Rispain Camp stands on the slopes of Camp Hill a mile west of Whithorn and just above the modern Rispain Farm. It is well signposted from the A746 and you reach it via the track to Rispain Farm, where you find a signed parking area and a designated route for the short uphill walk to the camp.
What you find at Rispain Camp is a large almost square area surrounded by exceptionally well preserved banks and ditches. Its shape and rounded corners led to the traditional belief that it was the site of a Roman fortification, and to the name by which the monument is still known today. As you wander around the site it is easy to see how this conclusion might have been reached.
The site was excavated in 1901, but nothing emerged to give any real clue as to the age of the site or its purpose. Later on, opinion shifted, and with little evidence the site was classified as a moated medieval homestead, albeit an unusually large one with unusually steep ditches.
It was only after excavations undertaken between 1978 and 1981 with the benefit of new techniques such as radio carbon dating that the truth emerged. Rispain Camp is the site of a large native homestead covering 0.35 hectares or a little under an acre.
This was built by local Celtic farmers between about 200BC and 50BC, and occupied for several centuries thereafter. The most striking feature of the site remains the huge ditch which almost completely surrounds the homestead. This was originally up to 5.8m deep, with the excavated soil being used to build banks on both sides of the ditch. On the north-eastern side of the homestead an access bridge 6.1m wide was left unditched.
The excavations produced evidence of a timber gateway guarding this bridge across the ditch, though which a metalled road led into the enclosure. A circular house, 13.5m in diameter, was excavated in one part of the enclosure. This unearthed part of an enamelled bronze bracelet dating back to about 100AD. It seems likely that there were other circular houses elsewhere in the enclosure as well as areas for keeping livestock.
As you walk back down the hill from Rispain Camp to your car in the farmyard, it is interesting to reflect that there could easily be a continuity of occupation on and use of this area stretching back as far as the iron age homestead and continuing right through to the modern Rispain Farm, on its slightly more sheltered site just below the camp.