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Rough stone walls in an overgrown field of wild grasses with dark forest beyond

Scotland’s forests hold many secrets. Tales of the past echo in the stillness of the trees and ruins remain as a testament to days gone by.

September 2018 is Scottish Archaeology Month, and what better way to celebrate than a journey into the past, and a whistle-stop tour of our top ten sites of archaeological interest…

Archaeology in the forest

1. Knock Farril Pictish hill fort, Blackmuir Wood near Strathpeffer

Historical in more ways than one – this is the site of one of the first archaeological excavations in Scotland. The climb to one of the best preserved vitrified hill forts in Europe is well worth it.

Person in green jumper looking out passed large trees to open countryside under a blue sky

2. Craig Phadrig hill fort, Craig Phadrig near Inverness

Nestled in beautiful native woodland, the views across the Beauly Firth from this Iron Age hill fort site are simply stunning. Craig Phadrig was once a chief stronghold of the Picts, and excavations on the site have recovered pottery from France and a bronze decorative plate dating back to 600AD.

Landscape view of mixed country side with distinctive pointed hill in distance

3. Whitehill recumbent stone circle, in Pitfichie near Aberdeen

Unique to this part of Scotland, recumbent stone circles are characterised by their massive altars and flanker stones. Visit this Bronze Age ceremonial site for a glimpse into the past, where cremations and burials were once held.

Such stone circles may also have been used as a celestial compass – marking the rising and setting of the sun and movement of the moon.  The south facing recumbent and flankers frame the sun and moon at their highest points in the sky.

Group of people standing on grassy hillside reading a large sign

4. Aoineadh Mor township, Aoineadh Mor near Fort William

An atmospheric place to think about the impact of the Highland Clearances on daily life in the Highlands. Once a forgotten place, in the 1990s we uncovered the site and today you can walk among the haunting remains of over 20 stone buildings.

View out over some trees to a long and thin loch in still, bright conditions

5. Queen's View Iron Age ringfort, Queen’s View near Pitlochry

There’s more than the famous view to enjoy here. Explore the foundations of a massive timber and thatch roundhouse. Whoever lived here had a lot of land - or, more importantly, cattle! We believe it was the home of a wealthy Iron Age farming family.

Man working to build stones into a wall high on a grassy hill with bigger hill in background

6. Dun Deardail Celtic and Pictish fort, near Glen Nevis

Built in the first millennium BC or first millennium AD, the fort at Dun Deardail was first excavated in late 2015 as part of the Dun Deardail project. Excavations have revealed the fort may have been occupied and perhaps rebuilt on several occasions, going from Celtic fort to Pictish citadel. The fort occupies the summit of Sgorr Chalum, on the south-west side of Glen Nevis. Our recently-published book on Dun Deardail is available as a PDF.

Primitive craving in grey rock embedded in grassy ground

7. Ormaig Neolithic cup-and-ring marked rock art, in West Argyll

Marvel at one of the best preserved panels of Neolithic rock art in Scotland. The rock displays cupmarks created using a pecking technique, which was popular during Neolithic and Bronze Age periods (c. 4,400 BC – 1,000 BC). Such rocks were used as territorial markers, sacrificial altars or religious symbols.

Black and white photo of row of small terraced houses

8. Wilsontown Ironworks, near Forth in South Lanarkshire

At the start of the 19th century, the Ironworks were a bustling hub of innovation, activity and enterprise. Today many features of the original Ironworks remain – railways, mines and dams – and the centre of the site has been designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It’s a great place to visit for a glimpse into Scotland’s industrial past.

Aerial view of remains of a fort now covered in wild grasses at top of hill with view to land beyond

9. Castle O'er Iron Age hill fort, near Lockerbie

One of the finest surviving Iron Age hill forts in Scotland. The massive earthen ramparts enclose multiple circular grooves in the turf, marking where timber roundhouses once stood. Follow the moderate trail and discover the outlines of where Iron Age streets once stood.

Several people sitting on the grass surrounding several large, fallen stones with a view out to sea

10. Giant's Graves Neolithic chambered tomb, South End on the Isle of Arran

The aptly named Giant’s Graves is one of the largest chambered tombs in the southwest. Although its covering cairn has gone, the huge stones remaining mark the site of the original tomb.

More forest history

If you'd like to find out more about history in the forest, visit our heritage pages. They're full of interesting facts and ideas for places to visit.