The Site of Camelot

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Before we begin this investigation, we must make allowance for one supposition, the hyper of the hyperbasis on which I shall build my case. This will be the reasoning that the two famous Arthurian places – the fortress of Camelot & the immortal battlefield of Camlann, being joined by the Cam prffix, existed in topographical proximity.

There is nowhere in Britain where a Camelot & a Camlann are sited near each other, but there does exist an area where, if we scrape away the linguistic topsoil, we may logically create a closely-linked Camlann & Camelot. The true inclination of this post is to prove the site of Camelot via weight of evidence & common sense, in order to point the way to a future excavation of the site. This, I have determined, is the iron-age hill fort at Dunhead, in Angus.



In late antiquity, the Welsh word Llan and its variants (Breton: lan; Cornish: lann; Pictish: lhan) was applied to the sanctified land occupied by communities of Christian converts. The typical llan was defended by a circular or oval embankment with a protective stockade. An Iron age llan can be found in the parish of Dunnichen, Angus, on a hillfort called Dumbarrow, confirmed by the Statistical Account of Forfarshire’s, ‘this Fort seems to have been built of dry stone in a circular form.’ Dumbarrow has clear Arthurian connections, with the Old Statistical Account of Scotland (1791) describing ‘a rock on its north side is still called Arthur’s Seat,’ while Alexander Warden in the third volume of Angus or Forfarshire, tells us, ‘The Hill of Dumbarrow (anciently Dunberach), in the parish, disputes with the Hill of Barry, near Alyth, the honour of having been the prison of Arthur’s frail Queen, Guanora.’

Dunbarrow in the distance
Dunbarrow in the distance

Dumbarrow is about 4 kilometres from Dunnichen, near which is a place (and a stone) called Arthurstone and a farm once named Arthur’s Fold. A positive connection to the Battle of Camlann is  given in the Second Statistical Account of Scotland’s account that a, ‘confused tradition prevails of a great battle having been fought on the East Mains of Dunnichen, between Lothus, King of the Picts, or his son Modred, and Arthur King of the Britons, in which that hero of romance was slain.’ This correlates with the Annales Cambraie’s ‘537: The Strife of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell.

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It is possible, & indeed likely if you think about its similarity to the llan of Dumbarrow,  that Camlann actually derives from the fortification at a certain Castle Hill, by Dunnichen itself. The wonderful atlas of hillforts (which you can look at here) has the following information on Castle Hill;

A drystone enclosure likened to the small fortification on Dumbarrow Hill (Atlas no. 3076) was first noted in the late 18th century on Castle-Hill (Stat Acct, i, 1791, 419), which is the hillock forming a low spur at the foot of the S flank of Dunnichen Hill to the W of the village. Its destruction by quarrying before 1833 revealed evidence of occupation: ‘on its floor was found a thick bed of wood ashes, mixed with numerous bones (NSA, xi, Forfar, 146). Its site was noted with a cross and the annotation ‘Site of Tower’ on the 1st edition OS 25-inch map (Forfar 1865, sheet 34.9).

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The ‘elot’ of Camelot is found only a few miles to the south of Dunbarrow, where the River Elot – Elliot these days – rises in a moss called Diltymoss, and, after a course of about eight miles, falls into the North Sea at Arbirlot. Hard by its headwaters stands Dunhead, a fortification covered by dense deciduous woodland, situated on a steepsided promontory at a confluence of the Elliot Water, between two ravines, one of which contains the Black Den & the other the Den of Guynd. In 1754, Melville made a rough sketch-plan of the site, describing it as ‘the entrenchment on Down Head Hill near Arbilot.’

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Camelot is the ‘earthwork’ on the map

Dunhead is triangular in form, precipitous on two sides & defended by a ditch & a rough wall & dyke on the other. A visit by the RCAHMS in 1956 found on the SE a bank up to 5.8m in thickness by 1.5m in height cutting across the neck of the promontory. An OS surveyor in 1958 thought he could detect a kerb and a scatter of stones belonging to an inner rampart, a second surveyor in 1966 could see no trace of these. No fieldwork has been conducted since, while an archeaological dig has never been conducted. When they do, I am sure they will discover Arthur’s Camelot. I mean, lets just look at the traces of the name in the immediate area. The ‘Guyn’ of Guynd transchispers to Cam, the ‘Lot’ element is found in Arbirlot.




