Archive for Prehistoric

Fell of Barhullion: Fort and Cup and Ring Marked Rocks

We spent much of the final week of survey around the Fell of Barhullion, an area liberally sprinkled with archaeology, particularly cup and ring marked rocks. We conducted a detailed survey of the fort on the summit of the fell using the GPS and total station; details of the site can be found here.

There are numerous cup and ring marked rocks in the area, some of which are marked on the OS 1:25000 map. One particularly fine example, to the north of the fell, featured a cup mark measuring about 4cm in diameter surrounded by five concentric ring; three wavy parallel lines ran for about 40cm to the SE of the cup and rings. These carvings are so easily missed as they rarely stand out clearly, so it was a good exercise in opening our eyes and looking at our sruroundings – even when the mist came in so we could barely see in front of our noses!

Cup and ring marked rock

As the weather deteriorated on Friday afternoon, we headed back to Kirkmaiden to finish off the survey begun there in January. It was a wet and miserable afternoon but we recorded the final gravestones and architectural detail on the church.

Massive thanks go out to all of the volunteers who have braved all weathers to come out with us throughout the Machars Archaeology Project. We have surveyed a great many sites from a wide range of time periods, and we have enjoyed watching the volunteers grow in understanding and confidence throughout the course of the six week-long surveys. We hope that those who have taken part will continue to go out into the landscape with their eyes open, as there really is archaeology all around us.

Keep in touch with Janet and the Whithorn Trust for details of further events as part of the project!

Cruggleton Castle & Barhullion Fell

The first three days of this last week of survey have seen us at Cruggleton Castle and Fell of Barhullion Fort. Cruggleton Castle, sitting in a prominent position on a rocky coastal cliff, was excavated in the 1970s and 80s. Work revealed six phases of use of the site, dating as far back as the Iron Age. All that remains today are pits cut into the bedrock, believed to be the footings of a prehistoric roundhouse; a reconstructed arch sitting on stone-built footings; and the walls of a small building with adjoining cell. These stone-built structures are perhaps the basement level of the castle. We spent Monday and Tuesday getting to grips with the site and conducting a detailed survey using the GPS and total station.


Wednesday was spent on Fell of Barhullion at the site of a prehistoric fort with chevaux de frise – a defensive system consisting of end-set stones around the site, angled outwards, particularly effective against attackers on horseback. These defences are still visible but survive to only about 0.75m at the most – we spent a good deal of time discussing their possible original form and how impressive and formidable they might have looked. The fort sits on the summit of the fell with spectacular views all around and out to sea. Two concentric rings demarcate the fort, with entrances in the south and north. A large modern cairn sits in the north end of the fort with two intriguing engraved stones set into the south-western side, one marked ‘THE MORLEYS DUMFRIES 1944’ and the other indecipherable, but beginning ‘WA…’. We began surveying the fort but will go back there tomorrow to finish off. There are numerous cup and ring marked rocks in the area, so we hope to identify a few of those as well – so we have a busy few days ahead of us, with lots to do!

Green House Bridge Hut Circle

Friday was spent back at Garheugh, with volunteers George and Peter conducting a plane table survey of the possible hut circle there. You can find details of this site, which sits just over a low ridge from a large cairn surveyed earlier in the week, here. It was a wet, misty and generally miserable day but well done to George and Peter for cracking on and getting the plan finished! And many thanks of course to all of the volunteers involved in this penultimate phase of survey.

Peter and George plan the hut circle using a plane table

We have just one more week of survey left, in March, so if you want to get involved, that will be your last chance! Contact Janet at the Whithorn Trust as always for more information, or keep up to date through social media, links in the Blogroll to the right.


Wednesday and Thursday saw us tackling more of the sites around Garheugh. We group surveyed a number of hut circles and enclosures on Wednesday, but the highlight was certainly a long structure built of massive stones. Situated on the bank of a stream in a sheltered hollow, the structure featured a possible entrance with edge-set stones in the west end of the structure.

From here we headed towards Green House Bridge Cairn, a lovely round cairn with exposed cist. The cairn has suffered a good deal of stone-robbing over the year but is nonetheless still very impressive, and the cist is a beautiful example of these prehistoric stone-lined boxes. We returned on Thursday to undertake an accurate survey using the GPS.

The rest of Thursday was spent recording a number of sites in close proximity to Green House Bridge Cairn, including a section of a substantial enclosure just north-west of the cairn; the curved section of wall is more than 2m thick. We also surveyed nearby Cairn Buy, a cairnfield with numerous enclosures and pens, and a farmstead. Our volunteers will surely be seeing stones in their sleep, after having visited all of these drystone constructions!

You can find more information on Green House Bridge Cairn and the other sites at