Scheduled Monument

Dundarg Castle, fort and castleSM2450

Status: Designated


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The legal document available for download below constitutes the formal designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The additional details provided on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not form part of the designation. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within this additional information.


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Supplementary Information Updated
Prehistoric domestic and defensive: fort (includes hill fort and promontory fort), Secular: castle
Local Authority
Aberdour (Aberdeenshire)
NJ 89463 64852
389463, 864852


The monument consists of Dundarg Castle, a medieval castle dating to the late 13th/early 14th century, constructed on the site of a prehistoric promontory fort. The monument was first scheduled in 1963. The monument is being rescheduled in order to define more clearly the extent of the scheduled area.

Other than a tantalising reference in the Book of Deer to the presence at Aberdour, in the 6th century AD of a cathair or fortified place, Dundarg is first mentioned in relation to events of 1334, when Henry de Beaumont refortified an existing castle at Dundarg, which may have been originally constructed by the Comyn earls of Buchan. The castle was besieged by and fell to the Warden of Scotland, Sir Andrew de Moray in December that year. Although not conclusive, the accounts of the siege appear to suggest that a bombard was employed by Sir Andrew de Moray, the first document use of an artillery piece in Scotland. The castle appears to have been slighted and abandoned after the siege although architectural evidence suggests the it may have been briefly re-fortified, perhaps in the period 1550-60, when it is known that nearby Findlater castle was by the Coastal Defence Commission with a view of adapting them to the new requirement of artillery warfare.

The castle is situated at the foot of a N-facing coastal slope, where a series of banks and ditches cuts off a triangular piece of gently-sloping ground. This is flanked by steep slopes on all sides except along the broad S approach and at the NE extremity, from which a narrow spine runs out to link with a flat elongated promontory on which there is a series of turf-covered foundations, which were excavated in 1911. This inner ward of the castle was protected by a red sandstone gatehouse, which survives to a height of about 3m, and contains evidence of two separate phases of construction.

The outer defences are trivallate, with a shallow outer ditch (ploughed out) and dumped bank, a middle ditch and dumped bank and a broad, flat bottomed inner ditch with low inner bank. It is likely that the outer pair of defences are prehistoric (prehistoric material has been found on the site) although perhaps subsequently altered in the medieval phase of occupation. Excavation has shown the inner bank and ditch to be of a different construction; the bank overlies the remains of a medieval mortared wall, suggesting refortification after the destruction of a light curtain wall. At the western extremity of this inner line of defence lies the foundations of a substantial masonry structure, perhaps a tower. There are indications from the 1911 excavations of other structures at the eastern terminal. However, a modern house was built in this area in 1938 obscuring the remains. Within the outer enclosure there are the remains of another ditch system, which appears to represents a different phase of pre-historic occupation of the site.

The area to be scheduled encompasses the castle, including outer ditch system, the outer ward and the inner ward on the promontory. Excluded from the schedule is the modern house and garage, and the upstanding sections of the modern boundary walls. Also excluded is the top 30cm of ground surfaces beneath the roadway and the hard standings. The area is irregular in shape and has maximum dimensions of 192m NNE-SSW and 194m WNW-ESE as shown in red on the attached map; the house and garage are shown as specific exclusions on the map marked by red lines within the boundary of the area to be scheduled.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is nationally important as a multi-phase high status defensive and domestic site. It appears to have had two phases of prehistoric defences and at least two, if not three phases of medieval fortification. Similar prehistoric multiple phase prehistoric/medieval sites are known along the southern coast of the Moray Firth. Dundarg therefore has the potential to inform us about the development, construction and function of these complex and productive sites.

The 14th-century refortification of the site is also important not least because of its association with Henry de Beaumont, whose claim to the lands of Buchan was a contributing factor to the collapse of the Treaty of Northampton, which led to Edward III intervention in Scotland and the invasion of Edward Balliol. The remains of early 14th-century work at the castle are an important survival, for the work was carried out at a time when major castle building was stagnant. In plan the work shares similarities to other 14th-century castles such as Tantallon and St Andrews. The documentary evidence for the siege of Dundarg and the possible early use of canon enhances the monuments importance.



The monument is recorded by RCAHMS as NJ86SE 17.


Beveridge W 1914, 'Notes on excavations at Dundargue Castle, Aberdeenshire, and on a stone circle and grave at New Deer, Aberdeenshire', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 48, 84-90.

Bogdan N and Bryce I B D 1991, 'Castles, manors and 'town houses' survey', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT 1991, 25.

Cruden S 1960, 'THE SCOTTISH CASTLE', Edinburgh, 202.

Fojut N and Love P 1984, 'The defences of Dundarg Castle, Aberdeenshire', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 113, 449-56.

Fojut N and Love P 1981, 'Dundarg (Aberdour): castle and fort', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT 1981, 11.


Simpson W D 1954, DUNDARG CASTLE: A HISTORY OF THE SITE AND A RECORD OF THE EXCAVATIONS IN 1950 AND 1951, Aberdeen University Studies 131, Edinburgh, (Castle excavation).

Simpson W D 1960, 'Dundarg Castle reconsidered', TRANS BUCHAN CLUB 17, 4, 1954-6, 9-25.

About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map (see ‘legal documents’ above) showing the scheduled area is the designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary and provided for general information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within the statement of national importance or additional information. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

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Printed: 25/07/2024 11:45