Tap O' Noth

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Alternative Names Hill Of Noth
Site Type ENCLOSURE, FORT, RING DITCH HOUSE(S), ROUNDHOUSE(S), VITRIFIED STONE
Canmore ID 17169
Site Number NJ42NE 1
NGR NJ 4845 2930
Council ABERDEENSHIRE
Parish RHYNIE
Former Region GRAMPIAN
Former District GORDON
Former County ABERDEENSHIRE
Datum OSGB36 - NGR

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Treasured Places - HLF funded

The Iron Age hillfort on Tap O' Noth is one of the largest in Scotland, consisting of 21 ha enclosed by a stone rampart. More than 100 house platforms have been recorded between the rampart and a massive wall that further protects the hill's summit. This stone and timber wall, more than 6m in width and 3m high, is vitrified in places - the stones have fused together through intense, prolonged heat. The extremely high temperatures generated by the burning timbers causes the surrounding stone to melt, and this phenomenon has been observed at many forts. On the summit there is a rock cut well or cistern.

Information from RCAHMS (SC) 13 August 2007
RCAHMS 2007
Armit, I 1998
Ritchie, A and Ritchie G, 1998

An image of this site has been nominated as one of Scotland's favourite archive images. For more information about the project visit http://www.treasuredplaces.org.uk

Recording Your Heritage Online

Tap o' Noth. Remains of 'an ancient fortress, formerly thought to have been the mouth of a volcano, but now known to
be one of three forts constructed of stones vitrified by the force of fire, of which kind many have been lately discovered in Scotland'.
Francis Douglas, 'A general description of the East coast of Scotland', Paisley, 1782

Taken from "Aberdeenshire: Donside and Strathbogie - An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Ian Shepherd, 2006. Published by the Rutland Press http://www.rias.org.uk

Notes and Activities Click to sort results by Event date ascending

Archaeological Notes

NJ42NE 1 4845 2931.

NJ 4845 2930 Tap o' Noth (NAT) Vitrified Fort (NR) (Remains of); Outer Line of Entrenchment (NR) (Remains of)
(NJ 4845 2927) Well (NR)
OS 6" map, Aberdeenshire, 2nd ed., (1902)

The Tap o' Noth is a conical eminence which rises from the W end of the Hill of Noth to attain a height of 1851 ft (564m) OD, and 1300 ft (396m) above the Water of Bogie at Rhynie; it is visible from the sea, 30 miles to the E.
The fort that crowns this site is the second highest in Scotland and consists of a single wall (now overgrown and heavily vitrified) which may have originally been more than 20ft (6.1m) thick and encloses an area about 335ft (102m) by 105ft (32m). A depression about 90ft (27m) from the S end represents the site of a well or cistern.
A second wall, mainly a row of huge boulders, lies low down the N and E flanks of the hill. Outside to the S of the fort platforms similar to those on which timber-framed houses were built have been noticed.
J MacDonald 1891; J E Kilbride-Jones 1935; M A Cotton 1954; R W Feachem 1963; R W Feachem 1966.

Tap o' Noth: generally as described above. Traces of outworks are discernible outside the entrance to the SE, but are too vague to survey. The interior is featureless, except for the well/cistern which is now choked with stones.
The numerous crescent-shaped 'platforms' on the NE and S side of the fort may be quarries (not surveyed).
Surveyed at 1/10,000.
Visited by OS (NKB) 8 February 1967.

