Promontory Forts & Forts

Brochs were probably not the only structures built during the Iron Age. Some hilltop enclosures and promontory forts probably date to this period also. Indeed, some forts may be the earliest Iron Age structures in the county. Like brochs, the forts dominated the landscape – the massive embankments being visible for miles.

Many promontory forts are defined by being separated from the mainland by enormous banks and ditches. Some ditches have massive stone-revetted ramparts immediately inward of the ditch. Others, for example at Nybster, Auckengill appear to be ‘blockhouses’, a large-stone structure used for defensive purposes.

Good examples of hillforts can be found at Garrywhin, ‘Cnoc na Ratha’ (Shurrery) and ‘Buaile Oscar’ (Beinn Friecidean), the latter shown in the picture here. The fort of Buaile Oscar (Watch Hill) is dominated by a monumental 3m thick rampart.

No Caithness hillforts have been excavated so we do not know what they were used for. They may have been used as settlements. Or were they ritual enclosures?

Back to Iron & Brochs: Iron Age