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Mcculloch's Castle

Fort (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Mcculloch's Castle

Classification Fort (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 65369

Site Number NX95NE 4

NGR NX 9962 5769

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Dumfries And Galloway
  • Parish Kirkbean
  • Former Region Dumfries And Galloway
  • Former District Nithsdale
  • Former County Kirkcudbrightshire

Archaeology Notes

NX95NE 4 9962 5769

(NX 9962 5769) McCulloch's Castle (NR)

OS 6" map (1946)

McCulloch's Castle was excavated, during 1962 and 1963 by the Society under the direction of J Scott-Elliott, with help from R W Feachem and I MacIvor.

It is a roughly semi-circular enclosure, circumferenced by a ditch with an internal rampart; and probably dates from the first 150 years AD.

The ditch, partially rock-cut, is U-shaped in section, but may originally have been V-shaped. It averages 12' in depth and shows no evidence of having been faced. A modern culvert crosses each end of the ditch.

The clay-built rampart is 4'6" high at its mid-point decreasing in height towards the ends. On top is a later stone addition. There is evidence that a wooden palisade ran from the West end of the rampart, eastward along the cliff, and a large post-hole suggests that the gate stood between the ends of the rampart and the palisade. There are signs of a cobbled track, 3' below the surface, on the outer side of the ditch, opposite the gateway.

No certain structural shapes could be seen to emerge from the positions of the many post-holes in the interior. The only datable finds came from the hearth, and included a piece of 2nd c. Samian pottery and a native stone palette of the Roman era.

The RCAHM report of 1914 indicates a well in the northern part of the ditch, this is now silted over and cannot be located. At the beginning of the century the site was in use as an ornamental garden.

The origin of the name cannot be traced. There is no record of the site having belonged to the McCullochs.

J Scott-Elliott 1964

"McCulloch's Castle" is as described above and generally as planned by RCAHMS although there is now no trace of the inner scarp on the east side. The site is heavily overgrown with trees, brambles and nettles.

Re-surveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (JTT) 11 August 1965

For classification of Roman material, see A S Robertson 1970.


Field Visit (18 May 1951)

This site was included within the RCAHMS Marginal Land Survey (1950-1962), an unpublished rescue project. Site descriptions, organised by county, are available to view online - see the searchable PDF in 'Digital Items'. These vary from short notes, to lengthy and full descriptions. Contemporary plane-table surveys and inked drawings, where available, can be viewed online in most cases - see 'Digital Images'. The original typecripts, notebooks and drawings can also be viewed in the RCAHMS search room.

Information from RCAHMS (GFG) 19 July 2013.

Note (20 December 2013 - 31 August 2016)

This tiny fortification, which backs onto the coastal cliffs at Arbigland, was excavated by General J Scott-Elliott over two seasons 1962-3 (Scott-Elliott 1963). Roughly semi-circular on plan, the interior measures about 20m from NE to SW along the cliff-edge by a maximum of 15m transversely (0.03ha). Although the rampart does not seem to have extended along the cliff-edge, this side may have been closed off by a palisade, traces of which were uncovered dismounting from the southern terminal of the rampart, where there was thought to have been an entrance. Elsewhere the rampart forms a bank up to 4m in thickness by 1.3m in height, and is fronted by a massive external ditch some 10m in breadth, which in excavation in the central sector proved to have a flat bottom at a depth of about 3m, though at its ends on the cliff-edge it displayed a V-shaped profile. The leading edge of the rampart was probably revetted with stonework, and a later wall had been built on its crest, perhaps when the interior was incorporated into the gardens of Arbigland House in the late 19th century. A scatter of post-holes and pits was found in the interior, and finds from a hearth close to the NE terminal of the rampart included a sherd of Samian Ware of 2nd century date.

Information from An Atlas of Hillforts of Great Britain and Ireland – 31 August 2016. Atlas of Hillforts SC0346


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