Rockcliffe – Once an Important Gold, Silver, Iron and Copper Working Location

Rockcliffe lies on the east side of the River Urr estuary and has a natural tidal causeway to Rough Island, a bird sanctuary owned by the Scottish National Trust.  It is located approximately twenty miles from Dumfries and six miles from the nearest town of Dalbeattie.  Rockcliffe is one of the small seaside villages that spread out along the stretch of coast known as the Colvend Coast on the north shore of the Solway Firth.

A Roman fort Castle Point is a short walk, and there are stunning views across the Solway to Cumbria and the Isle of Man.

A dark ages settlement and fort with possible links to King Arthur, Mote of Mark is at Rockcliffe. It is a conical hill overlooking the village and was a Dark Ages fort occupied in the 5th and 6th centuries. It was small, measuring roughly 270 feet long and from 55 to 105 feet wide.  The main rampart was 4m wide, and its centre was filled with pebbles from the beach below, with large beach stones being used to top the wall. There were two entrances, one in the south side and another in the north-east side. You can still see scattered boulders that once formed part of the wall and down the north and west sides of the slope are the remains of a second rampart.

The most interesting discovery, about the Mote of Mark, is that it was used for metal working on a large scale.  Fragments of 130 crucibles were found, as well as various pieces of 482 moulds. Study of the moulds revealed that they were producing intricate, highly decorative items there,  as well as more mundane things like pins and studs. Gold, silver, iron and copper were all worked at Mote of Mark. The quality of the archaeological finds does suggest that this was a high-status site, a fort of some importance, but there is no actual tangible evidence linking the fort to King Arthur.

Rockcliffe, Dumfries & Galloway
David Grimshaw, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rockcliffe has long been a picturesque seaside resort since popular since Victorian times.  It’s been built in a small sandy bay and is said to be one of the prettiest coastal locations in South West Scotland.  The white painted houses and cottages face out over the beach, and Baron’s Craig that was once a lovely country house is now a hotel, is notable for its attractive external architecture.

The seashore around these parts is rugged and craggy, and it’s a great area to view nesting seabirds such as fulmar, razorbills and cormorant in spring and summer and the seabirds dip and dive around the area with their various calls adding to the feel of the location.

The current industry is salmon fishing, farming and tourism, and there is no actual industry at Rockcliffe.  There are very little in the way of convenient facilities at Rockcliffe; there is a tea room, an art gallery and an ice cream van that visits on sunny days and the antique shop serves takeaway coffee.

Leave a Reply