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Kirk O'moss, Moss Of Kilmster

Chapel (Early Medieval)(Possible), Enclosure(S) (Period Unassigned), Shieling Hut(S) (Post Medieval)

Site Name Kirk O'moss, Moss Of Kilmster

Classification Chapel (Early Medieval)(Possible), Enclosure(S) (Period Unassigned), Shieling Hut(S) (Post Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) St.duthac's

Canmore ID 8737

Site Number ND25NE 7

NGR ND 2928 5632

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Wick
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Caithness
  • Former County Caithness

Archaeology Notes

ND25NE 7 2928 5632.

(ND 2928 5632) Kirk o' Moss (NR)

OS 6" map, (1959)

Kirk o' Moss, Moss of Kilmster: This is apparently the site of the chapel known as St Duthac's or St Dudoch's Kirk. The area is a green ridge elevated about 8'-10' above its surroundings, and about 400' long by 120' broad. On the highest point and towards the SSE end of this ridge is the site of the supposed church, lying E-W; the plan cannot be ascertained but it appears to be a rectangle, 30' by 17'.

To the S of this has been a rectangular enclosure, such as might have been a graveyard or garden, at the SSE side of which are several small rectangular foundations in the turf.

About 60' NNW of the site of the supposed church is another enclosure formed by a stone wall; within the enclosure is the ruin of a small rectangular building. Both building and wall are possibly later than the remainder.

There are two or three low mounds of indeterminate character, but of some 25' diameter, at the extreme NNW end of the ridge; whilst about 250 yds W of the Kirk Stones, on the left bank of Kilmster Burn is a small green mound 22' - 23' diameter and 3' high with slight depressions several feet long and broad on top, called locally "Brigend's swine house".

Though plough ridges are visible on the adjacent moorland, it must be long since there was any cultivation near the spot.

It is related in Macfarlane (1906-8) that in former times the people of Mirelandorn habitually visited this site before sunrise on Christmas to leave an offering of bread, cheese, and a silver coin.

RCAHMS 1911; W Macfarlane 1906-8.

Possibly a small Early Christian site with a history continuing into later medieval times. It is situated on a piece of ground 12 acres in extent, formerly cultivated and approached by a causeway through bog, of which traces were still distinctly visible (NSA 1845).

A low bank runs along part of the W end of the ridge and links up with possibly modern banks in bog.

A D S Macdonald and L R Laing 1969.

Kirk o' Moss, possibly an Early Christian site, although there is no conclusive ground evidence, consists of the ill-defined turf-covered foundations of at least 4 sub-rectangular buildings, three sub-rectangular enclosures, and about eight irregular mounds, in an isolated position on a slight rise on the S edge of a drained marsh, probably formerly a loch.

The building on a low knoll, stated by RCAHMS (1911) and MacDonald and Laing (1969) to be possibly a church, measures about 13.0m NE-SW by 4.0m transversely, with an internal division c. 5.5m from its SW end. An annexe c. 3.0m square is attached to the SE wall. Some stones show through the turf and a few lie loose in the SW compartment. The NE compartment is built on a NE slope. To the SE are traces of a sub-rectangular enclosure measuring c. 18.0m NW-SE by 13.0m transversely in which lie the faint remains of an indeterminate structure. The SE side of enclosure is formed by the NW wall of a building measuring c. 10.5m NE-SW by 4.0m transversely, with two internal dividing walls. Immediately SE of this are traces of what may be a similar building. To the NW of the "church" is another stone-walled enclosure, roughly rectangular with curved walls, measuring c. 15.0m NW-SE by 13.0m transversely within a wall, best defined in the SW and SE, about 1.0m thick. Within it, and built against its NW side is a ruinous building visible as a roughly rectangular hollow measuring c. 7.0m E-W by c. 5.0m transversely, with a few stones scattered inside and around it. No definite foundation stones are evident. The RCAHMS (1911) note both the enclosure and the building as possibly secondary structures, but there is no evidence for this opinion.

To the NW of this building are four heavily turf-covered irregular mounds showing some stone content, measuring between 5.0m and 10.0m in diameter and averaging 0.6m in height. Two similar mounds occur at distances of 30m and 70m SW of the "church", and the mound once known as "Brigend's swine house", 220m to the W, is of the same appearance. This mound occurs within a dry area (? a field) cut off from the peat bog in the SE by an ill-defined turf bank some 220m long running SW from the SW corner of a turf-banked sub-rectangular enclosure c. 30.0m by 20.0m just W of the "church", and ending on the edge of the drained marsh which bounds the "field" elsewhere. Half way along the bank and impinging on it is another low mound c. 5.0m in diameter with several loose stones on its surface. All these mounds may be the stances for shieling bothies, and are common in Caithness. Running NW from the N edge of the marsh is a similar turf bank which is lost in peat cuttings in the NW. This seems to bound the NE edge of a similar field in which traces of strip cultivation are visible. There is no trace of the causeway across the marsh described by the NSA (1845), although a grassy mound c. 15.0m in diameter, which is probably largely natural, about 85m N of the "church" would be a suitable starting place for one.

Surveyed at 1:10,000.

Visited by OS (A A) 20 March 1972

(ND 2930 5629) Kirk o' Moss (NR)

OS 1:10,000 map, (1975)

The remains at Kirk o' Moss are as described by the previous field investigator. Some of the mounds are clearly the remnants of shieling-like structures.

Visited by OS (J B) 18 March 1982

Structural complex, Kirk of Moss. Series of subrectangular and subcircular mounds.

R J Mercer, NMRS MS/828/19, 1995

Three enclosures, one of which contains an unroofed structure, are depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Caithness 1877, sheet xix). Four enclosures, of which one is sub-divided and another has an unroofed structure, are shown on the current edition of the OS 1:10,000 map (1994).

Information from RCAHMS (AKK) 6 December 1995


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