Angus HER - NO55SW0001 - TURIN HILL

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Main Details

Primary ReferenceNO55SW0001
NRHE Card No.NO55SW1
NRHE Numlink 34899
HES SM No. 142
Site Form Standing Structure
Site Condition Incomplete
Details Remains of a hillfort, also known as Kemp's Castle. An Iron Age complex consisting of two forts and three circular homesteads (which have also been classified as ring-forts or duns). The first phase of occupation is represented by an oval fort (NO 514 535) measuring 274 m by 122 m, within a double earth and stone rampart 4 m to 5 m broad and 0.2 m to 2.5 m high, which has possible entrances 4 m to 5 m wide in the north and east. Feacham raised the possibility that this fort was unfinished. The outer rampart is visible only as a slight swelling in the east and as a 6 m wide swelling where it joins the cliff on the west, but can be traced for the whole of its course except for a 6 m break in the west. The inner rampart is easily traceable except on the west where it has been mutilated by the construction of the overlying second phase fort whose west end coincides with that of the earlier fort. The second phase fort (NO 513 534) is a smaller single-walled structure measuring 152.4 m by 39.6 m internally. The wall is generally 4 m broad and 0.5 m high and may have been timber-laced. It is barely traceable on the northwest and is confused in the southeast where the east rampart appears to over-shoot the south. An entrance in the east wall makes use of a natural elevation. A probable third phase of occupation is represented by three small circular homesteads. The central one (NO 5133 5348) partly overlies the wall of the secondary fort and is 27.4 m in diameter within a stone wall 3.6 m thick and 0.9 m high which has been partly restored. The eastern one (NO 5147 5355) lies within the primary fort and consists of two concentric banks of earth and stone, the outer 30 m in diameter and 0.3 m to 1.3 m high, and the inner 17 m in diameter and 0.3 m high. Immediately to the southeast is a cup-and-ring marked rock, 1.05 m by 0.37 m, the exposed panel bearing at least eight individual cup-marks, five of which are encircled by carved rings. The western homestead (NO 5120 5344) lies outwith the forts, and is 30 m east-west by 26 m north-south within a single bank of earth and stones 5 m to 6 m broad and 1.7 m in maximum height. It has been considerably mutilated but mounds and hollows in the interior may be the remains of huts. Feachem (1955) shows two additional banks, the first running from NO 5156 5368 to NO 5166 5362, and the other from NO 5157 5355 to NO 5158 5349. The first is an earthen bank 5 m broad and 1 m high which is probably later than the forts and does not appear to be of defensive character. The second is visible only as a vague unsurveyable swelling. The name Kemps Castle (apostrophe added by later hand) is a late addition to the Ordnance Name Book (1859) of Rescobie parish but no authority could be found for it in Aberlemno parish. Surveyed by CFA in 1998, the 2.6 ha bi-vallate fort is described as well-defined at eastern end and northern side but more difficult to follow at the western end. At the eastern end a much mutilated bank run upslope from the cliff line and terminates close to the field wall which traverses the site. The gap between the northern end of this bank and the triple rampart may be an original entrance. The triple rampart may have resulted from secondary construction of a short bank along summit of the inner rampart of what is otherwise a bi-vallate enclosure. The precise lines of the inner and outer ramparts at the western ends are unclear. In addition to the main ramparts there are two sets of outworks. The area enclosed by the later oval fort is approximately 0.3 ha and is less well-defined than on some earlier plans. The western end is again difficult to follow where it overlies the line of the bi-vallate fort. The best preserved section is on the north side of the stone field wall. The central circular homestead is best-preserved and measures circa 34 m in diameter externally. The walls are up to 3.50-4 m thick built of massive blocks 1.5 m x1 m x 0.5 m, revetting a rubble core. The eastern circular homestead has no surface stonework obvious but consists of two sub-circular, turf-covered earth and stone banks. The outer edge of the outer bank is circa 40 m in diameter while the internal diameter is circa 25 m. On the southern side there are curvilinear depressions which may be robber trenches but could also be possible slots for timber palisades. The western circular homestead is least well-preserved of the three with roughly a diameter of 35-40 m. In the areas between the oval fort and the eastern circular homestead are the remains of two possible circular house platforms circa 12 m in diameter. Three other depressions on the south side of the stone dyke, 9-12 m in diameter could also possibly be house platforms. A number of quarry scoops lie along the summit of the hill and inside the fort. The main concentration stretches for at least 300 m east to west by 150 m. Along the gentle northern slopes outside the ramparts of the bi-vallate fort. In general these are circa 3 m in diameter pits. Some half-finished mill-stones are readily apparent. Survey by Alexander and Ralston in the late 1990s identified the remains of a possible roundhouse and numerous quarry scoops, the latter possibly resulting from quarrying activity in the Middle Ages. Geophysical survey and photogrammetry carried out by University of Aberdeen in October to November 2017 clarified the chronology of the forts, confirming that the large bi-vallate hillfort was the earliest enclosure on the hill, and likely had a wooden element (probably internal and external revetment) subsequently destroyed by fire. The inner, oblong, fort was also subject to burning. Overlying this fort are three small ringforts. Dozens of possible hut structures were recorded within the fort. Several other cup-marked and cup and ring-marked stones have been found within the fort (see also NO55NW0025, NO55SW0026, NO55SW0023, NO55SW0024, NO55SW0061). Small scale targeted excavation was carried out by University of Aberdeen in 2018 aimed at identifying archaeological deposits that will allow better understanding the chronology of the various fortifications on the hill. It also enabled assessment o the preservation of the individual forts and their associated archaeological deposits. Four trenches were opened to investigate the enclosing elements of the three small ring forts and the large bivallate hillfort and a single test pit was dug in the interior of the middle ringfort. Environmental samples demonstrated survival of cereal grains and seeds. Samples taken for dating provided indicate an Early Iron Age date for construction of the hillfort (a pre-bank ground surface yielding a date of 748-402 BC). Samples from the three ringforts give dates of construction of 359-175BC for the western ring, and date of 727-393 BC for the middle fort. The possible large building inside the eastern ring gave a date of 401-210 BC.
Last Update26/07/2021
Updated Bycpalmer
Date of Compilation 

Google Map for NO55SW0001

National Grid Reference: NO 5142 5354

Event Details

Event DateEvent TypeOASIS ID
2017 Geophysical Survey
2018 Evaluation jamesodr1-407601

Excavations and Surveys

Date MDate YTypeDurationDirector / OrganisationAuspicesFundExtent
31998  Derek AlexanderCFA  
 2018 Excavation  UoA   

Artefact and Ecofact

Date MDate YArtefact TypeFinderRecovery MethodConditionStorage LocationAccess No.
   STONE LAMP Stray Find Personal Possession  
   MILLSTONES Stray Find Personal Possession  
   QUERN-STONES Stray Find Personal Possession  
   ROTARY QUERN Stray Find Personal Possession  


Samples Samples processed for botanical evidence.
Ecofact Notes

Monument Types

Monument Type 1Monument Type 2Monument Type 3OrderProbability