Help unearth the mysteries of Castle Qua and Black Hill this summer

Volunteer to excavate two of the area's most enigmatic Ancient Monuments

Filed under News
Date posted: Tuesday, 04 July 2017

A new archaeological project, Investigating the Past, is looking for volunteers to help unearth the forgotten stories of the iron and medieval ages in the Clyde and Avon Valley this summer.

Hundreds of local families enjoyed a Roman themed family fun day which launched the project on Saturday 1 July at Strathclyde Country Park. With thrilling Roman re-enactments and demonstrations from the Antonine Guard, families enjoyed the site of the Roman Bathhouse, recently refurbished through a partnership project with CAVLP Heritage, North Lanarkshire Council and Phoenix Futures.

The Antonine Guard launched the Investigating the Past project at Strathclyde Country Park, Saturday 1 July
The Antonine Guard launched the Investigating the Past project at Strathclyde Country Park, Saturday 1 July

Volunteers are now being sought to take part in archaeological excavations at two of the area’s most enigmatic Ancient Monuments - Black Hill, Auchenheath and Castle Qua, Cartland Craigs, Lanark. The excavations, led by CAVLP Heritage, will be the first to explore the archaeology of the first millennia in the area since the 1930s, and will take place at Castle Qua Tuesday 11 – Friday 21 July and Tuesday 1 - Wednesday 9 August, and at Black Hill Tuesday 1 – Friday 25 August.

Participants can get involved in the excavations, help support environmental processing or assist with washing and cataloguing of finds.  The volunteer team will be helping to answer questions such as - Who lived at these sites? What did they do there? When were these sites used and when did they go out of use?

Black Hill, copyright Rude Health
Black Hill, copyright Rude Health

Spaces are limited so people are encouraged to register early with Paul Murtagh, CAVLP Heritage Project Officer on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 01555 661 555. No experience is required, as on-site training will be given, and there will be opportunities for people of all abilities. Volunteers can choose one site they would prefer to work on and should be available for a minimum of two full days of the excavation.

An Investigating the Past pop-up exhibition, showcasing artefacts from the Castle Qua excavation and other sites around Lanark, will take place in the Lanark Library Monday 17 – Saturday 29 July, helping visitors to find out more about the sites. The exhibition will be open 9:15am - 5pm Monday - Saturday, with late openings on Tuesdays until 8pm. It will be closed on Sundays.

Open Days, where visitors can come along to see an excavation in action, talk to archaeologists and take part in family activities have been planned for Castle Qua and Black Hill, for people who are unable to join in with the archaeological digs. These are taking place on Sunday 16 July, 10:30am – 5:30pm at Castle Qua, and Sundays 13 and 20 August, 11am – 4pm at Black Hill. Places for the Open Days are limited so booking is essential at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/northlight-heritage-12998175747.

Site plan of Castle Qua, Cartland Craigs. Copyright Canmore
Site plan of Castle Qua, Cartland Craigs. Copyright Canmore

Details of all events are listed below. To find out more and to book, contact Paul Murtagh, CAVLP Heritage Project Officer, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 01555 661 555, or Peta Glew, Northlight Heritage Archaeologist, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • Volunteer archaeological excavations, Castle Qua, Cartland Craigs, part 1: Tuesday 11 – Friday 21 July
  • Castle Qua excavation Open Day, Cartland Craigs: Sunday 16 July, 10:30am – 5:30pm. Booking essential at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/northlight-heritage-12998175747 
  • Investigating the Past pop-up exhibition, Lanark Tolbooth: Monday 17 – Sunday 30 July, 10:30am-5:30pm daily (late openings Thursdays until 8pm)
  • Volunteer archaeological excavations, Black Hill, Auchenheath: Tuesday 1 – Friday 25 August
  • Volunteer archaeological excavations, Castle Qua, Cartland Craigs, part 2: Tuesday 1 – Wednesday 9 August
  • Black Hill excavation Open Day, Auchenheath: Sundays 13 & 20 August, 11am - 4pm. Booking essential at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/northlight-heritage-12998175747

The project is led by CAVLP Heritage and managed by Northlight Heritage, with support from Heritage Lottery Fund and LEADER supported Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership (CAVLP) and Historic Environment Scotland. It follows on from the Mapping the Past and Capturing the Past volunteer projects, which explored the mapping heritage of the area, and the historic working lives of people in the Clyde and Avon Valley.

The last excavations relating to the Iron Age period in the area were undertaken at Cairngryffe Hill near Hyndford Bridge by Gordon Child in the 1930s, where evidence of an Iron Age community was found.  Very little is known about people who lived in the Clyde and Avon Valley during this period, so the excavations provide an exciting opportunity to find out more.

Dr Paul Murtagh, CAVLP Heritage Project Officer says, “Castle Qua, tucked into Cartland Craigs near Lanark, is an unusual site and little is known about it. It may have been the residence of Simon Loccard, who was Lord at The Lee in the 12th century. It is thought that he might have reused an older site to set up his lordly residence, and that the site could be of early Medieval origins. However, this is only conjecture, and the site could equally be of Iron Age date. We really don’t know how to interpret this site and it will be only though excavation that we can finally solve the mystery.”

He continues, “Black Hill is one of the largest Iron Age sites in the west of Scotland. It commands extensive views across the whole of the Clyde and Avon Valley and is enclosed by a series of earthworks and ramparts. But again, we don’t know much about this site. When was it first built? Who built it and why? Was it the seat of a powerful chieftain or was it built by the whole community to be used as a community centre at particular times of the year? What activities took place within this site? By carrying out archaeological excavation we hope to answer some of these questions.”

To volunteer to take part on the archaeological excavations, get in touch with Dr Paul Murtagh, CAVLP Heritage Project Officer, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 01555 661 555. No experience is necessary as full training will be given.

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