Situated in a small coastal town on the Moray Firth, Burghead Fort dates back to around 400AD. It is also believed to be a site of major importance during the kingdom of the Northern Picts.
These were tribal people living in the location of what is now north eastern Scotland during the periods of late Iron Age and early Medieval. The present town of Burghead was built between 1805 and 1809. Sadly during construction work more than half of the history and relics of the fort were destroyed. A map showing some of the fort’s defences, published in 1793 by General William Roy, a military cartographer, attributed his information to Roman times. However, others believe the defences are of a different period.
Excavations in the 19th century recorded a wall eight metres thick standing six metres in height with the foundations made from large boulders. The walls were made of solid oak logs nailed together using iron spikes and the whole frame was filled with rubble. A structure of this magnitude would have required a substantial workforce to collect all the timber, stone and iron, from the surrounding area. The evidence collected at the site dates the wall to around 400AD and it is thought that fire destroyed the structure in the 9th or 10th century.
Inside the compound of the fort stood a well. This was discovered in 1809, when a possible water source was being explored to supply the new town development. Initially, thought to be Roman this was subsequently found not to be the case. It is not absolutely clear when this originates from but the general feeling is that it dates back to the dark ages.
The well has 20 steps leading down to a chamber which is fed by fresh water springs. It measures four feet deep and takes around six days to refill once empty. Experts believe the well supplied the fort with drinking water. Some researchers believe that it also had a ‘ceremonial’ use as the effort involved to build this well from stone was far beyond the tradition of the time.
Visitors to Burghead Bay during the winter will see many seabirds including, the scoter and eider that use it as a wintering ground. The Moray Firth is also home to the most northerly population of resident bottle nose dolphins in the world.
The Burghead visitor centre is open to the public and located in the former coastguard station. The displays reflect the development and history of the fort from 400AD until the present day.
Burghead Fort is the only ‘Pictish’ fort where ‘bullstones’ have been found. Known as ‘The Burghead Bulls’ these six carved slabs are believed to date back to the 7th century. They are believed to have had a religious significance but this has never been proven. Their purpose remains an unsolved mystery.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
B9102 (Rd), Archiestown, Aberlour
Moray, Scotland, AB38 9SL
+44 (0)01340 810 414
- Address: Grant Street, Burghead, Moray, Scotland, United Kingdom, IV30 5TZ
- GPS: 57.70343889,-3.496997222
- Phone: 0044 (0)1343 835 518
- Part of UK: Scotland
- Sat Nav Postcode: IV30 5TZ
- Entrance Fees: Free access to the site
- Disabled Access: The general site has no mobility paths
- Visibility from Road: Very Good
- Image Credits: Header Image: Burghead Port - John Braid