Local tradition has long held that a hill-fort1 existed upon the summit of Cluny Hill in Forres, Moray. It has variously been attributed to Neolithic and Middle Iron Age2 tribes, Pictish warlords, Scottish kings and Viking raiders. A record for it exists in the Moray Sites and Monuments Record (Moray SMR)3 and National Monuments Record of Scotland (NMRS).4 Both ultimately derive from accounts summarised by the Ordnance Survey.
It also finds occasional mention in a wide range of local history books and the hill continues to exert an influence on the public imagination (Taylor, 2015; Yeadon, 2015). Yet the existence of an earthwork, let alone its nature, has remained a matter of debate. Cluny Hill was planted and heavily landscaped in the early 19th century, making visual confirmation extremely difficult.
The SMR record, though expressing a high confidence in its existence and proposing an early medieval date for it, cites just two 19th century antiquarian works as evidence (Chalmers, 1807; Hibbert, 1857b) and holds almost no other documentary records about the site.
Most of the literature in the more comprehensive NMRS record is little more than series of Chinese whispers, and the earliest source cited in common – the antiquarian George Chalmers’ Caledonia – is often unreliable in both its general and specific conclusions.
Two mid-20th century visits by Ordnance Survey archaeologists disputed the designation and it was consequently removed from OS maps in 1984. The aim of this report is to offer a firmer evidence base by which to determine its existence and nature. Click here for Photo Gallery