Scheduled Monument

Holme Mains, motte 210m SE ofSM3078

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
Secular: motte
Local Authority
Inverness And Bona
NH 65346 42006
265346, 842006


The monument comprises a small dome-shaped motte that lies on a promontory above the Holm Burn. The monument was originally scheduled in 1971, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains (particularly the northern segment of the motte, and any associated ditch and upcast rampart); the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The motte has a diameter of about 14 m and rises to a maximum height of around 5 m. A section of well-defined ditch with a width of about 8 m, and with an upcast rampart along its outer edge, runs around the eastern segment. There appears to have been a platform around the southwestern segment of the motte, above a steep incline towards the burn. The site's natural defensive qualities are the reason why the builders chose to site and construct a motte here; they also govern its design.

Beyond a field boundary that cuts across the northern segment of the motte, there is no ditch and the motte itself has been damaged; both the damage and the absence of ditch may be a consequence of farming activity. But there is also the possibility that there was a quadrangular bailey on the N side, since there appear to be earth ramparts along the NW and eastern sides of the field. However, since these could be the consequence of a combination of farming activity and the natural fall of the land on those sides, the earthworks cannot be associated with the motte with certainty, and so the scheduled area excludes these.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around in which evidence for their construction and use may survive, as marked in red on the accompanying map.

Statement of National Importance

Cultural Significance

The monument's archaeological significance can be characterised on the following criteria:

Intrinsic characteristics: Despite some damage to the motte itself, and the possible loss of the ditch on the northern and western sides, this motte is a well-preserved example of its type. Much of the profile of the motte and a section of the ditch and upcast rampart survive in a clearly visible state, though it is uncertain if what appears to have been a quadrangular bailey to the N was created as such or has been a consequence of modern agricultural activity.

Contextual characteristics: Mottes, together with their associated features of ditches and ramparts, represent the earthwork substructures of a type of fortified lordly dwelling that became common across the British Isles from perhaps as early as the later eleventh century, and that archaeologists now think to have been still under construction in some parts of Scotland into the fourteenth century. When occupied, they would probably have been largely invisible beneath the timber residential towers and palisades that they supported. One of their advantages was their rapid and relatively cheap construction and that they were particularly attractive in areas that were being colonised or subdued. It is possible that they built this motte at one of those periods when royal control was being more firmly established over the periodically disruptive province of Moray, and perhaps after David I's suppression of the rising of Malcolm MacHeth and Oengus of Moray in 1130. It may have been constructed to provide a residence and fortifiable base by one of the landholders introduced into the area by the crown in order to establish more effective centralised control.

National importance

The monument is of national importance for its potential to increase our understanding of one type of medieval lordly residence, and of the regional variations that we may find in its design and location. It is of complementary significance for the archaeological potential of the site: since the earthworks are so well preserved, it is highly likely that evidence will survive below ground level for the timber structures they were designed to support.



RCAHMS records the monument as NH64SE29, Holm House; Highland SMR as NH64SE0029.


ISSFC 1885, 'Visit to the Holm Burn', TRANS INVERNESS SCI SOC FLD CLUB Vol. 1, 1875-80, 84.

Yeoman P 1988, 'Mottes in Northeast Scotland', SCOTTISH ARCHAEOLOGICAL REVIEW 5, 125-133.

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.

Scheduled monument consent is required to carry out certain work, including repairs, to scheduled monuments. Applications for scheduled monument consent are made to us. We are happy to discuss your proposals with you before you apply and we do not charge for advice or consent. More information about consent and how to apply for it can be found on our website at

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Printed: 26/02/2024 17:52