NGRef: NJ699272
OSMap: LR38
Type: Camp

The Durno Marching Camp
viewed from the A road
None identified

The visit to the twin hills enclosed by this large marching camp was no more than a detour during our journey southwards on Study Tour 2004, there being no visible remains. However, if one lends credence to the theories of Professor J.K. St Joseph, the presence of the nearby Hill of Benachie would certainly send a tingle down one‘s spine when one considers that the battle of Mons Graupius may have been fought here.

"Accordingly he [Agricola] sent forward the fleet to make descents on various places, and to spread a general and vague panic; and then, with his army in light marching order, and strengthened by the best of the British soldiers ... he advanced to Mons Graupius, of which the enemy was already in occupation." (Cornelius Tacitus Agricola XXIX.ii)
NJ699272 3,050 x c.1,920/2,035 ft
(930 x c.590/620 m)
c.144 acres
(58.25 ha)
The camp measures approximately 3,050 ft (930m) along its long axis by 1,920 feet (590m) on the NW and 2,035 ft (620m) on the SE. The area covered is at least 141¼ acres (57.15ha) although the most likely extent is c.144 acres (58.25ha). There are five gateways defended by titulum outworks noted, one set in the centre of the NW side, and two spaced approximately equidistant along the longer SW and NE sides. The majority of the SE side could not be traced on A.P.'s as the ground to the SW of Easterton farm is covered by woodland, although the position of the missing SE corner-angle may be conjectured from the existing defences. The ditch, where excavated, was V-shaped between 8-12 feet (2.45-3.65m) wide, by an almost uniform 4 feet (1.3m) deep.

Hill of Bennachie
The Hill of Bennachie
viewed from the Durno camp

Discovered from the air by Professor J.K. St. Joseph on 26th July 1975, the Durno camp occupies the summits of two small hills on very uneven ground between 330-440 feet (100-130m) above O.D. The river Urie flows from N-S about 500ft (c.160m) outside the SW defences, which are partially aligned with the stream. The farmstead of Westerton lies in the camp's NW corner and the Easterton farm occupies the SE corner. The camp is roughly rectangular, but forward of the northernmost gates in the longer two sides the defences make a 30° turn to the north, so although the majority of the camp is aligned NNW-SSE, about a third is aligned roughly N-S.

Prof. St. Joseph has argued that the Durno encampment, which is easily large enough to have housed a couple of legions and a number of auxiliary regiments, represents the site of the battle of Mons Graupius narrated in the Agricola of Tacitus. This mountain itself is identified with the Hill of Bennachie, a massive granite ridge, 4½ miles (7km) long by 2 miles (3km) wide, whose highest peak rises to a height of 1,733 feet (528m) and lies to the immediate west of the Durno camp across the River Urie.

See: The Camp at Durno, Aberdeenshire, and the site of Mons Graupius by J.K. St. Joseph in Britannia IX (1978) pp.271-287;
Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1973-76 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. lxvii (1977) pp.141/2 & fig.10;
Agricola by Cornelius Tacitus, translated by M. Hutton (Loeb, Harvard, 1914, revised 1970).