There is no Cam in the vicinity of Dunhead & Dunbarrow, but there is the definite ‘Carm’ of Carmyllie, in which Dunhead stands & the Dunnichen parish neighbours. The sparsely populated parish of Carmyllie has a clear resonation with the ‘Camellian’ battle given in the Old Welsh tale, The Dream of Rhonabwy, in which a certain Iddawg places the battle near the Pictavian ‘Prydyn.’

I was one of the missionaries in the Camellian battle between Arthur and Medrawd his nephew… I was named in Iddawg Cordd Britain. And because of this the ranks of the troops were distributed at Machman. But, however, three nights before the end of the Camell battle I drove them out and I came to Lech Las in Prydyn to eat.



Dux Pictorum: There is a swelling body of evidence that shows how Arthur was at one point a Pictish king. The early 12th century Liber Floridus of Lambert of St Omer desrcibes ‘Arthur the leader of the Picts, directing kingdoms inland in Britain.’ He then adds ‘there is a palace, in Britain in the Picts’ land, of Arthur the soldier, built with wondrous art and variety, in which may be seen sculpted all his acts both of construction and in battle.’ This  palace, I believe, awaits excavation at Dunhead.


Garthnach: Arthur son of Igerne & Uthere appears as Garthnach son of Gygurnus & Uudrost in the Pictish King Lists. By analyzing the reign-lengths given in Poppleton recension, we can see how Arthur was the Pictish king between the years 529 & 536. His ‘abdication’ in the year before Camlann for Cailtram son of Gygurnus – Arthur’s brother it seems – totally fits with account by Big Geoff of Arthur marching through Europe towards, then turning round at the Alps in the Winter & marching back to Britain to fight Camlann the next year.

Rhynie: The Royal Pictish centre being excavated in recent years at Rhynie, Aberdeenshire, is given as Penrhionyd in one the Welsh Triads.

Three Tribal Thrones of the Island of Prydain: Arthur the Chief Lord at Menevia, and David the chief bishop, and Maelgwyn Gwyned the chief elder. Arthur the chief lord at Kelliwic in Cornwall, and Bishop Betwini the chief bishop, and Caradawg Vreichvras the chief elder. Arthur the chief lord in Penrhionyd in the north, and Cyndeyrn Garthwys the chief bishop, and Gurthmwl Guledic the chief elder


In the Welsh language, ‘Pen’ means ‘summit or peak,’ which renders Penrhionyd as meaning ‘Peak of Rhionyd.’ Above Rhynie towers the far-seen Tap o’ Noth, Scotland’s second highest hillfort, complete with impressive triple-ringed defense-works. A definitive Arthurian connection to Rhynie comes through Tintagelware, which had fanned out throughout Britain to a series of high-status sites such as South Cadbury in Somerset & also Longbury Bank in the Dyfed parish of Penally, situated within another of Arthur’s ‘Tribal Thrones.’ Just as Cadbury was home to a grand timber feasting hall; & just as at the ‘high-status’ Longbury Bank in Dyfed Ewan Campbell & Alan Lane suggest ‘there is tenuous evidence for at least one large timber building;’ so have archeologists uncovered the post-holes & plank slots of a timber feasting hall at Rhynie.

Drest Gurthinmoch: More support for a Pictish Arthur begins with a glance at the King List, where we encounter a certain ‘Drest Gurthinmoch’ as ruling the Picts between 477 & 507. We can now identify the Triad’s ‘Gurthmwl’ with Gurthinmoc, for it makes perfect sense that when Arthur – the chief lord – became the King in 529, Gurthmwl/Gurthinmoc would have been described as a ‘chief elder.



So we now have a Pictish Arthur & a possible Camlann at Dunnichen. It is time to analyze more of the local evidence in an effort to prove the battle was indeed fought at East Mains.

Guinevere’s Captivity: In the following extract from Hector Boece we learn how that after the Battle of Camlann, Guinevere was taken to ‘the Pictish district of Horestia, to Dunbar.’ The hillfort of ‘Dunbarr‘ is in fact situated at  at Alyth, a few miles from Dunnichen. It is possible that Boece is getting mixed up with Dunbarrow/Dunberach, but either way the locality remains more or less the same.

