Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rispain Camp, Whithorn

Rispain Camp
Near Whithorn
Dumfries and Galloway

During the 1950s, as Rispain camp was being investigated, it was mistakenly categorised as a medieval moated homestead or even a castle site. It wasn't until 1978 when the interior of the site was excavated, that it was designated an Iron Age fortified homestead.

Above. Looking North West along the top of the earth banks.

The impressive earthworks consist of a rectangular array of ditches, earthen banks with an interior area of around 220 by 170 feet. The surrounding ditch is around 10 feet deep and is still remarkably well defined (though it has most likely been consolidated at some point)

Above. Looking South East towards the modern day farm.

The excavations of 1978, provided evidence of habitation from around 100 BC to 200 AD. The homestead's defences are incredibly well preserved. An outer ditch, now infilled, can be traced from aerial photos, but the exterior bank and its ditch still stand to an impressive height and depth. 

Above. Looking South West from inside the earthworks.

The 1978 excavations threw up evidence of a timber gateway on the North East side of the earthworks, with evidence of a wooden palisade running along the top of the exterior earthen bank. This was obviously a very well defended homestead.

Above. Standing on the causeway at the North Eastern end.

There is also evidence of a large wooden round house in the center of the site, measuring some
13 metres in diameter.

The site is freely accessible during day light hours, and there is a small area for parking
in the farm yard around a quater of a mile from the site.

Carse Mote, Tongland, Near Kirkcudbright

Carse Mote
Near Kirkcudbright
Dumfries and Galloway

Carse Mote can be seen from the A711 at Tongland, about two miles North of Kirkcudbright. You can't really see these earthworks from the car as your driving, so it's best to park up and take a look. The best distance view, that gives you a good idea of the size and form of the site, is to walk back towards the power station on the banks of the River Dee. Through the trees, the view (shown below) can be seen.

Above. The earthworks from the A711 through the trees.

The summit of the mote is tree lined these days, but when it was in use, the hill side would most likely have been cleared of any vegetation, giving its occupants good clear fields of view across the countryside. The next best views are close up, and the mote can easily be accessed from the public footpath that runs along the South East banks of the river. Although the footpath isn't marked on the ordnance survey map, it is clearly sign posted. You can walk right up to the base of the earthworks, and as Scottish access laws are vastly different from English access laws, you can climb to the top of the mote and walk around the outlaying earthworks.

Above. Looking North East towards the summit of the mote.

On some old maps, the site is called 'the camp on the moat field', and although these days it looks distinctly round, it would most likely have originally been an almost square site. Ploughing and erosion have, over the years, rounded the edges of the summit of the mote.

Above. The tree lined summit of Carse Mote.

The summit may at one time have been around twenty one feet high, but only on one side does it now stand to anything nearing this height. The earthworks seem to be laid out in a classical Norman motte and bailey style settings....with a higher motte at one end, and a lower bailey area at the other...however, it is thought that this site pre-dates the Norman invasion of the British Isles.

Above. Another view of the tree lined summit.

The summit of the mote measures around 165 by 140 feet, with a break in the rim on the east side, possibly representing an entrance. The remnants of a bank and ditch survive to the North East of the mote, as shown in the photo below.

Above. The scant remains of ditches and banks at the North Eastern side of the earthworks.

I can't seem to find any dates for Carse Mote's creation, though some documentation points to it being an iron age hill fort rather than any sort of medieval site. This doesn't of course preclude it being used at some later point.

Above. Sketches and plans of Carse Mote\Motte from The Motes, Forts and Doons of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, by Frederick R. Coles

As this is easily reached via the public footpath from the road side, this site is well worth a visit.

Motte of Urr, Near Dalbeattie and Haugh of Urr

Motte of Urr
Between Dalbeattie and Haugh of Urr
Dumfries and Galloway

Well...what is there to be said about this? It is truly the 'mother of all mottes' and stunned me so much I nearly put the car into the ditch when I saw it from a distance. This magnificent earthwork structure can be found just over a mile South of Hough of Urr, a small village that is in turn about three and a half miles North of Dalbeattie, and about four and a half miles North East of Castle Douglas. The Motte of Urr lays on the West side of the B794 and next to Urr Water. Although it's on private land, great views can still be had from the road side, and these views really convey the size and form of this fantastic earthwork.

Above. The spectacular motte looking South.

The Motte of Urr is apparently a good example of a Scottish 'Pudding Bowl' motte, and the description seems to be apt when looking at the photo above. The motte rises to around ten metres above the bailey area, which in turn is set upon a six or seven metre high bank, which is also set upon yet another six or seven metre high bank. The motte therefore towers above the earthworks.

Above. Another wider view of the motte looking South.

The motte sits at the Northern end of the huge bailey area (measuring some 150 by 65 metres) and is surrounded by a deep ditch. The motte has a summit measuring some twenty five metres across, and would most likely have housed a large wooden tower.

Above. The motte from the East.
The castle was built by Walter de Berkeley some time after 1165, as detailed in a rare, surviving charter, which details the grant of lands in the surrounding areas by William I (the Lion of Scotland)

Above. Looking North towards the motte.

