT 05030 59252 A detailed topographic survey was undertaken of the surviving remains of a Roman fortlet at Castle Greg on 3 February 2014. The survey allowed the creation of a digital terrain model, contour-based plans and oblique terrain models of the site within its landscape setting, which will be utilised to inform future conservation and management of the monument by Forestry Commission Scotland. It was one of a group of six

such surveys carried out on Forestry Commission Scotland sites in February 2014. The other sites were at Round Dounan, Craig Phadrig, Sean Craig, Dun Deardail and Torr Dhuin.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Forestry Commission Scotland

Louise Baker and Enda O’Flaherty – Rubicon Heritage Services

(Source: DES)


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