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Mote Of Urr

Motte And Bailey (Medieval)

Site Name Mote Of Urr

Classification Motte And Bailey (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Motte Of Urr; Mote Of Galloway; Moat Of Urr

Canmore ID 64982

Site Number NX86SW 1

NGR NX 81526 64684

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2017.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Dumfries And Galloway
  • Parish Urr
  • Former Region Dumfries And Galloway
  • Former District Stewartry
  • Former County Kirkcudbrightshire

Archaeology Notes

NX86SW 1 81526 64684

(NX 8152 6467) Mote of Urr (NR)

OS 6" map (1957)

For successor structures, see NX86SW 6 and NX86SW 10.

A motte and bailey, excavated by Hope-Taylor in 1951 and 1953.

B Hope-Taylor 1952

The motte was built between c. 1130-1160, destroyed in 1174 and rebuilt 6' higher than before, having a central tower of timber with a heavy timber palisade, reinforced with rough stone and probably with 'turrets' abutting on its inner surface. A Burgh of Urr existed by 1262, but there seems little trace of occupation after the early 1300's. (B Hope-Taylor, CBA Scottish Group, 8th Report, 10-11)

RCAHMS 1914, visited 1911; B Hope-Taylor 1953; A Truckell and J Williams 1967.

Mote of Urr as described and planned.

Revised at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (WDJ) 15 July 1969.


Publication Account (1986)

Covering an area of about 2 hectares, this truly impressive earthwork is the most extensive motte-and-bailey castle in Scotland. Only perhaps from the air can one appreciate its great size, looking for all the world like some great earthen battleship stranded on the alluvial river plain. Its position in the valley is not especially commanding; it may originally have been an island, but the river now flows in a single channel to the east. Close up, its deep outer ditch puts one in mind of an iron-age hillfort, and it is possible that the bailey was developed out of an existing fortification in Anglo-Norman times.

The lower slopes have been artifIcially scarped on the north and east. A 15m-wide ditch surrounds the entire work, and is bridged by causeways in the south-eastern and north-western sectors. Low counter scarp banks can be seen around the lips of this ditch, and the enclosure thus formed is about 150m in maximum length. The motte itself, set within its own ditch,occupies most of the southern end of the enclosure; it rises in the usual 'pudding' or truncated cone form to a sub-circular summit area. Archaeological excavation of part of the motte top showed that the upper 1.83m had been added following the destruction by fire of 12th century timber buildings and palisades; coins and pottery in the upper levels indicated that occupation had continued into the 14th century.

The earliest available records show the lordship of Urr in the possession of Walter de Berkeley (d. c 1194), chamberlain of William I. From him it passed by marriage to a cadet branch of the Balliols, the main line of that family later occupying nearby Buittle Castle. Two witnesses to a Balliol of Urr charter of 1262 were described as burgesses of Urr, but where this burgh settlement was located, whether inside or outside the bailey, and how long it lasted, are not known.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Dumfries and Galloway’, (1986).


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