Fortingall Archaeology Project

Fortingall in James Stobie’s 1783 Map (National Library of Scotland)

The cultural heritage around Fortingall has attracted attention since at least the eighteenth century. In 1732 the noted antiquarian John Horsley (1) mentions ‘Fortingal’ camp in discussing possible sites of a battle between Romans and Caledonians in the 80’s AD. General Roy featured a ‘Roman Camp’ on his survey map of 1747-55, as did James Stobie in his map of 1783. Scobie’s map also shows a rectangular enclosure, a standing stone and a linear feature south west of Fortingall. The earliest OS map (1862) shows the ‘Roman Camp’, a rectangular ‘Praetorium’ and further to the east of Fortingall, standing stones.

Previous Archaeological Exploration

One of the earliest recorded archaeological excavations was of the barrow beside a fallen cup-marked stone in the field then described as “Dalreoch, Fortingall” in 1884 (2). More recently, archaeological excavations were carried out on the stone circles east of Fortingall in 1970 (3), a geophysical survey studied a pit-defined enclosure or timber hall in 2007 (4) and geophysical surveys in fields east and south of Fortingall in 2010 were followed by excavations in the field east of the Manse in 2011 (5, 6). A watching brief during work on sewer pipes in the field immediately south of Fortingall in 2007 found evidence of stone wall footings (7).

Map of the ‘Dalreoch’ Field from Pastmap’s OS Mapping

‘Dalreoch’ Field

The field lying to the south west of Fortingall was described by Roy, Stobie and the OS map of 1862 as the ‘Roman Camp’. Charles Stewart called the place ‘Dalreoch’ in 1884. It is immediately to the west of the rectangular feature shown on Stobie’s 1783 map and described on the OS map of 1862 as the ‘Praetorium’, but later recognised as a medieval moated enclosure (8). The field contains the barrow with cup-marked stone (2), a long cairn (9) (both scheduled monuments), a circular enclosure (10), a cairnfield (11), a rectangular enclosure (12) and the linear feature running south east to north west shown on Stobie’s map of 1783. The road layout bounding the field shown by Stobie, changed in 1793 when the bridge over the Lyon was built.

The field topography is dominated by river terraces formed since the last deglaciation and clearly visible in the aerial photographs. These terraces have been ploughed out in adjacent fields.

Aerial View of Dalreoch Field from Pastmap

Fortingall Roots discussed the possibility of a geophysical survey of the field as a means of identifying the features in the field and understanding the field’s archaeological potential. Dr. Anouk Busset of the University of Glasgow kindly offered to provide the expertise and equipment to survey parts of the field and met with Fortingall Roots to discuss the project. With the kind permission from the landowner, Mr. and Mrs. Wotherspoon, a survey of parts of the field, excluding the scheduled monuments was organised and completed in May 2019.

Geophysical Survey

A Bartington high resolution fluxgate gradiometer was used to map magnetic anomalies in the ground. The technique can identify disturbed soils and features such as ditches, walls and hearths. A Geoscan RM85 resistance meter with probes was used to map ground resistance in parts of the surveyed area.

Adrian Maldonado setting up the Bartington fluxgate gradiometer

A baseline was created using 12 canes 20m apart. The areas to be surveyed were gridded using 20m squares built up from the baseline, the locations of grid corners measured by GPS and lines 2m apart laid within each grid to guide the gradiometer.

Team Glasgow – Anouk, Adrian, Scott and Megan planning the survey

Using tapes to accurately position the 20m marker canes

Aerial Image with the Survey Grids Superimposed

Preparing to lay the string lines within a grid

Unravelling string to lay lines within a grid to guide the gradiometer

Deciding on the gradiometer plan

Adrian Maldonado in action with gradiometer

Anouk Busset with the gradiometer in the unrecorded ‘cist’ area

Problems with the resistance meter

Scott driving the resistance meter

Problems with the equipment limited the area that could be mapped by resistance but all the selected grids were mapped using the fluxgate gradiometer over Wednesday afternoon, Thursday and Friday morning.

Survey Results

The University of Glasgow team have produced a magnetic anomaly map from the data collected in the survey, shown below superimposed over the aerial photograph. The linear feature shown on Scobie’s 1783 map is visible both in the magnetic anomaly and the aerial photograph, as is the rectangular earthwork. Over to the west is an area of significant disturbance in the magnetic anomaly, corresponding to an area of what have been described as cists.

Peter Heyes


  1. Horsley, J. (1732) Britannia romana: The Roman antiquities of Britain. J. Osborn and T. Longman, London, p.44. accessed June 2019
  2. Stewart, C. (1884). Notice of sepulchral mounds and cup-marked stones, near Fortingall, in Glenlyon, Perthshire, Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot, vol. 18, 1883-4. Page(s): 376-7
  4. Tanner, J. (2007). Fortingall: Geophysical Survey. Discovery Excav Scot, New Series, vol. 8, 2007. Cathedral Communications Limited, Wiltshire, England. Page(s): 158
  5. O’Grady, O.J.T. (2010). Culdee Monasteries: Geophysical Survey, Discovery Excav Scot, New Series, vol. 11, 2010. Cathedral Communications Limited, Wiltshire, England. Page(s): 143
  6. O’Grady, O.J.T. (2011) Fortingall: Culdee Archaeology Project: Excavation and geophysical survey. Discovery Excav Scot, New Series, vol. 12, 2011. Cathedral Communications Limited, Wiltshire, England. Page(s): 151
  7. Hindmarch, E., (2007). Fortingall Sewer. AOC Archaeology Ltd. accessed (May 2019) via

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