Scots' Dike


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016860

Date first listed: 09-Oct-1981

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Jan-2001


Ordnance survey map of Scots' Dike
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Dumfries and Galloway (Unitary Authority)

County: Cumbria

District: Carlisle (District Authority)

Parish: Kirkandrews

National Grid Reference: NY 36136 73566


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

A small number of substantial and defensible boundary features have been identified as frontier works marking territories in the early medieval period. Up to 50 examples are known with a fairly wide distribution across England, including examples in southern England, East Anglia, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and along the Welsh border. Identified remains extend over distances from as little as 300m up to as much as 240km in the case of Offa's Dyke. They survive in the form of earthworks and as buried features visible as cropmarks or soilmarks on aerial photographs. They appear often to have been constructed across the natural grain of the landscape and, although many examples consisted of a single bank and flanking ditch, to vary considerably in their form and dimensions, even along different stretches of the same boundary, depending upon local topography. Evidence from contemporary documentary sources, excavation and survey suggests that they were constructed in the early medieval period between the fifth and eighth centuries AD. Some were relatively ephemeral, perhaps in use for only a few years during periods of local strife; others, such as Offa's Dyke, constructed between Wales and Mercia, have formed long-lived territorial and/or military boundaries in use for several centuries. As a rare monument type of considerable importance to the study of early medieval territorial patterns, all surviving examples are identified as nationally important.

Despite considerable afforestation which has in places mutilated the monument, Scots' Dike survives reasonably well and is a rare example of a 16th century earthwork constructed to demarcate part of a national frontier. Although not a defensible boundary in the strictest sense, its construction and subsequent presence illustrated clearly to monarchs, governments and inhabitants a national boundary which had previously been in dispute for many centuries. The building of Scots' Dike therefore contributed significantly to the defence of both England and Scotland in the borders area during the latter half of the 16th century.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of Scots' Dike, a 16th century linear earthwork consisting of banks and ditches, which was constructed to demarcate the border between England and Scotland. The scheduling includes only the earthworks lying to the south of the border. The remains of the dike on the northern side are protected separately under historic monuments legislation for Scotland. The dike originally ran for approximately 5.6km between the rivers Sark and Esk across a tract of land known as the Debateable Land, an area of the borders recognised as one of the most lawless parts of Great Britain for many centuries on account of the constant claims, counterclaims and warfare of its inhabitants. In 1552 Commissioners appointed by Mary, Queen of Scots, and Edward VI met `and agreed on a line to be marked by a ditch and marchstones, the ground to one side whereof was thenceforth to belong to England, and that on the other to belong to Scotland.' This is the only section of the border to be marked by a linear earthwork. Generally speaking, two parallel trenches were dug and the excavated material thrown into the centre to make a mound thought to have been 1.8m-2.4m high. At some places the mound was doubled with a space of about 9m between the mounds. The original plan called for the erection of a square stone at either end of the dike, with the Arms of England on one face and the Arms of Scotland on another; however, it is not known if these stones were ever erected. No surface remains of Scots' Dike survive west of the minor road at Craw's Knowe some 0.2km east of the River Sark. From this point the dike runs eastwards for some 5.4km to the River Esk in varying states of preservation, surviving best as a mound up to 1.3m high and 3.5m wide and flanked either side by ditches. In places earthwork remains of a ditch survive on the north side of the mound only, elsewhere on the south side only. Traces of the double mound are few and elsewhere little surface evidence of mounds is discernible, the course of the monument being represented mainly as a ditch of varying depth and width. At irregular intervals stones have been set up on top of the mound. These are of red sandstone, stand approximately 0.7m high, and are thought to be 19th century replacements for original boundary markers which have been removed. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all fence posts, gateposts and telegraph poles, the A7 trunk road, Marchbank Cottage, Border Cottage, Orchard View and its stable, and all outbuildings, paths, flagged, tarmaced and gravelled surfaces associated with these three dwellings; the ground beneath all these features is, however, included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 32824

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Ridpath, , Border History, (1848), 394
Logan Mack, J, 'Trans Hawick Arch Soc' in The Old Scots Dike: Its Construction AD 1552 and Its Destruction, (1923), 3-5

End of official listing