Torcastle: a Romantic Ruin Explored
In September 2015, AOC led a non-invasive survey workshop for the Lochaber Archaeological Society on Torcastle, a castle site that sits on top of an allegedly vitrified fort near Fort William. The site was a veritable jungle of rhododendron, nettles, gorse, bracken, and young trees. Volunteers from the society cleared the vast majority of it this hand, a heroic feat in itself, in advance of our two-day workshop.
Training was led by AOC’s Diana Sproat, Mary Peteranna and Lindsey Stirling. The workshop produced fantastic results utilising a wide range of methods of survey including photography, measurements with a DGPS rover, off-set drawings, and laser scanning. Close examination of the site allowed several interesting facts to come to light about the site’s use, two of which in particular deserve a mention. Firstly, the group identified vitrified stone built into the castle, with underlying structural features that suggest that the castle may indeed overlie an earlier site. Secondly, unusual walling and steps placed into the fallen castle wall, coupled with the rose bushes against the interior castle walls and the variety of other plants across the site, are most likely the result of a Victorian landscaping project to create a romantic ruin for local visitors to the nearby hotel to visit and explore.
This comprehensive survey has helped to pick apart the details and add a new chapter to the story of this enigmatic site.