Chesters Hill Fort

  • Near Drem, East Lothian



Chesters Hill Fort has never been archaeologically excavated, but it was probably built in the first millennium BC. The surrounding earthworks stand in a remarkable state of completion, particularly the ramparts and the elaborate entrance on the north-west side.

Traces of roundhouses are still visible on the site, some of which overlap with the defences. This indicates the fort went through at least two distinct phases of occupation. Some of these houses may have been occupied in the first centuries AD, when parts of Scotland were controlled by the Romans. There may have been less need for the earlier defences as the local Votadini tribe appears to have enjoyed friendly relations with the Roman army.

The enclosure measures about 115m by 45m. It is surrounded by:

  • at least six impressive earthwork ramparts encircling the interior, surviving up to 5m high in places
  • elaborate entrances to the north-west and east
  • evidence for several other settlements, pit alignments, enclosures and ring ditches, which are no longer visible today but may have been contemporary with the fort

Today, from a distance the fort appears to be a grassy hillock. However, in its heyday it would have been much more impressive. Its ramparts may have been timber laced, with upright timbers (known as palisades) along the ramparts and around the entrances.

Defensive flaw

Unlike most Iron Age hill forts, Chester doesn’t sit on the highest point of its surrounding area. It’s overlooked by high ground to the south, which would have left the houses vulnerable to attack from arrows and slingshot. Perhaps this fort was designed more for prestige than protection.

Opening times

Open year-round.

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