Ancient Monuments

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Winding Cairn

A Scheduled Monument in East Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.895 / 55°53'42"N

Longitude: -2.2946 / 2°17'40"W

OS Eastings: 381671

OS Northings: 666916

OS Grid: NT816669

Mapcode National: GBR D0F8.0N

Mapcode Global: WH8WP.Q3H4

Entry Name: Winding Cairn

Scheduled Date: 30 March 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12469

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Coldingham

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: East Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire


The monument known as the Winding Cairn comprises a prehistoric burial cairn, approximately 4500 to 3500 years old. It lies in rough pasture 1145m to the N of Harelawside at a height of around 185m above sea level, immediately to the south of a conifer plantation where it is enclosed within a small rectangular post-and-wire enclosure.

The monument comprises a turf-covered ring of cairn material that is approximately 7m thick, up to 0.5m in height and around 26m in diameter. Quarrying in the first half of the 19th century removed the interior of the cairn, an event reported to have begun in 1829 and that revealed fragments of bone. The visible gap in the W quadrant of the cairn is likely to have been created to allow access for the removal of stones. What may be the remains of a kerb is visible around the base of the N quadrant of the cairn. A small section of cairn material is exposed through the turf on the SSW quadrant of the cairn. An area of heaped stone partially overlies the cairn's N quadrant and may represent modern field clearance material. Immediately to the SW of the cairn is an area of levelled ground where a small spread of stones, smaller than those heaped within the cairn, is visible through the turf.

The area to be scheduled is sub-circular 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. The scheduled area excludes the above-ground elements of the post-and-wire fence enclosing the cairn to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Despite visible evidence of 19th-century quarrying, the monument remains a sizeable upstanding feature and represents a good example of a prehistoric burial cairn with some characteristics of its original form. The cairn's circular shape suggests that it may date to the Bronze Age (approximately 4500-3500 years old). Given the area still covered by cairn material, it is likely that the monument covered more than one burial and may have been enlarged to cover later interments. Although quarrying may have disturbed traces of the original burials and funerary structures near the centre of the cairn, potential remains for the survival of later graves in and around the cairn. As the cairn is likely to have presented an obstacle to cultivation, the area around the cairn may not have been significantly disturbed. The surviving cairn material may overlie buried soils that could provide environmental evidence, illustrating the character of the local landscape in the Bronze Age. The monument offers the potential to further our understanding of Bronze-Age funerary practices and the structural features of large barrows and surrounding banks.

Contextual characteristics

In the Bronze Age, both inhumation (burial of the complete body) and cremation burial techniques were used and remains were usually placed within cists, graves formed from large flat slabs of stone. Some cists were simply covered with a large flat stone and then buried, while others were covered beneath cairns such as the Winding Cairn. In some cases cairns became a focus for later cist-burials that were then covered by more cairn stones.

The Winding Cairn is one of 79 known burial monuments of Bronze-Age date in Berwickshire. Anecdotal evidence, principally antiquarian descriptions, records the destruction of a number of cairns in the local area as a result of agricultural improvements in the 18th and 19th centuries. An antiquarian account of the quarrying at the Winding Cairn, which began in 1829, describes the monument as being 9-10 ft high and covering an area of 805 sq yards before the removal of stones began. This suggests that prehistoric peoples enlarged Winding Cairn over several generations or that it was a site of some significance.

Spatial analysis of this cairn and other burial sites may further our understanding of funerary site location, the structure of society, and the Bronze-Age economy. Information gained from the preservation and study of this site has the potential to help us gain an insight into the wider knowledge of Bronze-Age funerary practices across Scotland.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the funerary practices and architecture of the Bronze Age in Scotland. Although the monument has been reduced in size by quarrying, surviving antiquarian accounts record the site as being of significant size and the remaining spread of cairn material is sizeable and retains a visible presence in the landscape. There remains potential for the survival of undisturbed funerary deposits, particularly later graves placed close to the original cairn and covered by cairn stones. The Winding Cairn forms part of a wider prehistoric landscape extending across Coldingham Moor and Penmanshiel Moor. The landscape comprises settlements, field-systems and funerary sites, many of which survive as upstanding features within largely marginal land. The monument has the potential to enhance our knowledge of burial practice within SE Scotland and understand how this relates to wider trends in Scotland and further afield. Skeletal remains and artefacts from burials may inform us about wider prehistoric society, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contact with. The old ground surfaces sealed by the monument can provide information about what the contemporary environment looked like and how it was being managed by the prehistoric farmers who buried their dead here. Its loss would impede our ability to understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape, as well as our knowledge of Bronze-Age social structure and economy.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the monument as NT86NW 11 and the Scottish Borders Council designation is 106005.


Dent J and McDonald R 1997, EARLY SETTLERS IN THE BORDERS, Scottish Borders Council: Kelso.

Hardy J 1856, 'An account of an assemblage of ancient sepulchral monuments, in the East of Berwickshire', Hist Berwickshire Natur Club 3 (1850-6), 109-10.


RCAHMS 1980, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF BERWICKSHIRE DISTRICT, BORDERS REGION, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Scotland Series, 15, No. 92, Edinburgh, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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