On the following day, the British camp was ransacked. In it were discovered Arthur’s consort Queen Guanora, and no few men and women of noble blood. Furthermore, ample spoils were collected and shared out among the victors in the traditional way. The Scots were allotted wagons decorated with precious British ornamentation, horses of noble appearance and speed, arms, and the captive nobles, while Queen Guanora, illustrious men and women, and the rest fell to the Picts. These were led to the Pictish district of Horestia, to Dunbar, which was then a very stoutly fortified stronghold (in our days, the name of the place endures, although nothing of the fort save some traces). There they were detained and spent the rest of their lives in wretched servitude.

East Mains: Archaeology has proven that a substantial conflict had been fought in the locality. A Pictish stone was dug up on East Mains, of which instance Headrick observes in 1833’s Statistical Account that, ‘a good many years ago, there was turned up with the plough a large flat stone, on which is cut a rude outline of an armed warrior’s head and shoulders; and not many years ago, the plough also uncovered some graves in another part of the same farm. These graves consisted of flat stones on all sides. They were filled with human bones, and urns of red clay with rude ornaments upon them ; the urns being filled with whitish ashes. By exposure to the air, the bones and urns mouldered to dust.’ To this information, Andrew Jervise adds (PSAS II, 1854–7), ‘on the lands of Lownie also, (the original property of the Auchterlonies) & in the King’s muir adjoining, a variety of ancient graves have been now and then discovered.’

Saint Constantine:  The parish saint of Dunnichen is Constantine, & alongside the church dedicated to him, there was also a ‘St Causnan’s Well,’ whose pure fine spring was renamed as the Camperdown Well to commemorate the battle of Camperdown. According to Big Geoff, Constantine succeeded to the high kingship of Britain after the Battle of Camlann, & on its very field, Arthur; ‘gave up the crown of Britain unto his kinsman Constantine.’

Battle Stuff:  Hector Boece describes ‘twenty thousand Scots and Picts,’ fighting at Camlann, suggesting a northern location far from the River Cam in Cornwall. According to the King List, Cailtram ruled the Picts for only a year, ending his short stint on the throne in the Camlan year of 537.  Among the Camellian casualties listed by Hector Boece, we read of a certain ‘Caimus,’  a clear philochisp of Cailtram, the Pictish King who ruled for a year after Arthur/Garthnach & died in the year of Camlann. Another northern king to die in 537 was Comgall, king of the Scots, as given by the Annals of Tigernach, who, “fell in the 35th year of his reign.” By this use of the word ‘fell’ we may come with some confidence to the conclusion that Comgall died in battle. The ‘gall’ element of his name also philochisps into Gwalinus, another of Boece’s eminent casualties, & one cannot help but feel that when Boece places Caimus & Gwalinus side-by-side in death, he is referring to them as the kings of the Picts & the Scots.

Morded’s Sons: In 537 a new dynasty seems to take control of the Pictish Kingship. No longer are the sons of Gygurnus on the throne, with ‘Talorg son of Mordeleg,’ coming to the throne. The ‘Muir’ element of this name could well derive from Mordred, & the fact that after Camlann Guinever was held in captivity supports a Mordredian victory. Big Geoff himself describes, ‘when Constantine was crowned King, the Saxons and the two sons of Mordred raised an insurrection.’ A variant name for Mordred, given in the Scalacronica, was Mendelgh, as in Talorg Mendelgh. Next in this succession was Drust son of Menech, & little Chispology confirms they were brothers.


Aberlemno 2: At Dunnichen was found one of the most remarkable symbol-stones in the Pictish pantheon. It had been dug up in 1811 in a field named ‘Chasel’ (Castle) park at East Mains, & moved to the church yard at Aberlemno. Its now in Dundee, actually, its a replica that stands at Aberlemno – but its still pretty cool. One side of this wonderfully carved stone shows a battle in full swing, presumably between the long-haired Picts & what appears to be helmet-wearing Saxons. Camlann was fought on an international scale, a great civil war in which Mordred obtained military assistance from the Saxons, with the Triads telling us;

The three disgraceful traitors who enabled the Saxons to take the crown of the Isle of Britain from the Cambrians… The second was Medrod, who with his men united with the Saxons, that he might secure the kingdom to himself, against Arthur; and in consequence of that treachery many of the Lloegrians became as Saxons.

