King's Seat Hillfort Archaeology Project

The King's Seat hillfort is situated on a prominent hill top above an important bend in the River Tay at Dunkeld. It has a dominating position overlooking Strath Tay, and while the fort has been known about for at least the last century, and is designated as nationally important, little is actually understood about it. How old is it? How did it develop? Did people live there and what was it used for? Only basic plans of the surviving earthworks have been made and no previous archaeological investigations have ever taken place.

Working in partnership with the Dunkeld and Birnam Historical Society, and with the help of AOC Archaeology, this project aims to celebrate the site and explore the site with members of the local community. Over the three years volunteers will join professional archaeologists to archaeologically survey and excavate the site. The project aims to publish findings and incorporate the information into outreach material that will interpret the site and its story to the local community and visitors.

Digging King's Seat

We returned to King's Seat this September (2019) between the 3rd and 14th (excluding 8th - 9th) and had a great team of community volunteers helping to dig in to their heritage.

In 2019, 30 people from the local community and further afield, many returning from the previous two seasons, joined the final year of investigation. They were joined by University Students on assessed archaeological fieldwork training, secondary school pupils from Pitlochry High School  and numerous other daily visitors. This year the focus was again on the uppermost enclosed area of the hillfort, the inside of the middle terrace, and also a new trench opened across the rampart of one of the lower terrace enclosures. The dig revealed further evidence and clues to how different parts of the site were being used.

The three seasons of fieldwork have unearthed an amazing selection of early historic metalworking artefacts, pottery and possible slingshot ammunition. Fragments of high status pottery, crucibles, stone and clay moulds used for smelting and casting metal objects were all identified suggesting that the site was hugely important in the production of prestige metalwork and may even have been a centre of production in the early historic/Pictish period (c.600-900 AD).

Project Partners:

This project is a partnership between Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust (PKHT) and the Dunkeld and Birnam Historical Society with AOC Archaeology Ltd as archaeological contractors. 

Project Funders:


Project News

King's Seat Living History Fair 2018

Picts in the Park was a celebration of Dunkeld’s early historic heritage, the town’s namesake hillfort and the community project that’s revealing so much about Dunkeld’s Pictish origins. From 11:00 until 15:00 Stanley Park echoed with the clash of shields and the sounds of Pictish industry as re-enactors from Regia Anglorum took attendees back in time to the early historic period with technology and weapons demonstrations.

From the energy of the combat arena to the tranquillity of the storytelling tent, there was much to be enjoyed for all ages as visitors got to grips with traditional skills such as metal casting and smithing, leatherworking, timber construction and stone carving, all inspired by the remarkable archaeological discoveries being made on the hillfort. For those keen to see the site itself there were minibus tours. For the less adventurous, talks hosted by project archaeologists from Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust and AOC Archaeology Group were offered in the Duchess Anne Hall. If this wasn’t enough, placename expert Dr Peter McNiven was on hand in Dunkeld Community Archives to explain the fascinating meanings behind many local place names, the tales behind which were brought to life by captivating storyteller Owen Pilgrim.

The event was opened by Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust patron Dougie MacLean with the mixed weather doing little to discourage over 600 people from attending throughout the day.

Have a look at the photo gallery on the left side bar for a snapshot of the day. All images taken by the talented Bart Masiukiewicz.

Follow us on the Dig Blog!

The project dig diary is the place to see read the latest happenings and see photos of discoveries from the dig. Click and scroll your way through Dunkeld's exciting early historic heritage as it's uncovered as this amazing project moves forward.

King's Seat Project Blog

Due to changes in the privacy settings of our news page provider to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation, we are unable to embed the project blog on our website. We apologise for this inconvenience. To view the King's Seat dig diary, click on the image above or visit:


Clues in Names

The name King's Seat comes from Scots English and was likely named after King William the Lion of Scotland (1165-1214 AD) visited Dunkeld and used the hill as a deer hunting vantage point.

The name Dunkeld derives from the Scottish Gaelic word dùn meaning hillfort and Cailleann meaning Caledonians (the name associated with the native people living in this area, first mentioned by Roman authors c.200 AD).

As part of the project, a place-name survey was commissioned to unlock more of King's Seat's history and Dunkeld's early origins from the names of natural and man-made features. Check out the report below to find out more.

King's Seat Placenames

King's Seat Living History Fair 2018

Excavation Reports

King's Seat DSR 2017
King's Seat DSR 2018