Scheduled Monument

Balblair, enclosure 120m E ofSM5164

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
Prehistoric domestic and defensive: enclosure (domestic or defensive, rather than ritual or funerary)
Local Authority
NH 80505 51464
280505, 851464


The monument comprises the remains of a prehistoric, narrow-ditched sub-rectangular enclosure. It survives as a cropmarked feature partly visible on oblique aerial photographs, under cultivated land. It is likely that the monument's circuit extends beyond the boundary hedge that marks its visible NE extent. The monument is located 45m above sea level on the coastal plain overlooking the southern shore of the Moray Firth, 300m SW of Loch Flemington. The monument was first scheduled in 1991 and is being rescheduled now to bring it up to date, according with current scheduling standards.

The visible portion of the monument forms the SW part of a sub-rectangular univallate enclosure (with rounded corners) which measures approximately 25m by 35m. This space is enclosed by a ditch approximate 1.5m wide and in total, the area of the overall enclosure is estimated at approximately 35m by 50m.

The area to be scheduled is rectangular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence associated with their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Statement of National Importance

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is a very uncommon and large example of a sub-rectangular enclosure which is likely to represent the remains of prehistoric activity. Its shape is common to a number of functions such as domestic, ceremonial or mortuary use. The survival of cropmarked monuments in this part of Scotland is relatively uncommon and this example has the potential to yield information that can help us understand the nature of their construction (such as the materials and techniques used) as well as their function. The lack of other visible features on aerial photography does not necessarily indicate the absence of them in reality. It is possible that they survive in the ground and are simply masked by the prevailing conditions at the time of the photography. Environmental evidence is likely to have been preserved in the fills of the ditch and the internal features and collectively, this can tell us something of the climate and land cover when the monument was being built and when it was in use.

Contextual characteristics

This monument is one of group of broadly-rectangular, prehistoric enclosure monuments distributed on fertile, cultivated land in Scotland with very few examples known of elsewhere. Those that have been discovered through aerial photography are located in NE Scotland in Aberdeenshire, Angus and NE Perthshire and in S Scotland (in NE Scotland for example some 40 broadly-rectilinear enclosures are known of). They have variously been dated to Roman or earlier periods and are attributed to a number of functions. What makes this example noteworthy is its interpolated size and the apparent lack of associated remains (such as pits, posthole alignments or other cropmarked features) that are common in other examples. We know that this part of Scotland was significant for settlement, agriculture, ceremony and religion throughout prehistory and the Neolithic, Bronze- and Iron-Age monuments that survive in NE Scotland are the physical record of this exploitation. The site at Balblair forms part of the regional picture along the Moray coast and it indicates one or more of these activities, surviving as it does among a locally rich complex of prehistoric monuments of burial and domestic monuments. It therefore has much to tell us about the wider picture of prehistoric life and death here.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular prehistoric settlement and exploitation of land and natural resources in this part of Scotland. Structural, artefactual and environmental evidence is likely to survive in the buried soil horizons that represent this monument and these can tell us about the design, form and function of an unusual type of prehistoric enclosure. Its loss would limit our ability to understand the prehistoric settlement of coastal plains in NE Scotland.



The site is recorded by RCAHMS as NH 85 SW 13.

Aerial photographs consulted:

IN/2692, 1976, Balblair Enclosure.


RCAHMS 1979, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of North-east Inverness, Inverness District, Highland Region. The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Scotland series no 8, 21, Edinburgh: The Stationery Office.

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: 22/07/2024 02:26