This fort is situated in heather and rough grazing on the summit of a conical hill at an altitude of 563m OD. Field visits have revealed the following:
1. children's scoops in the (main) wall,
2. a second wall (mainly comprising a row of huge boulders) low down on the N and E flanks of the hill,
3. outside the fort (to the S) there are what are possibly either quarries or platforms for timber-framed houses,
4. platforms to NE of fort may be quarries but some are similar to hut-platforms, measuring c. 10m in diameter; there is a further platform immediately S of the entrance,
5. traces of outworks are discernible as breaks of slope outside the entrance to the SE, but are too vague to survey
6. the well or cistern is now choked with stones but contains some water; the interior is otherwise featureless.
Macdonald (1886) cut two sections through the wall of the upper fort while samples of vitrified rock were taken from the main enclosure by Prof. R Kazmann for analysis at Louisiana State University.
(GRC/AAS plans and ground and air photographs listed).
Information from Aberdeenshire Archaeological Service, June 1997 (visited May 1978, April 1981 and May 1985).
NMRS, MS/712/19 and MS/712/36.

NJ 484 293. A visit to Tap o' Noth vitrified fort revealed the presence of a hitherto unidentified enclosure within the massive stone walls of the fort, formed by two concentric banks with medial ditch, traceable around the W, S and E sides of the interior of the fort. Within the northern interior of the fort the banks of this enclosure could not be distinguished. The inner rampart measures c 2m wide by 0.5m high; the outer 2.5-3m wide by 0.4m high, and the medial ditch c 2m in width. To the E the enclosure appears to run beneath the vitrified stone wall and also shows evidence of realignment. To the W the double banks show signs of disturbance. To the S, the banks exist in a denuded state where they correspond to the entrance through the vitrified fort.
Two possible hut circles were located within the northern interior of the vitrified fort. One, c 30m from the inner stone wall, is defined as a low mound c 8m in diameter. Its walls measure 1-1.5m wide, contain occasional stone, with a possible entrance present to the SE. Approximately 10m NW of this hut circle, the W half of a possible second hut circle measuring 5m in diameter and extant to c 0.3m could be defined.
A Dunwell and R Strachan 1997.

(Classified as hillfort, enclosures and hut-platforms). Air photographs: AAS/00/02/G4/5-8 and AAS/00/02/CT.
NMRS, MS/712/100.

Without question this is one of the most spectacular forts in Scotland. The summit of the hill lies at a height of 563m OD, rising up from the south-west end of a whale-backed ridge above Rhynie, and the view from the top commands a huge sweep of north-east of Scotland. On a clear day the North Sea can be seen to the east, while the southern shore of the Moray Firth lies to the north, its far coast extending into the distance to Sutherland and Caithness.
The fort itself comprises two main components, one represented by the massive vitrified wall around the summit, and the other by a stone rampart set much farther down the slope. The vitrified wall, which encloses an area measuring about 85m from north-west to south-east by 30m transversely, now forms a mound of rubble at least 15m thick, although it has evidently been quarried for stone internally at a more recent date. Despite the quarrying, the rubble is piled up between 2m and 3m above the level of the interior, but its external scarp forms an even more impressive feature, with a talus of debris spread up to 30m down the slope. At various points around the circuit substantial masses of vitrifaction can also be seen, in part exposed by the quarrying, but demonstrating that the wall was constructed with an internal timber framework and destroyed in a massive conflagration. No entrance is visible and the present access, which can be seen in a 19th-century illustration of the fort (Hibbert 1857), rides over the debris at the south-east end. Two low banks with a medial ditch cut across the south-east end of the interior, presumably indicating the presence of an earlier enclosure on the summit. The only other features visible within the interior are a possible well or cistern, and what may be traces of a large round-house.
The outer fort is defended by a single rampart, though this has been largely wrecked by stone-robbing, and in some places, particularly on the steepest slopes above Rhynie, its line is barely perceptible. Ten gaps in the rampart can be identified, mainly around the northern half of the circuit, though not all are original entrances. Nevertheless, several short lengths of trackway within the interior are probably ancient, servicing the clusters of small circular house-platforms that pockmark its surface.
Visited by RCAHMS (SPH), 6 September 1999.


