Ancient Monuments

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Garbh Ath Chaoruinn, chambered cairn 1km ENE of Cnoc Chaornaidh

A Scheduled Monument in North, West and Central Sutherland, Highland

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Latitude: 58.0339 / 58°2'1"N

Longitude: -4.8521 / 4°51'7"W

OS Eastings: 231699

OS Northings: 908525

OS Grid: NC316085

Mapcode National: GBR G7DH.87G

Mapcode Global: WH296.FBQH

Entry Name: Garbh Ath Chaoruinn, chambered cairn 1km ENE of Cnoc Chaornaidh

Scheduled Date: 12 October 1988

Last Amended: 23 November 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM4564

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: chambered cairn

Location: Kincardine (Highland)

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: North, West and Central Sutherland

Traditional County: Ross-shire


The monument comprises the remains of a chambered cairn dating to the Neolithic period, probably built and in use between around 4000BC and 2500BC. It is visible as a large heel-shaped stony mound with a central chamber. It measures around 16m north-south by about 17m and stands up to about 1.3m in height. The monument is located on the west bank of the River Oykel, at about 130m above sea level.

The position of the chamber is indicated by large edge set stones visible within the body of the cairn. It is irregularly shaped, measuring around 2.9m by 2.15m. A large lintel marks the eastern edge of the chamber and large slabs to the east likely represent elements of an ante-chamber.

The scheduled area is circular with a diameter of 30m. It includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above ground elements of the post and wire fence.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument is a chambered cairn which survives as a substantial stone-built mound. Although stone robbing has reduced the height of the cairn and the southwest side has been robbed to ground level, the overall plan of the monument remains clear and understandable. There is visible evidence of a chamber and ante-chamber which appear largely undisturbed. It is highly likely that other features, such as a passage, survive within the body of the cairn.

There is good potential for the survival of archaeological deposits, including human burials, artefacts and environmental remains such as pollen and charcoal, within, beneath and around the upstanding structure of the cairn. Such archaeological evidence has the potential to provide information about the date of the monument, ritual and funerary practices, and the structure of Neolithic society. Any artefacts and environmental material would enhance understanding of contemporary economy, land-use and environment.

Dating evidence from chambered cairns elsewhere demonstrates that they were constructed and in use between around 4000BC and 2500 BC. They were used for communal burial and ritual, and excavations often reveal evidence of complex development sequences. Therefore the cairn may have been in use for a long period of time. Scientific study of the cairn's form and construction techniques compared with other chambered cairns would enhance our understanding of the development sequence of this site and of chambered cairns in general.

Contextual Characteristics

Chambered cairns are found throughout Scotland, with a concentration in the north and west. The example at Garbh Ath Chaoruinn is important as an upstanding, well-preserved and largely undisturbed example. It is part of a wider group of chambered cairns in Glen Oykel located around Cnoc Chaornaidh, including Allt Eileag chambered cairn 800m SE of Cnoc Chaornaidh (SM4046; Canmore ID 4740), Cnoc Chaornaidh, chambered cairn 570m SW of (SM4022; Canmore ID 4739), Cnoc Chaornaidh, chambered cairn 560m WSW of (SM4023; Canmore ID 4738) and Cnoc Chaornaidh, chambered cairn 175m NNE of Stratheskie (SM4045; Canmore ID 4606). The proximity of these burial monuments can give important insights into the Neolithic landscape and add to our understanding of social organisation, land division and land-use. The monument has the potential to enhance our understanding of the nature and development of Neolithic monumentality and burial, the nature of belief systems, ceremonial and burial practices.

Chambered cairns are found in a variety of locations. Some are placed in conspicuous locations within the landscape, such as on the summits of hills or on the shoulders of hills, perhaps to be seen on a skyline or otherwise in profile. Others are found in less conspicuous locations, for example on valley floors. Relationships to routeways and/or other ritual sites, locations near to good upland pasture and views over specific areas of land may also have had significance. The chambered cairn at Garbh Ath Chaoruinn is positioned on the west bank of the River Oykel. It occupies a conspicuous location along the natural routeway of Glen Oykel with views to the southwest along the glen.

Associative Characteristics

There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to this site's national importance.

Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it makes a significant addition to our understanding of the design and construction of burial monuments, the nature of burial and ritual practices and their significance in Neolithic society. The chambered cairn is an impressive monument which retains its field characteristics and can be compared with other chambered cairns that survive in the vicinity. As such it can significantly enhance our understanding of Neolithic society and economy, as well as the nature of belief systems, burial and ceremonial practices. It would have been an important component of the wider prehistoric landscape of settlement, agriculture and ritual and would have been a prominent part of the prehistoric landscape. Chambered cairns are one of our main sources of information for the Neolithic in Scotland and so are an important element in our understanding of the nature of Scotland's prehistoric society and landscape. The loss of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the meaning and importance of death and burial, and the placing of cairns within the landscape in the Neolithic period in northern Scotland and further afield.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 4741 (accessed on 28/08/2018).

Highland Council HER Reference MHG7392 (accessed on 28/08/2018).

Henshall, A.S. and Ritchie, J.N.G. (1995) The chambered cairns of Sutherland, Edinburgh,

Mercer, R J. (1980) Archaeological field survey in northern Scotland, 1976-1979, University of Edinburgh, Department of Archaeology, Occasional Paper No. 4. Edinburgh. p. 153.


HER/SMR Reference


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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