A Pictish fort on an inhospitable sea stack near Stonehaven is believed to be the oldest in Scotland, archaeologists have said.
Carbon dating from the site suggests it dates from the third or fourth century, making it the oldest Pictish fort ever discovered.
Archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen needed help from mountaineers to scale the rocky outcrop, which measures at most 20 by 12 metres and is surrounded by sheer drops on all sides.
Dr Gordon Noble, a senior lecturer in archaeology at the university, said: “The site can only be accessed using ropes at low tide and having never climbed before, it was quite hair-raising. But the challenge of getting to the top was soon forgotten as we began to make significant discoveries.
“We knew that the site had potential as in 1832 a group of youths scaled the sea stack, prompted by a local man who had recurring dreams gold was hidden there.
“Unfortunately for the youths they didn’t find the gold, but they did find a number of decorated Pictish symbol stones and as they were throwing them into the sea, noticed some were also carved.”
Dr Noble said Dunnicaer appears to have been home to a “significant fort”, with ramparts constructed of timber and stone.