The monument comprises a motte of medieval date, visible as a grass-covered mound. It lies 1 km from the S shore of the Moray Firth, within a private garden and between a vehicle track and burial ground. It was first scheduled in 1971, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains. The present rescheduling rectifies this.
The motte is approximately 50 m in diameter and stands over 5 m high. It has steep sides with a top platform measuring a maximum of 17 m in diameter. Mottes are mounds, usually artificial, which formed the foundations for timber (sometimes stone) castles. In Scotland these date from the 12th to 13th centuries, appearing in NE Scotland from around the third quarter of the 12th century. They were generally accompanied by baileys (enclosed courtyards for ancillary buildings), although there are no visible remains of a bailey at this site.
The area to be scheduled is sub-circular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around them within which related material may be expected to be found, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of the greenhouse, garden shed, garden steps, fences and walls to allow for their mainenance.
The monument's archaeological and historical significance can be expressed as follows:
The motte is well preserved, retaining a good proportion of its estimated original shape, extent and structure, despite the impact of subsequent localised and more widespread disturbance (sand quarrying, rabbit colonies, invasive vegetation, flooding, fencing and power line poles). Although there is no record of any systematic investigation here, a piece of pottery picked out from the base of the mound was deposited at Elgin Museum in 1871. The site retains the potential to provide information about the date and nature of its construction and subsequent use, as well as sealing evidence for earlier land-use and environment. Evidence for structures associated with the use of the motte may also survive around its base.
We know of around 300 mottes in Scotland, 100 or so from the NE of Scotland. Varying in form, they chart the extent of royal power, reflecting where land was granted to incomers in return for military service. The majority are found in peripheral parts of the kingdom where political unrest might be expected. Mottes therefore indicate where local power centres, often undocumented, are to be found. They also have have the potential to enable us to understand the impact of feudalism, patterns of land tenure and the evolution of the local landscape. Mottes are one of a range of later medieval castle types that are found in Scotland.
While we still have much to learn about the date, form and development of mottes in Scotland, they reflect the introduction of new, southern political ideas (feudalism) and foreign forms of castle building. With its characteristically prominent form, the construction and occupation of a motte such as this would have spoken loudly of the presence of new lords and new ways of doing things. Its coastal location emphasised this visibility. The influence of the new lords permeated all aspects of rural life. Auld Petty lay within the royal hunting reserve of Darnway, emphasising the close links between kings and the new nobility.