Gormyre Hill

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Archaeology Index

Aerial Photo

First Edition OS Map


WOSAS entries for Gormyre: 18267  17876  50158

Gormyre Hill

Summit enclosure,  looking north-east towards Cockleroy Hillfort.  KAP   9 Jan 2011

In the 1920s little was visible on the ground: 'There is now no trace of this enclosure, except perhaps two low parallel lines of mound, hardly worth recording.' Inventory of Monuments in West Lothian' RCAHMS, 1929.

Summit enclosure left, north-eastern enclosure top right.  KAP   9 Jan 2011

Jim Knowles


Inverted image for comparison.




Torphichen Hills looking eastwards, with Gormyre Hill the highest point.    Jim Knowles 

Torphichen Hills and access route as seen from the west. Gormyre Hill is the highest point in the hills (to the left).

Castlethorn scheduled prehistoric hillfort is to the right of the central small Canniewell Slack and to the left of the larger Milking Slack on the extreme right which leads through to Cathlaw.

Cathlaw Hill and Cairnpapple are top right on the horizon     (KAP: Pentax Optio W60) October 2009


Torphichen Hills viewed from the west. KAP - One large prehistoric site?

North to South

* Unofficial, for ease of reference only.

Hill No1

Gormyre Hill

Hill No2

Nether Gormyre Hill*

Hill No3 

Upper Castlethorn*

Hill No4


 Hill No5

Lower Castlethorn*

 ' Hill ' No6


Castlethorn viewed from the north. KAP 

Jim Knowles 


Gormyre Refuge Stone in the Near Infra-Red

February 2010  Jim Knowles 

The Gormyre refuge stone. Just visible is the outline of part of a cross. Originally described as a Maltese Cross, now in its poor state of preservation, it could be interpreted as various other forms of cross (Potent, or Lorraine).

Until Jim took this photo it was thought that 'there is now no trace of the cross'.


Eastern side of the Torphichen Hills, July 2009 - Gormyre Hill top right behind the trees  IR Fuji IS1.  (cf the smaller Chesters Hill Fort - built to reflect the above hills?)

Eastern side of the Torphichen Hills from Cairnpapple, July 2009 (Castlethorn left - Gormyre Hill right) IR Telephoto Pentax Optio E35.

The above image is very deceptive, de-emphasising the scale and relative size of the hills.  This effect increases with the altitude of view. (cf the image above)


1st December 2008

The area corresponding to the eastern side of  'Remains of camp (Supposed Roman)' on the first OS map (KAP).

Part of the site on a frosty afternoon. Pentax Optio W60, red-channel, 28mm equivalent lens, interval mode, auto ISO (It selected ISO 50 in sports mode!!) f3.5, 1/60th sec. The image is blurred because of the slow shutter speed. We will take further photographs at a higher ISO. This image illustrates how photographic quality is secondary to good ground conditions and lighting.

A nearly square enclosure on Gormyre Hill, known locally as the "Roman Camp". Its outline is now very faint, consisting of an earthen bank c. 1' high. Nothing has been found in it, and there are no associated traditions.
Name Book 1854

There is now no trace of this enclosure, except perhaps two low parallel lines of mound, hardly worth recording. Inventory of Monuments in West Lothian, RCAHMS, 1929.

Possibly the structure was no more than a cattle fold.
RCAHMS 1929, visited 1923; MSS, 1953

The remains of a rectangular enclosure, consisting of a low earthen bank, near the summit of Gormyre Hill. It has been built on top of rig-and-furrow and is clearly of later date. Some 80.0m to the NE are the remains of a similar such structure. Neither of these is an antiquity.
Visited by OS (JP) 14 August 1974

Snow covered - 6 February 2009

Kite aerial photographs

Photos were taken with an Optio W60 waterproof camera which has no external lens movement and integral time-lapse (ie press and release the button and it takes a set number of images at a set time interval).

 Settings: ISO 400, Sports mode, focus set to 'infinity', 28mm equivalent lens and time-lapse interval 10 seconds


Southern edge (top) of Gormyre Hill

(corresponding to the image taken 1st Dec 2008) Clump of gorse (top left) 7m in diameter.

