Dundonald Castle Excavations (so far…)

First extensive excavations between 1987-1993

What they did:

Excavations were carried out in advance of repairs throughout the castle and grounds. The excavations ran for 5 seasons between 1987 and 1993.

What they found:

  • Prehistoric pottery – possible late Bronze Age/early Iron Age
  • Early Medieval pottery – E-ware sherds
  • Medieval Pottery – light gritty ware sherds, red gritty ware sherds, reduced gritty ware sherds, medieval smooth wares,
  • A number of coins dating from the 14th – 17th Century
  • A number of pieces of jewelry and evidence for fine metalworking on site
  • Bone objects – pin and beads
  • Stone blades (possibly prehistoric)
  • Shale jewellery
  • Inscribed and engraved slates

2017 – Geophysical Survey

What they did:

Rose Geophysics used both resistance survey and Ground Penetrating Radar to help identify anomalies within the earth on the hilltop. This was a great weekend and over 450 people came along to see the survey in action!

What they found:

Some anomalies (which tend to show up as more dense on the created images) were found and look like they could be a mixture of natural geology, possible structures, as well as, areas that have been excavated in the past.

August 2018

What we did:

Archaeological Evaluation conducted by Historic Environment Scotland, CFA Archaeology and FODC – this evaluation was based upon the possible structures identified in 2017 by the geophysical survey. The trenches were placed strategically, from these results, in an attempt to find out more about the castle’s development and occupation over the centuries. We were able to carry out these evaluations with help from the community and volunteers.

What did we find?

  • Possible wall – with mortared stones – probably deliberately knocked down
  • Large concrete foundation slab for an unknown structure with two iron hooks – post-WW2
  • Scaffolding clamps and boards – probably used during the repairs of the castle throughout the later 1900s
  • Lots of pottery (of all periods from prehistoric, medieval, post-medieval and modern)
  • Glass – mostly from post-medieval bottles and all different colours! Blue, green, brown, and clear
  • Modern rifles bullet/cartridges
  • Screws/rivets
  • Small modern pen-knife
  • Lots and lots of animal bone and shells – including sheep, cows, and fish

September-October 2019

What did we find?

During these investigations, we were hoping to find previously unknown structures that were built before the current castle. As such, we focussed on the area closer to the base of the hill rather than on the top of the hill where the current castle sits. We chose the locations for 5 possible trenches and hoped that these would produce some interesting finds.

  • Pottery dating from c. 12th Century-modern
  • Animal bones and teeth
  • 2 knives (date tbc)
  • A possible spindle whorl (tbc)


“Dundonald Castle Excavations 1986—93.” Scottish Archaeological Journal 26 (1/2): i-166 (2004)

Ovenden, S. (2018) Dundonald Castle, Geophysical survey, Discovery Excav Scot, New, vol. 18, 2017. Cathedral Communications Limited, Wiltshire, England. Page(s): 181

Volunteering Opportunity

If you are interested in volunteering in our archaeology events, please get in touch at archaeology@dundonaldcastle.org.uk