Trustys Hill

Trusty’s Hill: A Window on Dark Age Galloway

Just outside Gatehouse of Fleet is Trusty’s Hill, the site of an ancient vitrified hillfort. This site was first recorded by the Minister of Anwoth in the Statistical Account of Scotland of 1794, who noted:

‘On the south side of this fort, there is a broad flat stone, inscribed with several waving and spiral lines...near it likewise were lately found several silver coins, one of King Edward VI; the rest of Queen Elizabeth.’

It is these carvings that make Trusty’s Hill unique in Galloway. This is because, as antiquarians subsequently discovered, these are Pictish symbols: a double disc and z-rod and a Pictish sea-beast and sword.

But without any historical records for the occupation of this fort, only archaeological investigations could answer the question - What are Pictish symbols doing at Trusty’s Hill?

Excavating Trusty's Hill

The excavation of thick dark soil on the summit of the hillfort, in the summer of 2012, revealed evidence of the diet of the people who once lived at Trusty’s Hill. Numerous animal bones were recovered just as before; cattle were predominant, with sheep and pigs of less importance. Analysis of organic residues on a pottery sherd recovered from Trusty’s Hill suggests that the pot was perhaps used for cooking stews. Charred barley and oat grains were also found, revealing that the people’s diet probably included food and drink like beer, bannocks, broth, porridge and oatcakes.

A Fortified Citadel

The archaeological investigation of the site in 2012 demonstrates that Trusty’s Hill comprised a fortified citadel around the summit of a craggy hill with a number of lesser enclosures looping out along lower lying terraces and crags.

The Pictish Carvings

Only two other Pictish carved stones are known outside Pictland and both are associated with royal strongholds of the sixth and seventh centuries AD. One of these, Din Eidyn, now Edinburgh Castle Rock, was the capital of the Gododdin, the Britons of south-east Scotland. The other royal site is Dunadd, the royal stronghold of the early Scots kingdom of Dalriada, in modern-day Argyll and Bute.

Rheged: The Lost Kingdom

One of the most mysterious kingdoms of Dark Age Britain is Rheged, a lost kingdom, thought to be somewhere in south-west Scotland or north-west England but difficult to pin down, until now. With the archaeological discovery of a royal stronghold at Trusty’s Hill, there is now a body of archaeological evidence in Galloway for pre-eminent secular and ecclesiastical sites during the fifth to early seventh centuries AD, unmatched anywhere else in Scotland and northern England. This archaeological evidence corroborates the meagre historical evidence for Rheged, a kingdom that was at this time pre-eminent amongst the kingdoms of the north.

Guided Walk to Trusty's Hill

A short film of an organised walk to Trusty's Hill during Gatehouse Gala Week produced by Rod Smaldon for the Gatehouse Development Initiative as part of the Heritage Lottery funded All Our Stories: Gatehouse of Fleet in the Dark Ages project.