Excavations in the early 1950s, found evidence of destruction and fire damage, possibly relating to a rebellion in 1174. At this point, its defences would have consisted of a wooden tower atop the motte, with a timber palisade around the exterior of the bailey area, probably reinforced with stone. There was a Burgh of Urr somewhere close by, but it does not appear to have been occupied much after the early 1300s. A minor branch of the Baliol family held the castle in the 1200s, and while it was the site of a charter signing in 1262, no attempt seems to have been made to rebuild the castle in stone. There are suggestions that the sheer size of the castle's bailey area, indicate that it may have originally been an iron age fort.

Check out the site record for the Motte of Urr at the RCAHMS website, which has a library of over 120 photos of the motte.

Above. Various sketches and plans of the Motte of Urr.

Above. Fantastic undated map of the Motte of Urr and attendant 'camp' to the West.
Excellent information and collection of images at the CANMORE website.
Link to report from 1951 and 1953 excavations at Motte of Urr.

Boreland of Anworth Motte, Gatehouse of Fleet

Boreland Of Anwoth motte
Green Tower Motte
Gatehouse Of Fleet
Dumfries and Galloway

A confusing motte and bailey castle this one....mainly because it seems to be unable to decide what its name is. Some documentation refers to it as Green Tower Motte, some as Anwoth Motte, and some as Boreland of Anwoth Motte. Whatever it's name, it is a large earthwork, visible at a distance from the road side. The A75 between Newton Stewart and Kirkcudbrigh has to be one of the most scenic drives in South West Scotland, passing by numerous historical sites, and providing some beautiful views across the Irish Sea. These earthwork remains can be found less than a mile South of Gatehouse of Fleet and Cardoness Castle, and nearly seventeen miles East of Newton Stewart.

Above. The motte looking South West from the A75.

The motte consists of two distinct parts: a small twenty two by twenty metre almost circular earthwork mound, with a fifteen metre wide ditch separating it from a larger fifty two metre by twenty metre motte protruding out into the high tide areas of Skyreburn Bay. Unlike the numerous small single mound mottes in this part of Scotland, Anwoth was built with a large well defended bailey area. R.M.Smith, in his The Castles of Galloway, states that this is similar in form to motte and bailey castles found in Ulster, and therefore an anomaly to the area. It is dated to around 1160, and would most likely have belonged to David Fitz Teri, who may have received surrounding areas of land from Uchtred Mac Fergusa, Lord of Galloway. The remains of a deep ditch can still be traced on the Landward\North side of the earthworks.

The motte can be seen from the roadside quite easily. If you park up at Cardoness Castle and then walk back down to the A75, cross over, and look South East, you should be able to see it.

Check the link for the motte's connections with the McCulloh clan.

Old Buittle Tower, Near Dalbeattie

Old Buittle Tower
Near Dalbeattie
Dumfries and Galloway

This beautiful late sixteenth century tower can just be seen from the B794 as you travel South towards Dalbeattie from Haugh of Urr. Indeed, it is only about two miles South of the Motte of Urr....two good reasons to explore this road. These days, the tower is owned by Janet and Jeffrey Burn, who have not only made this tower into a comfortable home, but turned it into a living history site with events throughout the year. Check their website, The Borderers.

Above. Old Buittle Tower looking West from the B794.

It seems that the original tower house was built between 1490 and 1500, probably utilising rubble from the nearby ruined Buittle castle, by the Black Douglases who were, at the time, Lords of Galloway.

The tower would originally have been a simple rectangular building, with a wing added around 1580 providing extra, larger living quarters, reshaping the building into an L plan tower. In the early 17th century, the courtyard would have had a barmkin built around it, providing some light defensive protection. It was abandoned in the early 1720s, and gutted by fire in 1740. By the late 1700s, it was in a state of near total collapse. In the early 1800s its potential as a home was recognised, and by 1881 it had been let to tenant farmers. However, the owners decided to remove the turrets and remodel the interior. Check their website for visiting information.

Isle of Whithorn Castle, Isle of Whithorn

Isle of Whithorn Castle
Isle of Whithorn
Dumfries and Galloway

The Isle of Whithorn (not an island today) lays at the Southern tip of the Machars, about 13 miles South of Wigtown. This has to be the smallest Scottish castle I've ever seen, measuring a petite ten by nine metres. Built in 1674 by Patrick Houston and Margaret Gordon (who's initials can still be seen over a door) it is most likely that it was built, not as a place of refuge, but more likely as a comfortable home with all the outward characters of a small tower house.

Above. Isle of Whithorn Castle.

The tower was altered around 1830 by John Reid, when he was the Superintendent of Customs, and it was used as his administrative centre in the government's battle against smuggling. It can be seen from the road side when travelling out of The Isle of Whithorn on the B7004. Film enthusiasts may recognise the tower from the 1973 film, The Wicker Man.

Auchenmalg Tower\House, Achenmalg

Auchenmalg Tower\House
Near Glenluce
Dumfries and Galloway

The tiny hamlet of Auchenmalg lies about four miles South of Glenluce in the South West corner of Scotland. All that remains of this tower or house, are the footings of around two thirds of the square building, with the standing remains of one ruined gable wall. The ruins can be seen from the road side, about a hundred yards South of Broompark Farm.

Above. View of the remains from the A747.

Above. OS map from 1895, showing the site of the tower or house of Auchenmalg.

Modern OS maps after 1895 do not name the ruins, and stop showing them after 1965. The only information I can find about this intriguing ruin, is that it was most likely once upon a time, the home to the Adairs of Genoch. Some sources are convinced that this was the site of a fortified house or tower, whilst others dismiss it as the ruins of a more recent house.