 REFERENCE

Notes The Tap o' Noth is a conical eminence which rises from the W end of the Hill of Noth to attain a height of 1851 ft (564m) OD, and 1300 ft (396m) above the Water of Bogie at Rhynie; it is visible from the sea, 30 miles to the E.
The fort that crowns this site is the second highest in Scotland and consists of a single wall (now overgrown and heavily vitrified) which may have originally been more than 20ft (6.1m) thick and encloses an area about 335ft (102m) by 105ft (32m). A depression about 90ft (27m) from the S end represents the site of a well or cistern.
A second wall, mainly a row of huge boulders, lies low down the N and E flanks of the hill. Outside to the S of the fort platforms similar to those on which timber-framed houses were built have been noticed.
J MacDonald 1891; J E Kilbride-Jones 1935; M A Cotton 1954; R W Feachem 1963; R W Feachem 1966.

Further details

27 July 1943
 FIELD VISIT

Project Emergency Surveys

Notes This site was recorded as part of the RCAHMS Emergency Survey, undertaken by Angus Graham and Vere Gordon Childe during World War 2. The project archive has been catalogued during 2013-2014 and the material, which includes notebooks, manuscripts, typescripts, plans and photographs, is now available online.
Information from RCAHMS (GF Geddes) 2 December 2014.



Further details

26 July 1954
 FIELD VISIT

Project Marginal Land Survey

Notes This site was included within the RCAHMS Marginal Land Survey (1950-1958), an unpublished rescue project. Site descriptions, organised by county, are available to view online - see the searchable PDF in 'Digital Items'. These vary from short notes, to lengthy and full descriptions. Contemporary plane-table surveys and inked drawings, where available, can be viewed online in most cases - see 'Digital Images'. The original typescripts, notebooks and drawings can also be viewed in the RCAHMS search room.
Information from RCAHMS (GFG) 19 July 2013.

Further details

8 February 1967
 FIELD VISIT

Notes Tap o' Noth: generally as described above. Traces of outworks are discernible outside the entrance to the SE, but are too vague to survey. The interior is featureless, except for the well/cistern which is now choked with stones.
The numerous crescent-shaped 'platforms' on the NE and S side of the fort may be quarries (not surveyed).
Surveyed at 1/10,000.
Visited by OS (NKB) 8 February 1967.

Further details

13 July 1969
 FIELD VISIT

Further details

1977
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Further details

1978
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Further details

May 1978 to May 1985
 FIELD VISIT

Notes This fort is situated in heather and rough grazing on the summit of a conical hill at an altitude of 563m OD. Field visits have revealed the following:
1. children's scoops in the (main) wall,
2. a second wall (mainly comprising a row of huge boulders) low down on the N and E flanks of the hill,
3. outside the fort (to the S) there are what are possibly either quarries or platforms for timber-framed houses,
4. platforms to NE of fort may be quarries but some are similar to hut-platforms, measuring c. 10m in diameter; there is a further platform immediately S of the entrance,
5. traces of outworks are discernible as breaks of slope outside the entrance to the SE, but are too vague to survey
6. the well or cistern is now choked with stones but contains some water; the interior is otherwise featureless.
Macdonald (1886) cut two sections through the wall of the upper fort while samples of vitrified rock were taken from the main enclosure by Prof. R Kazmann for analysis at Louisiana State University.
(GRC/AAS plans and ground and air photographs listed).
Information from Aberdeenshire Archaeological Service, June 1997 (visited May 1978, April 1981 and May 1985).
NMRS, MS/712/19 and MS/712/36.

