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Tynron Doon

Fort (Prehistoric)

Site Name Tynron Doon

Classification Fort (Prehistoric)

Canmore ID 65300

Site Number NX89SW 1

NGR NX 81970 93927

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Dumfries And Galloway
  • Parish Tynron
  • Former Region Dumfries And Galloway
  • Former District Nithsdale
  • Former County Dumfries-shire

Archaeology Notes

NX89SW 1 81970 93927.

(NX 8196 9392) Earthwork (NAT)

OS 6" map (1957)

For (approximately provenanced) bronze objects tentatively suggested (by Laing) as coming from Tynron Doon, see NY18SW 106.

This site, on the summit of Tynron Doon, is basically a multivallate Iron Age fort with an Early Medieval (Dark Age) and Medieval occupation. The final phases include a (?) 16th century tower-house and an 18th-19th century shepherd's bothy.

The Iron Age structures must follow much the same basic plan as the present modified structure ie a central plot defended on the N,E and S by steep natural slopes. The W and NW approaches were defended by two main ramparts and three ditches; several of the ditches are rock-cut. Below the summit on the NE slopes there are prominent remains of a terrace cut into the slope; the terrace is defended by a small rampart but its use is unknown.

No details of the Dark Age occupation are available but presumably the Iron Age fort was merely utilised with few or no major changes. The occupation waste from this period lies below the large nettle patch on the SW slopes.

There is no positive evidence regarding structure changes on the site during the medieval period. It has been suggested that the hill-top might have been modified as a motte and the ditches re-cut some time around the late 12th or early 13th century in order to correspond with general practice elsewhere in the area.

The late medieval period is represented by the base plan of an L-shaped tower-house of (?) 16th century date, at the NW corner of the central plot. The remaining wall plan measures approximately 20 x 42 ft with an extension at the NW corner, 8 x 10 ft, which very probably represents the wheel-stair of the tower.

The structure was demolished some time around 1700-50. There are indications that the hill-top at this period was enclosed within a barmkin wall with a gateway at the SW corner of the tower.

Occupation during the 18th-19th century appears to be represented by a hut circle in the SE corner of the plot; this is very probably the remains of the shepherd's bothy built when the tower was removed to build Tynron Kirk.

Artifacts found either in 1924, or when sections were cut in 1964-7, are in Dumfries Museum. They include fragments of a bracteate pendant, dating to the late 7th-8th century; blue glass beads, fragments of bloomery waste, and vitrification. (Finds are fully listed and described by J Williams 1971).

RCAHMS 1920, visited 1912; L Laing 1975; W Wilson 1957

A multivallate promontory fort with a strategic 'platform' annexe cut into the steep natural slopes on the NE side.

The triple turf-covered shale ramparts on the W side, up to 6.5m high, are broken by a staggered entrance in the SW which leads to an undulating plateau top overall 60.0m E-W by 55.0m N-S. There is no suggestion that the ramparts, ditches or terraces have been later recut or modified, although the top has low linear banks roughly following its perimeter which are feasibly connected with the early or late Md occupation.

There is no surface trace of the tower-house at the position indicated, but the perimeter banks are consistent in scale with a barmkin arrangement.

At the SW corner of the top, near the entrance way, is a stony circular bank, 1.5m wide, of a former structure measuring overall 8.5 diameter and 0.3m high. It is contiguous with the perimeter banks and does not have the form of a hut circle.

Surveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (JRL) 28 November 1977

This fort is visible on vertical air photographs, (OS 73/396/276-7, flown 1973).

Information from RCAHMS (DE) August 1996


Publication Account (1986)

'A very conspicuous object in the landscape for miles around' . . . and 'the most important fortress . . . . in the county' is how the qualities of this iron-age hillfort were summarised in the offIcial Inventory of monuments in Dumfriesshire. It occupies the summit of a steep-sided spur of Auchengibbert Hill and stands to a height of 289m OD. Its superb natural defences attracted further use of the site down to early moden times.

The summit plateau is sub-oval on plan, measuring about 45m by 40m, and is surrounded by a boulderstone wall. A hut circle, 4.6m in diameter, lies immediately to the east of the entrance, which is in the southern sector, and the interior contains other circular house stances. An L-plan tower-house, built before the last decade of the 1Gth century, stood at the north-western corner, and a stretch of lime-mortared walling along the south-eastern side, reported in 1920, was probably a fragment of its enclosure-wall.

A natural terrace on the north-eastern side below the summit has been bounded by a stony parapet, but man-made defences are otherwise confirmed to the western and south-western slopes. Very impressive they are too, comprising a stepped series of boldly scarped ramparts of earth and splintered rock gathered up from the intervening hollows. The lowest ditch or trench is rock-cut for most of its length.

The small finds recovered from the site and the surrounding slopes have a wide date-range. They include a signifIcant proportion of material attributed to the Early Historic or 'Dark Age' period. Prominent among these was a portion of a gold filigree panel of a bracteate pendant of 6th-8th century date (Nithsdale District Museum, Dumfries).

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


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