Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Cat Cairn, cairn 255m south west of Smiddyhowe

A Scheduled Monument in West Garioch, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 57.3758 / 57°22'32"N

Longitude: -2.5121 / 2°30'43"W

OS Eastings: 369302

OS Northings: 831816

OS Grid: NJ693318

Mapcode National: GBR N947.5W7

Mapcode Global: WH8N7.CWZ1

Entry Name: Cat Cairn, cairn 255m SW of Smiddyhowe

Scheduled Date: 21 February 2008

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12170

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cairn (type uncertain)

Location: Rayne

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: West Garioch

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire


The monument comprises a mound likely to be a burial cairn dating to the Bronze Age. It survives as a low circular earthwork covered by rough vegetation and with some mature deciduous trees planted on it, surrounded by arable cultivation. These types of cairns were built and used as individual or group burial monuments and generally contained one or more central burials. It is located on flat, fertile land bounded by a low ridge 1km to its north and the River Urie, 5km to its south.

The cairn is roughly circular in shape, 20m in diameter and approximately 0.5m high. The cairn is enclosed by a ruined circular drystone wall, a remnant of the site's use as a tree plantation in the modern period.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, centred on the mound, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is well preserved despite modern impacts from tree roots, dumping of stones and wood and the installation of cattle feeding equipment. The monument retains much of its structural detail (including the underlying stone cover and earthen mound) and the centre appears to be undisturbed suggesting that any burials here are potentially still preserved in situ. The mound is likely to seal a buried land surface and this could provide evidence of the environment during the Bronze Age when the monument was constructed and used. Overall, it has the potential to further our understanding of Bronze-Age funerary practice, as well as inform our knowledge of the structural features of this type of cairn.

Contextual characteristics

This monument belongs to a diverse group of over 150 surviving Bronze-Age burial cairns in the Strathdon area. It is part of a much larger contemporary burial tradition that covers much of Scotland. These monuments share similar characteristics in their construction, position and use. In this part of Strathdon, Cat Cairn is an important example of a burial monument that has survived the effects of cultivation and lowland agricultural expansion. It has a wider significance because of its more unusual position in the landscape, its likely association with other burial monuments and its clear views to Bennachie to the south-south-west. Spatial analysis of this and similar burial monuments can further our understanding of funerary site location, the structure of society and the Bronze-Age economy.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to contribute to an understanding of the past, in particular Bronze-Age burial architecture and practice. It is part of the evidence for the wider prehistoric settlement of Strathdon and can tell us much about how the people who lived here during the Bronze Age dealt with and commemorated their dead. The preservation of a buried land surface beneath the cairn can help us understand more about the surrounding environment when the cairn was being built. The loss of the monument would affect our future ability to appreciate and understand the prehistoric landscape and its inhabitants.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NJ63SE 7. It is recorded in the Aberdeenshire Council SMR as NJ63SE0004.


RCAHMS 2007, IN THE SHADOW OF BENNACHIE: THE FIELD ARCHAEOLOGY OF DONSIDE, ABERDEENSHIRE, Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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