Note the large, raised, curved feature which looks circular (on 192.com) and similar in size to

Castlethorn prehistoric hillfort (Gormyre: 1st and highest hill, Castlethorn: 4th hill down)

Zoom in on aerial photo http://www.192.com/maps/photofinder.cfm to compare.

North-east corner of Gormyre Hill

Red dots on lower right 1 metre apart - will use 5 metre spacing in future.

(Northern edge on left of image)

Snow covered - 7 February 2009
Cathlaw and the top of Gormyre Hill  (foreground) covered in snow    ^ ~SSE.

Click on image for larger version   (f4.2, 1/1500sec) .

Frontispiece: The Photogrammetric Record 24(126): 118 (June 2009)

As above - clump of gorse centre right, 7 metres in diameter.

Note again the large, raised, curved feature to the right.


Stills from a model (Agisoft Photoscan Free trial) created using only two KAP images.  (see 3D Kite Aerial Photography)

Looking approximately south.

Looking approximately north, with the model rotated through ~180. This is surprisingly good, despite the ripple distortion on the right, as the photos were taken looking south!


Still from a model created using three KAP images, with trackball and frame indicated.
Model rotated again through ~180 but without the above distortion.


Inverted (ie negative) image of the top of the hill - as above, the image is composed of snow covered flora.

The above features look much more complex than previously described.

South-west corner of large rectangle (ie furthest right):  55 56' 9.7" N , 3 38' 27.3" W


Looking down on the western side of Gormyre Hill to Castlethorn.

(Gormyre Hill, Nether Gormyre Hill, Upper Castlethorn, Castlethorn)

We will return to photograph the other hills next winter.

Gormyre Hill is an impressive location aligned with Kipps Hill and Cockleroy Hillfort to the north-east and worthy of further investigation.


Gormyre Hill Survey 16 July 2009

Rosie with members of the survey team from The Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society - drenched to the bone!
Local archaeological scientist Jim Knowles came along to help.

Ground Resistance Results for the enclosure at the top of Gormyre Hill.


Gormyre Hill Survey 31 October 2009
The EAFS survey team who were assisted by WLAG's archaeologist Jim Knowles and Cade Wells.

Fieldwork makes you feel and look younger!

Ground resistance results for the top of Gormyre Hill with added 20x20m squares on the northern and eastern sides of the enclosure.



Photos by Jim Knowles

Composite KAP image looking north. 

Note the large encircling feature also shown above.  January 2010  Jim Knowles

Taken in the visible/infra-red using a dual camera rig. May 2010
Original colour version of above image. Inverted image.
May 2010

(NB enclosure surveyed 16 July 2009)

As pointed out by Dave Cowley, care should be taken when considering aerial photographs of sites that have been geophysically surveyed with the grid pattern aligned with the feature under investigation.  Are all of the above features intrinsic to the site or have some been introduced through walking the grid pattern ten months previously?  It has been demonstrated that kite aerial photography is an effective technique for illustrating the long-term impact of tyre tracks on a scheduled site and, in the near infra-red, of delineating the tread pattern of tyres on pasture. The next survey (magnetometry) will be carried out walking in a direction perpendicular to that walked for the ground resistance survey. Aerial photographs will be taken over a period of time to see if new lines appear.


Composite image.

Jim Knowles


Gormyre Hill Survey 15 May 2010


Composite image of the southern side of Gormyre Hill.
Stone on the northern side of Nether Gormyre (also below, right).
Looking down between Gormrye and Nether Gormyre to Cairnpapple. Northern side of Nether Gormyre.
Dr Peter Morris with his gradiometer .......and resistive linear array.

Setting up the linear array with Cockleroy Hillfort in the background.

Magnetic Survey


Peter Morris
The site is reminiscent of 'Ogilface in Ruins', with considerable noise from the underlying geology masking any superficial archaeology.
Peter Morris
Resistive Linear Array Survey


Peter Morris
Peter Morris
Peter Morris



More near infra-red, kite aerial images by Jim Knowles  22 May 2010

Composite image of the north eastern enclosure.


