Blog – Arbory Hill Hillfort: Arbory Hill

Arbory Hill hillfort, South Lanarkshire by hfenton on Sketchfab

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  • Abington, Lanarkshire, Scotland.
  • OSGB – NS 9445 2379
  • Scheduled Monument.

Multivallate Hillfort. Contour fort. Linear earthwork.

Arbory Hillfort is of an unknown date. There is a henge situated near Crawford which may have a connection to this, and other sites, in the area. This hillfort has not been excavated but has undergone some surveying and measuring including a Geophysical Survey in 1990. Until such a time that it can be investigated further the site holds onto its history. The following is what we do know about the site.

Arbory Hillfort sits upon a small hill overlooking the Clyde River and is naturally protected on three sides by steep slopes. On the fourth side, the east, it is approached by a gentler slope. There is no water supply, but this may be due to it not being discovered – could it have been an ancient spring that may have dried up? There is visual evidence of two phases of construction. Further archaeological investigation will let us know if there were more.

The first phase included an area measuring 82m by 69m which was defended by two walls/ramparts, outer ditches and a counterscarp. The walls included stone quarried from the digging of the ditches. One of the walls/ramparts measures 5.3m wide and stands 3m from the base of the ditch, however it is only 0.6m in height from the ground level on the inside of the fort. Originally these must have been larger in order to defend the site.


Arbory Hill Defences.
By Arbory Hill fort by Richard Webb, CC BY-SA 2.0,


There are five entrance gaps – two to the south, two to the east and one to the north-west, which has a holloway measuring 7.6m by 3.7m. These five entrances all appear to belong to the first phase of construction.

Archaeological evidence from observation shows internally there were four structures, constructed of timber and measuring 6m, 4.6m and 3.7m in diameter.

The second phase of construction included a stone wall built within the earlier defences and which can today be seen as a mass of rubble. The diameter of this work is 43m.

Two entrances were incorporated into this stone wall. The eastern one measuring 2.1m wide and the second, smaller one, measuring 1.2m wide.

Internally the site is level, and there is visual evidence of three structures with ring ditches measuring 9.1m, 8.5m and 7.9m in diameter. There is also more modern evidence located to the north including a round stone building and a pile of stones which may be a cairn.


Inner Circle Defences, Arbory Hillfort.
By Chris Wimbush, CC BY-SA 2.0,


Located 75m away to the east-south-east of the site, and on the gentler sloping ground, a linear earthwork has been identified measuring 3.7m thick. Believed to be part of the defences as the site was approached from this direction, this linear feature may also have served as a territorial mark or even to control the movement of people to and from the site. It may also have been a land boundary, as we know there are several other defended sites within the area.


Inner Enclosure Wall, Arbory Hillfort.
By Arbory Hill fort by Richard Webb, CC BY-SA 2.0,


It has been suggested that Arbory may merely have been an observation post (Galloway 1866), however, would this attract the defences that it has? Maybe at a later date, but it definitely had good views over the Roman Road nearby.

A Roman road snakes its way in the lower ground between Arbory Hill, Raggengill Hill, and Castle Hill. The fort has a good view of this as do the other settlements and forts in the area. Roman Camps are sited at Crawford to the southeast of Arbury Hill and Wandel to the northwest. This may have been part of the Roman road which stretched between Carlisle and Glasgow, where the Romans had major forts and settlements.

At one point in time the site held a palisade, but the dating will not be ascertained until it is investigated further. This may have been added during the Roman period, or be of an earlier date.

The area measurements of the site are as follows,

  • Inner enclosure covers 0.14 ha.
  • Middle enclosure covers 0.42 ha
  • Outer enclosure covers 0.88 ha

The whole site covers 1.1ha including the linear earth feature.


Plan of Arbory Hillfort.
Christison. D. 1890. Forts, Camps, and Motes of the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, Vol. 24, 1889-90. Pp. 302-304.


Here is a timeline of the site.

NOTE: This is different from our other timelines in regards there is no available information about its occupants, construction dates or events.

1773                 Shown on Charles Ross’s map.

1890                 Field Investigation.

1931                 Lithic (chert scraper) discovered at the site.

1932                 Field Investigation.

1945                 Aerial photograph.

1949                 Aerial photograph.

1959                 Surveyed and measured.

1967                 Scheduled.

1968                 Aerial photograph.

1976                 Aerial photograph.

1975                 Field Investigation.

1978                 Field Investigation.

1980                 Aerial photograph.

1982                 Aerial photograph.

1985                 Aerial photograph.

1990                 Geophysical Survey.

2000                 Aerial photograph.

2003                 Aerial photograph.

2006                 Aerial photograph.


As mentioned, the site has not been archaeologically investigated, however a lithic (stone tool – chert scraper) was found at the site and there is visual evidence of the internal structures.

Looking at the images and reading some of the descriptions , it is clear that Arbory was located in an important position, one from which the native occupants must have observed the Romans marching along their road and heading further north into Scotland.


Looking Down Arbory Hill Towards the Roman Road.
By Chris Wimbush, CC BY-SA 2.0,


Further questions –

  • Which period in history does the site date to?
  • Was it fed with a water supply?
  • Was the site used, at any period in time, as an observation post?
  • Was this a multi-use site?
  • Was the site occupied during the Roman period?
  • Did the occupation of the forts and settlements in the area increase or decrease during the Roman occupation?
  • Can we give a name to the possible tribe/group of people who occupied the site?


Arbory Hillfort.
Google Earth.


References & Bibliography.

Beveridge. A. 1881. Clydesdale, a Poem, with Notes. Oxford University.

Canmore. 2023. Arbory Hill. Available at

Christison. D. 1890. Forts, Camps, and Motes of the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, Vol. 24, 1889-90. Pp. 302-304.

Frere. S. 2001. The Ravenna Cosmography and North Britain Between the Walls. Britannia, 32, 286–292.

Galloway. A. 1866. Remarks On Ancient Agriculture, And on The Agricultural Condition of Clydesdale During The Roman Period And Subsequently. Transactions of the Glasgow Archaeological Society, 1(4), 399–419.

Gardiner. The Rev. M. 1841. Parish of Bothwell. In Society for the Benefit of the Sons and Daughters of the Clergy. 1841. The Statistical Account of Lanarkshire. W. Blackwood. p. 818.

Groome. F. H. (ed.). 1883. Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical, and Historical · Volume 4. Grange Publishing Works.

Harding. D. W. 2004. The Iron Age in Northern Britain: Celts and Romans, Natives and Invaders. Taylor & Francis.

Harding. D. W. 2009. The Iron Age Round-House: Later Prehistoric Building in Britain and Beyond. Oxford University Press.

Harding. D. 2012. Iron Age Hillforts in Britain and Beyond. Oxford University Press.

Irving. G. V. 1855. On The Ancient Camps of the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. Vol. 10., (Apr. 1854). pp. 1-32.

Irving. G. V. 1864. The Upper Ward of Lanarkshire Described and Delineated

Volume 1. Thomas Murray & Sons.

RCAHMS. 1978. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Lanarkshire: An Inventory of the Prehistoric and Roman Monuments. Edinburgh.

Ritchie. J. N. G. 2019. Scotland: Archaeology and Early History: A General Introduction. Edinburgh University Press.


Image References.  By Colin Kinnear, CC BY-SA 2.0, By Arbory Hill fort by Richard Webb, CC BY-SA 2.0, By Arbory Hill fort by Richard Webb, CC BY-SA 2.0, By Chris Wimbush, CC BY-SA 2.0, By Chris Wimbush, CC BY-SA 2.0,

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