Ancient Monuments

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Sands of Forvie, hut circles and ring cairn 1020m east of East Cottage

A Scheduled Monument in Ellon and District, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 57.3276 / 57°19'39"N

Longitude: -1.984 / 1°59'2"W

OS Eastings: 401061

OS Northings: 826334

OS Grid: NK010263

Mapcode National: GBR P9GC.1RM

Mapcode Global: WH9Q0.H2GY

Entry Name: Sands of Forvie, hut circles and ring cairn 1020m E of East Cottage

Scheduled Date: 30 March 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12541

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: hut circle, roundhouse; Prehistoric ritual and funerary: ring ca

Location: Slains

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Ellon and District

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire


The monument comprises a complex of prehistoric remains, including two Late Bronze Age or Iron-Age hut circles and a Bronze-Age ring cairn. They are located in the coastal dunes of the Sands of Forvie nature reserve at around 20m above sea level.

The remains comprise two hut circles. Nineteen examples were noted in the area in the 1950s, although only two are now visible, with the remainder reburied by the movement of the dunes. The NW example is the larger of the two, being around 18m in diameter. The surrounding bank is incomplete and survives as several short segments of its circuit. The NW side is revetted with orthostats and the interior appears slightly raised above the external ground surface.

The second hut circle lies about 45m SE of the first example, and is slightly smaller. It measures around 13m N-S by around 14m transversely. The structure is defined by a continuous ring of orthostats, up to 0.5m high on the NE, defining its circuit. A small entrance gap is evident in the E.

The ring cairn lies around 45m S of the second hut circle. The cairn is around 5m in diameter and is best preserved on the SW arc, where it can be observed that the cairn wall is 1.3m wide. Both the inner and outer kerbs survive for part of their circuit. It has been suggested that the cairn and the huts are contemporary.

The area to be scheduled is rectilinear on plan, 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 visible as upstanding features, relatively well-preserved examples of hut circles, likely to date to the Late Bronze Age or Iron-Age, and a ring cairn, likely to date to the Bronze Age. The hut circles appear to be representative of a much wider settlement that survives on the site beneath the dunes, and that appears to be relatively undisturbed. The ring cairn also appears relatively intact and, although the primary burials appear to have been excavated, similar monuments have revealed more than one burial beneath the cairn. Further buried deposits have the potential to inform us of the economic and social environment at the time. The cairn is also highly likely to seal parts of a buried ground surface and this could provide evidence of the environment during the Bronze Age when the monument was constructed and used. The monument has the potential to further our understanding of later prehistoric domestic and funerary practice and their relationship, as well as inform our knowledge of the structural features of such monuments.

Contextual characteristics

This monument belongs to a diverse range of prehistoric monuments in the Strathdon region. Hut circles, a characteristic type of settlement structure of the later prehistoric period, have a widespread survival, in a variety of forms, across Scotland and further afield. It is an extensive and varied class of monument. This example survives as upstanding remains in a lowland coastal location, an atypical survival in a landscape rich in contemporary features. This monument has the potential, when compared and contrasted to other examples, to inform our understanding of geographical variation in the construction, uses and survival of its type.

This ring cairn belongs to a diverse group of around 165 surviving Bronze-Age burial cairns in the Strathdon area. Seventy-one of these have now been completely removed, the rest, including this example, surviving as visible and upstanding monuments to varying degrees. This monument's importance is enhanced by the rarity of ring cairns in Strathdon, with only six examples being known. The number of cairns in this area is also significant, as the majority of cairns found in Strathdon are isolated examples, yet this example is only around 310m SSW of the Sands of Forvie group of kerb cairns, and it is likely that further examples survive beneath the dunes. The location of such sites was extremely important, and this particular example lies close to the North Sea, on low-lying coastal dunes. Further prehistoric remains, including hut circles, ring cairns, flint debitage and hearths have been found in the area. Many of these remains were exposed in the 1950s but have since been reburied by the movement of the dunes, suggesting there may be extensive prehistoric settlement pattern surviving at Sands of Forvie, of which the hut circles and cairn represent only a small part. Spatial analysis of this site with other contemporary sites may further our understanding of later prehistoric settlement, economy and funerary site location, as well as the structure of society.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has the potential to contribute to an understanding of the past, in particular Bronze-Age burial architecture and practice in Scotland, and Bronze-Age and Iron-Age settlement. It also fits into a distinctive pattern of prehistoric burial and settlement in the Strathdon area. Skeletal remains and artefacts from such burials have the potential to tell us about wider prehistoric society, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contact with. The old ground surface sealed by the monument can provide information about what the contemporary environment looked like and how the prehistoric people who interred their dead here managed the surrounding land. The juxtaposition of burials with later settlements can help us to understand how prehistoric people used a place through time. Its loss would impede our ability to understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape, as well as our knowledge of later prehistoric social structure and economy.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NK02NW 13: Sands of Forvie and Aberdeenshire SMR as NK02NW0013: Sands of Forvie.


Henshall A S 1963, THE CHAMBERED TOMBS OF SCOTLAND, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 398.


Ralston I 1997, 'The archaeology of the Sands of Forvie and the Ythan Valley'. In Gorman M L ed. 1997, THE YTHAN: A FESTSCHRIFT FOR GEORGE DUNNET, Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Department of Zoology, 20-37.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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