Further details

22 August 1978
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Further details

22 January 1981
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Further details

6 June 1983
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Further details

27 February 1996
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Further details

1997
 FIELD VISIT

Notes NJ 484 293. A visit to Tap o' Noth vitrified fort revealed the presence of a hitherto unidentified enclosure within the massive stone walls of the fort, formed by two concentric banks with medial ditch, traceable around the W, S and E sides of the interior of the fort. Within the northern interior of the fort the banks of this enclosure could not be distinguished. The inner rampart measures c 2m wide by 0.5m high; the outer 2.5-3m wide by 0.4m high, and the medial ditch c 2m in width. To the E the enclosure appears to run beneath the vitrified stone wall and also shows evidence of realignment. To the W the double banks show signs of disturbance. To the S, the banks exist in a denuded state where they correspond to the entrance through the vitrified fort.
Two possible hut circles were located within the northern interior of the vitrified fort. One, c 30m from the inner stone wall, is defined as a low mound c 8m in diameter. Its walls measure 1-1.5m wide, contain occasional stone, with a possible entrance present to the SE. Approximately 10m NW of this hut circle, the W half of a possible second hut circle measuring 5m in diameter and extant to c 0.3m could be defined.
A Dunwell and R Strachan 1997.

Further details

9 March 1998
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Further details

June 1998
 FIELD VISIT

Project Strath Don Survey

Further details

26 October 1998
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 1998 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

Further details

3 August 1999 to 6 September 1999
 MEASURED SURVEY

Further details

6 September 1999
 FIELD VISIT

Project Strath Don Survey

Notes Without question this is one of the most spectacular forts in Scotland. The summit of the hill lies at a height of 563m OD, rising up from the south-west end of a whale-backed ridge above Rhynie, and the view from the top commands a huge sweep of north-east of Scotland. On a clear day the North Sea can be seen to the east, while the southern shore of the Moray Firth lies to the north, its far coast extending into the distance to Sutherland and Caithness.
The fort itself comprises two main components, one represented by the massive vitrified wall around the summit, and the other by a stone rampart set much farther down the slope. The vitrified wall, which encloses an area measuring about 85m from north-west to south-east by 30m transversely, now forms a mound of rubble at least 15m thick, although it has evidently been quarried for stone internally at a more recent date. Despite the quarrying, the rubble is piled up between 2m and 3m above the level of the interior, but its external scarp forms an even more impressive feature, with a talus of debris spread up to 30m down the slope. At various points around the circuit substantial masses of vitrifaction can also be seen, in part exposed by the quarrying, but demonstrating that the wall was constructed with an internal timber framework and destroyed in a massive conflagration. No entrance is visible and the present access, which can be seen in a 19th-century illustration of the fort (Hibbert 1857), rides over the debris at the south-east end. Two low banks with a medial ditch cut across the south-east end of the interior, presumably indicating the presence of an earlier enclosure on the summit. The only other features visible within the interior are a possible well or cistern, and what may be traces of a large round-house.
The outer fort is defended by a single rampart, though this has been largely wrecked by stone-robbing, and in some places, particularly on the steepest slopes above Rhynie, its line is barely perceptible. Ten gaps in the rampart can be identified, mainly around the northern half of the circuit, though not all are original entrances. Nevertheless, several short lengths of trackway within the interior are probably ancient, servicing the clusters of small circular house-platforms that pockmark its surface.
Visited by RCAHMS (SPH, JRS, IP) 6 September 1999.


Further details

24 January 2000
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Further details

8 May 2000
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 2000 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

Further details

28 June 2000
 PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORD

Project Strath Don Survey

Further details

3 March 2003
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 2003 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

Further details

3 June 2003
 AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Project 2003 RCAHMS Aerial Survey

Further details

 
External Links

Aberdeenshire Historic Environment Record


 
Books and References

Alexander, D (2002) 'An oblong fort at Finavon, Angus: an example of the over-reliance on the appliance of science', in Ballin Smith, B and Banks, I In the shadow of the brochs: the Iron Age in Scotland, A celebration of the work of Dr. Euan MacKie on the Iron Age of Scotland Stroud
Page(s): 49

Anon (1928) Scot Notes Queries, 3rd
Page(s): 196-7

Armit, I (1998i) Scotland's hidden history, Stroud, Gloucestershire
Page(s): 79-80 Held at RCAHMS E.2.1.ARM

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