August 12, 2002 - Ancient Citadel Found On Abbey Craig!!

STIRLING Scotland's claim to city status can be traced back a further 1500 years following the discovery of an 6th century Dark Age citadel underneath the Wallace Monument.

Archaeologists believe the remarkable site was once a heavily fortified tribal capital, occupied by Scottish warlords between 500-780AD.  Entrances, stone walls and timber ramparts discovered on Abbey Craig provide the first hard evidence that Stirling was one of Scotlandís most important strategic centres for centuries.

Scots hero William Wallace is believed to have watched the approaching English army from the fortís crumbling remains hours before his famous victory at Stirling Bridge. The new evidence was unveiled in a report by Stirling Council archaeologist Lorna Main.

As part of the project, two charcoal samples were submitted for radiocarbon dating and the reults were received last week.

Abbey Craig with Wallace Monument from Stirling Castle
Abbey Craig with Wallace Monument as seen from Stirling Castle

photo by Dave Henniker 


The results are very surprising. Most fortifications which comprise timber-laced ramparts are considered to belong in the Late Bronze Age or Iron Age.  However, the dates received lie between 500 and 780 AD. The results put Stirling firmly on the map at a time when Picts, Scots, Britons and Angles ruled their separate kingdoms in the four quarters of mainland Scotland.

The report added: Stirling has long been considered to be a likely centre of power and influence at this time but historians have suggested the site of Stirling Castle or even Dumyat as the preferred sites for the citadel. These sites may well have been occupied at this time but the nature of the Abbey Craig fort more closely resembles other Scottish Dark Age capitals, which are often on very steep, craggy sites.

Experts believed further excavation could reveal a treasure trove of Pictish artefacts.
Professor Ian Ralston of Edinburgh Universityís department of archaeology said: Such a strategic place would be a capital.  Its position and elaborate walls certainly make a case for arguing it falls into this category.


Dark Age kings, the aristocrats and the elites of the time, moved around the landscape and wherever they were was the important capital of the time.  They were warlords who relied on their ability to bring in resources such as precious metals, food, animals and skins from their underlings, often by fighting.

Only a very small section was fully excavated so the chances are that there is a whole package of things that would support the importance of such a wall going round it.

Bruce Glendinning of the Scottish Urban Archaeological Trust helped to excavate the site.  He said: "People have always thought of vitrified forts as Iron Age but the dates we found make this citadel far more important."  "We knew that Stirling must have been important because of its strategic position but there are no other identified forts in the area.  This is a first."

The enclosure, still visible as a crescent-shaped mound, was revealed when workers began laying cables to floodlight the Wallace Monument.