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Issue 75 - Hill of the tree

Scotland Magazine Issue 75
June 2014


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Hill of the tree

Keith Fergus explores Moncrieffe Hill

Rising above the south bank of the River Tay, on the outskirts of Perth, the wooded slopes of Moncrieffe Hill were first inhabited by humans several thousand years ago. There are two Pictish Forts on and near the summit and it seems to have been of great importance to the Picts, who inhabited much of northern and eastern Scotland from around the 5th to the 9th century AD.

The ancient name for Moncrieffe Hill is Monadh Craobh, translating, appropriately as Hill of the Tree. As well as building their forts on Moncrieffe Hill, the trees and woods had a spiritual significance to the Picts who settled here. The woodland was a living renewable resource from which they constructed their forts and other buildings in addition to using wood in parts of their weapons and for fuel.

The cliffs and terraces flanking Moncrieffe Hill were ideal for communities to settle – the forts could be seen for many miles, aiding signalling, the far reaching views meant enemies were spied some distance away, the cliffs made it difficult to attack whilst the terraces provided flatter areas where huts and walls could be built.

Moncrieffe Hill’s biggest fort is Moredun (translating simply as ‘the big fort’ and also known as Carnac) and is thought to have been built around 2700-1500 years ago.

Today excellent paths climb to the summits of both forts where a sumptuous panorama extends to the Lomond Hills, Kinnoull Hill, the big mountains of the Central and Southern Highlands, and the celebrated fruit-growing pastures of the Carse of Gowrie.