The Early History of Doune covers the pre-history period of the area, going back at least 4000 years, and also the Roman Era. There are many interesting sites in the area, some of which are covered here. If you want to find out more, go to the contact the Kilmadock Society via the Information Centre in Balkerach St, Doune.
The Doune area has been inhabited for periods spanning around 4000 years and various burial mounds and standing stones supporting this have been found. One of the stones, variously known as the Deil’s Heid, Trysting Stone or Gold Stone, has been moved at least twice. The last move was because of the Station Wynd development, and the stone can now be found at the entrance to the Doune Ponds.
As a result of quarrying in the Doune area, an interesting mound has unfortunately been lost. It measured around 150 metres long by 90 metres wide and 9 metres high, in the place once known locally as the Round Wood or Bluebell Wood. During quarrying of the Bluebell Wood (now Doune Ponds), a stone cist or coffin was uncovered, and in it were found the remains of a young boy aged about six, and also a small stone axe. The boy was identified as being one of the Beaker people of the early Bronze Age, circa 1800 BC.
An archaeological study of parts of the Doune Braes found further evidence of early habitation, including Neolithic hut circles, cairns and farmsteads.
In the late 1980’s the remains of an Iron Age village was found in Argaty, while investigating a possible quarry site.
Not far from there, near Coldoch (just outside the parish), lie the remains of a pre-historic Broch, a type of building found more commonly further north in Scotland. It was circular, with an overall diameter of around 20 metres, the inner area having diameter around 9 metres. The outer wall was around 5½ metres thick with four chambers and a winding staircase within it, and only a single very narrow entrance. Not much of the structure now remains, but it would originally have been dome or tower-shaped and up to 12 metres in height. It was stone-built, without the use of mortar – quite a feat.
Photo Lewis MacDonald
This is not “our “ broch, but the much better preserved ruin of Don Carloway in Lewis, showing clearly the double walled design and tiny entrance on the right of the photo.
Doune Roman Fort
Doune is situated near where the River Teith and the Ardoch Burn meet, both of which provided access inland into otherwise impenetrable terrain. The site was therefore of strategic importance and the area between the two rivers was an ideal site for fortification. The name Doune derives from “dun”, meaning stronghold, and this may possibly have been the site of an Iron Age (or earlier) fort. However, the first known fortification was built by the Romans in the first century AD.
In 1983 an aerial survey came upon indications of a Roman fort on Castle Hill between the village and the Doune Castle, overlooking a crossing-place on the River Teith. Until that time, the local community (and the wider world) had been totally unaware of its existence.
This is hardly surprising, given that the fort appears to have been hidden for centuries under what are now the cricket pitch and the Doune Primary School (see photo right). Who would have guessed?
For a short period, during the occupation of the fort, this area was in effect a garrison town, and the fort would have been surrounded by a network of fields, civilian settlement and cemeteries.
Excavation confirmed that the fort was bordered on the East by a triple-ditch system whose ends curved inwards in way similar to such structures elsewhere in Northern Britain. The fort was thought to have been around 2.25 hectares within the ditches, but the position of the western defences was still to be confirmed. The site, which appeared at that time to have undergone a single period of occupation, may have been the place where the main Roman road from the north crossed into Caledonia.
A later geo-physical survey showed that the area of the fort was around 1.85 hectares. A crop-mark extending from the West towards the River Teith may indicate a further annexe.
A further archaeological excavation was carried out in the playing fields of Doune Primary School, within the site of the fort. An internal gravel-built roadway was identified, the ground plans of two buildings were mapped and also the partial foundations of several others, one of which was thought to be the hospital. Five bread ovens were identified, built into the back of the rampart and evidence of metal-working was found. Pottery found during the dig appeared to date to the 1st century AD. This agrees with the Flavian date (a Roman dynasty ruling from 69 AD to 96 AD) previously attributed to the site.
photo by kind permission of Historic Environment Scotland
The drawing above is an artist’s impression of the fort, showing its position, with the River Teith beyond, and the Ardoch bottom left. (Note – it appears to be drawn somewhat larger than life!)
The Doune Roman Fort appears to have been configured in what is called a ‘playing card’ layout (buildings in several parallel lines) with an additional annexe on the west side. The rampart consisted of an earthwork bank topped with a palisade (high wooden fence). This had a ditch outside it and additional ditches to provide further protection on the vulnerable northern side. In total the fort enclosed around two hectares. The name of the unit stationed in the fort is unknown but, based on the archaeological evidence, seems to have been at least part mounted, and could have consisted of up to 500 men.
Unfortunately there was no finance available to develop the site, so it was grassed over to protect the remains.
The star find during the excavations was part of a finely engraved bronze mount for a horse harness, a photograph of which is on display in the Information and Heritage Centre in Doune.
The Wider History of the Romans in this Area
After almost four decades securing England and Wales, the Roman army finally advanced into Scotland in AD 79. They established a line of forts along the Forth/Clyde isthmus and, after securing Southern Scotland, campaigned in the north. After AD 83, they built a network of forts between the Rivers Forth and Tay in order to isolate the Highlands, the source of continued resistance. They also built a fortress at Inchtuthil. Connecting the above with the wider Roman world was Dere Street, the main Roman road that ran along the eastern spine of Britain and the Doune fort was one of the forts along this road. Doune remained occupied until the Romans withdrew from Scotland in the late AD 80s at which time the fort seems to have been deliberately burned.
For the next fifty years, Roman forces consolidated along the Tyne/Solway isthmus ultimately entrenching their position with Hadrian’s Wall. However, in AD 138 military forces once again invaded Scotland. A new frontier was established along the Forth/Clyde line – the Antonine Wall – and many of the forts to the north were also rebuilt, including many of those along Dere Street. There is no known evidence to suggest Doune was re-occupied at this time. However, given the distance between the nearest forts of Camelon and Ardoch, it would have been unusual military practise if this was not the case.
The Antonine Wall and the forts of the north were abandoned circa-AD 158.
Thanks to Moira Lawson and Nigel Bishop for fact checking and comments.