[If the text below uses any of the terms ‘hill-letter’, ‘river-letter’, ‘old-style name’, ‘transitional name’ and ‘inversion-type name’ a reader who is not familiar with those terms may wish to refer briefly to ‘The Celtic names of hillforts’, where an explanation of those terms is given].



The Celtic names of hillforts


Castle Craig (Pairney)


Location: east of Auchterarder in Perth and Kinross

OS map reference:  NN 976 127                        

Celtic name:  Acson or Arcotacson or Marcotacson

Source:  Ravenna Cosmography (224) - Marcotaxon


This hillfort surrounds a minor summit jutting up out of the northwestern lower slopes of Craig Rossie.

The writer’s reasons for associating Ravenna’s Marcotaxon with Castle Craig are given in Chapter 16 (Roman place-names in Scotland) of the Home menu. The letter x in Romano-British names often stands in for cs in Celtic names, so that the Celtic name under discussion was probably of the form Marcotacson, this being a compound in the hill-letters m, r and s, where the arcot element means ‘hill steep high’ and cs means ‘steep hill’. The earliest topographical element in the name is the old-style element cs, so acson will at one time have been the name of the hillfort. The arcot element is an inversion-type element and whilst it is possible that the hillfort was later called Arcotacson, it is also possible that Arcotacson was the name of a new settlement, replacing the hill fort, built at the foot of the hill. The initial m of the full name is also used in an inversion-type manner and whilst it may be that the hillfort was called Marcotacson in the late pre-Roman period, it is also possible that Marcotacson was the new name of that settlement at the foot of the hill. But no matter whether Marcotacson was the name of the hillfort or of a new settlement at the foot of the hill, it was adopted by the Romans for a fort which they built somewhere nearby, close to the Ruthven Water. The late pre-Roman hillfort or new settlement called Marcotacson was apparently occupied by Ptolemy’s Damnoni, who appear to have used the hill-letter m  (see  'Ptolemy's Celtic tribes in Britain').