Eildon Hill North Hillfort
The Eildon Hills are a group of 3 prominent hills that stand above Melrose, one of the key towns of this area of the Scottish borders, along with places like Galashiels, Peebles, and Hawick.
This group of 3 peaks, sometimes known as Eildon Hill, are seen across the borders for miles around, in fact even as far south as by Hawick, and Selkirk, and more impressively all the way by the east coast to near Duns. In fact all the way from by Northumbria National Park you start getting sights of the locations.
So the Eildon Hills are a major landmark in the area, comparable to the Cheviots and such over the border, or the mountains of the Cumbria also over the border.
What is key for this site is that upon the north hill there are remains of a rampart, and of a major hillfort.
What is most impressive is the scale of this fort. It was a fort in the Bronze age, and was used and rebuilt centuries after then, it seems after the Romans left. The site had over 290 roundhouses identified at it, and some say this means there could have been 2000 people here at it's peak. Some say the roundhouse floors discovered only survived as of being on slopes, so there is accounting made for what would have not survived so well on leveller parts.
The best way I found to get to the summit, was to go from parking in Melrose, and follow the signposts of footpaths, and directions of where it is up the paths. You can got to Eildon Hill North, Mid, and south, on this walk, to make a easy count of 3 peaks, I mean easy, once you have done the hard work of trekking up one, then the others, are a smaller battle, From the top, you see the Cheviots far away, Melrose laid below you, and of course Galashiels in the distance. Most of what you see around is countryside and hills, the rolling hills of the borders as the song goes, and it is a landlocked viewscape.
The fort spreads over a area of sixteen hectares which makes it one of the largest in Scotland, there is a case for stating it is the largest pre Dark Ages fort in Scotland, as it was at it's largest during likely, the Roman Iron Age. It is about the same size as Traprain Law a similarly aged fort.
The peaks, are called, the north, which is the highest at 422 metres, then next is the mid, and the lowest is the south. Though perplexingly there are different heights listed on the internet, which is not something that makes sense, surely they are measuring different points. Certainly it is over 400 metres. The fort is over 149 metres above the local area, in fact I think it is more than that, from when I walked up it.
The fort started off as a smaller site around the summit, Then grew over time, and became a site of many people. The estimate is that it was the site of the Selgovae, in the Roman era.
All sorts of pots, and iron axe heads have been found in area, surely connected to the fort, and Iron Age pottery, and a whetstone, so this was a beautifully populated site. In keeping with some Roman habits, the Romans built a site below, here, when taking control of the area briefly before retiring behind Hadrian's Wall. They have the most northern amphitheatre in Britain, at Newsteads, Melrose here, so surely, Europe, and left a number of Roman goods here. They also built a signal station atop where the fort is, showing the people had surely left there.
The evidence is that the fort was effectively abandoned in the period before the Romans arrived, discounting a previous theory that the Romans had destroyed the site.
There is a nice little museum down in the town, which is more about the Roman history of this area, it talks a lot about this notable period, which is especially notable for Scotland, as of Rome not taking any part of Scotland for so long as it did the rest of Britain. The fort was called Trimontium, after the 3 hills, of this area, The Roman site seems to have been in action from 80 to 180 AD, partly on and off.
Some people state that the huge amount of people who lived here, were in the Bronze Age, as there is a lack of dating evidence, but that seems unlikely, others say, more say it was likely reoccupied after the Romans, and that is when it hit it's population highs, like Traprain Law, using the same trade links and it's strategic position on the Tweed, that had made this a high population Roman town, of over 1000 people., a large population for the time.
Just like how Maiden Castle hit it's population highs when it's territory was then trading more with a big economy society, while growing, in their case across the English Channel.
During the Napoleonic Wars, a false alarm set off sites like Eildon Hills, to have their warning beacons lit, in fear of a landing from French forces. I read that fact in the Great Scottish tapestry, when I visited it in Galashiels in 2021. Where it was said, that such beacons (I wonder if maybe some such hillfort sites as well, were utilised) were used as that warning site idea, even in the 14th Century for Scotland's defensive tactics during the wars with the English kings.
18.2 miles south of Melrose by car, is Hawick. Just a couple or a few miles east of there is Rubers Law Hillfort, (Not to be confused with Rubislaw Hill in Aberdeen), which I mention in my fun facts page. It rises as a hill, with a rounded peak, and from the main road between Hawick, and Melrose, it is as mighty on the horizon as the Eildon's are from certain directions. At 424 metres high, this is another impressive height for the area. There are a very many hillforts in the Scottish borders, just like the Welsh borders. I would say in the same way you could say the Eildon Hills stand beside Melrose, you could say Rubers law, sometimes called Ruberslaw Hillfort, more stands away, more like "as if waving from far away on the other side of a railway station, or the street the far end.", in the distance from the fellow rugby town of Hawick, to continue my distance of a person analogy. I put quotation marks even though I thought of that description.
Anyway, back to the Eildons.
I think the hilfort was likely to be a bit smaller in the Bronze age, than it's peak size, maybe much smaller, and then it's peak size, in the Roman era, when Scotland was not ruled by them. To use any pics on this site you need my permission. I have a pic from Melrose, and a pic from Galashiels.