Reconstruction of White Castle hillfort by David Simon

View the objects

View the objects

White Castle hillfort today

White Castle hillfort today

There are traces of people living on the hills of East Lothian from the Bronze Age (2,500-800BC) – from the Lammermuirs to North Berwick Law and Traprain Law. Hillforts were surrounded by banks, ditches or even a fence and remains of houses are often found on sites.

From the Iron Age (800BC-AD400) there are also settlements on the plain and coast, such as at Port Seton (east and west), Chesters, St Germains and Broxmouth. Many of these have no visible boundary.

Excavation at Traprain Law

Those with defences may be more for show and status. The local tribe was known by the Romans as the Votadini and had their capital at Traprain Law. By the 4th century the population on the hill was the size of a small town. Just imagine the hilltop full of people and animals, roadways and wooden houses compared to the ponies and sheep that live there today!

View our feature on Traprain Law Rock Art. 


Broxmouth hillfort under excavation © RCAHMS (Aerial Photography Digital Collection). Licensor www.rcahms.gov.uk

Although our hillforts are now protected, in the 19th and early 20th centuries the hard volcanic rock was useful for building and there were quarries at both North Berwick Law and Traprain Law.

In 1978 archaeologists undertook an 18-month rescue excavation at Broxmouth hillfort near Dunbar before it was completely destroyed by quarrying for limestone. Research from the site gives a picture of Iron Age life in the area with evidence for feasting, warfare and trade – both with neighbouring settlements and across the sea. It shows the occupants kept cattle and sheep, produced iron and steel and even went deep-sea fishing!

Dig deeper into Life in a hillfort!

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