Gormyre Hill Survey 19 June 2010


The north eastern enclosure.  It is formed from low turf banks, less than a foot or so high, with a possible entrance to the west. Probably the remains of an animal enclosure.

20x20m grids 19 June 2010 


Ground resistance data for the north eastern enclosure, with no obvious anomalies and dominated by the the nature of the surface scrub and localised geology.  A single-handed survey carried out by Jim Knowles using an MM Instruments 216M resistance meter. 

Another view of the enclosure on the summit.

Gormyre Hill Survey 8 September 2010

Jim carrying out a repeat ground resistance survey (west-east) of the summit enclosure in a direction perpendicular to that carried out by the EAFS.

The inconclusive results are shown below.


WLAG  8 September 2010



Comparison of twin probe and 4 probe Wenner data.

2nd March 2011

Jim Knowles

Unprocessed Wenner Data

Processed Wenner Data

Processed Wenner Data

Processed Twin Probe Data    
1m X 0.5m 1m X 0.5m 1m X 1m 1m X 1m
6th March 2011
  Unprocessed Twin Probe Data Processed Twin Probe Data Data  


1m X 0.5m

1m X 0.5m


The above data corresponds to the lower central square in the 16 July 2009 EAFS data. The data is now beginning to look more interesting.


Gormyre Hill 6th June 2011

Looking southwards over the Torphichen Hills. Castlethorn upper left.
Unprocessed and processed images. These images illustrate how Gormyre and Nether Gormyre are separated by only a small slack.
Looking down between Gormyre and Nether Gormyre
Looking northwards towards Easter Gormyre Farm.

Northeastern enclosure partly visible on the right. Rig and furrow running north-south.



Gormyre Hill Test Pits

25th-26th August 2012

Trust archaeologist Jim with added archaeological expertise from Tamsyn.

EAFS members with Jim
EAFS member Jill hits bedrock! Ian, Jim, Don and Hugh digging a 3x1m trench.
Group member Heidi next to John putting up the kite. The above trench right.   ~South



View from Gormyre Hill to the north-west, IR Optio E35.

Cow Hill to the north of Gormyre Hill  - on a less than kite-friendly day.


The Ochil Hills to the north.



Mrs H Coward of Wester Gormyre and custodian of Gormyre Hill Mr T Mitchell of Easter Gormyre
Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society Dr Peter Morris

For helpful comments, information and advice:

RCAHMS (noteably Dave Cowley) Historic Scotland
Dr Geoff Bailey of Falkirk Archaeology Service Martin O'Hare of WoSAS
Dr Stuart Eydmann formerly of WLC Planning  




  •  "To be sold by private bargain, THE LANDS of GORMYRE, lying in the parish of Torphichen, consisting of ninety acres or thereby, including about three acres of thriving plantation.  These lands, which are of excellent quality, and almost all arable, inclosed, and subdivided, and well awtered, are pleasantly situated in the immediate neighbourhood of the village of Torphichen; are equidistant from Linlithgow and Bathgate, about three miles, and lie within one-mile of the line of the new canal now forming.  The lands contain coal, which was formerly partially wrought; and an unlimited command of Lime (to which there is access by good road) is to be had in the neighbourhood, the property may be greatly improved at a very moderate expence.  There is a modern house upon the lands, consisting of two stories, with a good garden attached to it, besides a farm steading.  The title-deeds are clear, and give the proprietor a right to the teinds.  There is a large surplus of free teind in the parish.  The lands are held of a subject superior for a feu-duty merely elusory.This property has been long in the natural possession of the present proprietor.  A purchaser may, if desired, have immediate access."  Caledonian Mercury 3 January 1820
  • Robert Gillies Esq, Provost (1823 and 1824) and High Sheriff of Stirling bought the estate and died there in June 1844.
  • Jessie McCammond, eldest daughter of John Jack of Greenock died at Gormyre in September 1871.



Castlethorn Prehistoric Hillfort

has been relocated to HERE