Inchyra: The Welsh Triads tell us, ‘there took place the Battle of Camlan between Arthur and Medrawd, and was himself wounded to death. And from that wound he died, and was buried in a hall on the Island of Afallach.‘ The name Afallach translates as ‘apples’, & with Camlann being fought at Dunnichen, common sense tells us we are looking for an island with orchards somewhere in the vicinity. For as long as anyone can remember a rich & fertile tract of land in Perthshire called the Carse of Gowrie has flourished with that Fruit of Eve, the apple. The Carse still retains the pleasant moniker of ‘the Garden of Scotland,’ whose once sprawling historic orchards have dwindled to only five wee woods in the modern age; Bogmiln, Inchyra Farm, Muirhouses, Newbigging & Templehall.

Fifteen centuries ago, the alluvial flood plain on which the Carse is situated was a patchwork of many islands, including Inchyra, whose phonetic ‘inch’ stems from the Gaelic name for ‘small island.’ Inchyra House is a place of great significance to our investigation. A Pictish grave, disturbed by ploughing in 1945, was discovered 100 meters south of the house. The remains were covered by a large decorated flat slab lying flat over a cairn of forty-nine water-rolled stones. This seems to be Arthur’s, for the Triads say he was buried in, ‘a hall on the Island of Afallach.’ The skeletal remains, which included the upper part of a skull, an arm bone and shoulder socket, were later respectfully re-buried without a closer examination.

Arthur's Tomb, Inchyra
Arthur’s Tomb, Inchyra

On analysing a 1959 paper on the Inchyra Stone, by Robert Stevenson, the Ogham inscriptions leapt out at my mind like striking panthers. Transliterated by FT Wainwright, of their academic accuracy, Stevenson wrote; ‘Professor K.H.Jackson, who examined the stone along with us, is in general agreements.’ The first inscription reads, ‘INEHHETESTIE.’ We can here see the word Anoeth, as in the babel-chain, ‘Anoeth-Inohhet-Inehhet.’ The true meaning of the name Anoeth is not yet understood to satisfaction, but it is given by the poem’ The Stanzas of the Graves’ as the actual burial site of Arthur.
Another inscription on one of the stone’s edges gives us the winning ticket;

In the Welsh tradition, Igerne is given the name Eigr, & thus in the Ogham inscription above we can quite positively see the names of Arthur’s legendary parents;


Uther — Eigr

That the philochisps of Arthur’s burial site at Anoeth & the names of both of his parents appear on a single stone help us to paint Inchyra as the original Avalon. This means simply that King Arthur was – & still is – buried in the grounds.


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We have now come to a wonderful possibility. Thus far we have established that Arthur was a Pictish king & there is a good chance that Dunhead in Arbirlot was Camelot. Its now time to focus our historical eyes on the local area, & see what turns up. The results are startling;

1: The First Statistical Account refers to the recent demolition of a “druidical temple” in the parish, & the finding of a “Pictish crown” at Black Den, a forested ravine linked to the Guynd Den.

A few years ago the remains of a religious house in the parish, whose ruins had been revered for ages, were taken down. And though we cannot say at what time, or by what person, it was built, yet from the accounts given of it, we have reason to believe that it had been a druidical temple.

It is reported, with much confidence, that a crown of one of the kings of the Picts, was found in the Black-den of this Parish, by a quarryman, about the beginning of the present century, who sold part of it in the neighbourhood, for 20L. Scotch; & sent the remainder to London , with a view to procure its real value. But by some unforessn occurence, he & his family were prevented from reaping that advantage, which might have been expected from so valuable a curiosity

King Arthur’s Pictish crown dissapearing in 18th London, perhaps?

Arbirlot Stone,  recovered from the foundation of the old church of Arbirlot
Arbirlot Stone, recovered from the foundation of the old church of Arbirlot

There’s also time for one last spin through the haze, for there is both a weird stone found at Arbirlot, & a Castle Kelly whose origins are lost in the mists of time. Big Geoff called Excalibur ‘Caliburnus’ (from Kelly?), while the faint grooves running down the middle of the Arbirlot stone may have been intended to depict a sword, with a horizontal feature to the right of and adjacent to the lower book possibly representing the sword guard. Was this the source site of the Sword in the Stone legend….

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