The monument comprises a medieval motte situated adjacent to a small stream known as the Burn of Cantraydoune, in an area of uncultivated ground at the edge of an arable field. The monument was first scheduled in 1972 and is being rescheduled in order to clarify the extent of the scheduling.
The motte has the classic 'truncated cone' profile of a motte. Its base is sub-circular in shape and measures approximately 40 m across. The mound is about 15 m in height and has a slightly flattened oval top. There is a deep groove in its E slope, which may mark the position of antiquarian excavations. A curving drystone dyke, only part of which remains upstanding, encloses the motte. A single tree grows on the lower SE slope of the motte, and the upper slopes and summit have a thin covering of gorse and whin.
Mottes are mounds, usually artificial, which formed the foundations for timber (sometimes stone) castles. In Scotland these date from the 12th to the 13th centuries, appearing in N Scotland in the third quarter of the 12th century. They were generally surrounded by a ditch and accompanied by a bailey (enclosed courtyard for ancillary buildings), although there are no surviving traces of either at this site.
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, bounded on the NE by the Burn of Cantraydoune and on the SE, S, W and NW by a modern post and wire fence, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The modern post and wire fence is specifically excluded from the scheduling, to allow for its maintenance.
Statement of National Importance
The monument's archaeological and historic significance can be expressed as follows:
Intrinsic characteristics: Although there has been some disturbance to the monument probably caused by antiquarian excavations, the disturbance is localised in nature. The monument retains a substantial proportion of its estimated original shape, extent and structure. Its profile, a truncated cone, is characteristic of this class of monument. The monument retains the potential to provide information about the date and nature of its construction and subsequent use, and to add to the body of knowledge on medieval dispersed rural settlement.
Contextual characteristics: Around 300 mottes are found in Scotland. Varying in form, they 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 11th century, and that archaeologists now think to have been still under construction in some parts of Scotland into the 14th century. 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 the potential to enable us to understand the impact of feudalism, patterns of land tenure and the evolution of the local landscape.
Associative characteristics: 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 that at Cantraydoune would have spoken loudly of the presence of new lords and new ways of doing things. It is possible that this motte was built 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. One of the landholders introduced into the area by the crown in order to establish more effective centralised control may have constructed the motte to provide a residence and fortifiable base.
This monument is of national importance because it is a prominent, visual reminder of the advance of a new form of centralised, royal authority into N Scotland during the 11th to 14th centuries. As a centre of local lordship, it can contribute to the relatively small body of knowledge for this process, as well as evidence for medieval rural landuse, settlement and economy. The well-preserved earthwork has the potential to provide information about its date, construction and use which can contribute to our understanding of the development and use of medieval castles in the Highland zone, and in Scotland in general.