Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Cairn 30m north west of Sunny Bank, Balnaguard

A Scheduled Monument in Highland, Perth and Kinross

We don't have any photos of this monument yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.


Latitude: 56.6465 / 56°38'47"N

Longitude: -3.7219 / 3°43'18"W

OS Eastings: 294509

OS Northings: 751844

OS Grid: NN945518

Mapcode National: GBR KC54.XG8

Mapcode Global: WH5MX.S6VK

Entry Name: Cairn 30m NW of Sunny Bank, Balnaguard

Scheduled Date: 3 April 1962

Last Amended: 20 January 2021

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2232

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Little Dunkeld

County: Perth and Kinross

Electoral Ward: Highland

Traditional County: Perthshire


The monument comprises the remains of a prehistoric burial cairn, likely dating from the period around 4000 – 800 BC. It is visible as a grass and tree-covered mound, measuring up to 38m in diameter and standing up to 5m in height. The cairn is located 540m south of the River Tay within the small settlement of Balnaguard, at a height of around 80m above sea level.

The scheduled area is irregular. It includes the remains described above and an area around 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 all telegraph poles within the scheduled area, to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):

a. The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the past as a well-preserved example of a prehistoric burial cairn with minimal evidence of disturbance. In particular it adds to our understanding of prehistoric burial practices.

b. The monument retains structural and other physical attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past. There is potential for the preservation of buried features and deposits, including structural remains such as a passage and chamber, and human burial, associated grave goods and environmental or palaeobotanical remains.

d. The monument is a particularly good example of a prehistoric cairn within this area of the Tay valley, and is therefore an important representative of this monument type.

e. The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding or appreciation of the past, in particular, it holds the potential to enhance our understanding of prehistoric ritual and funerary practices within Scotland, and there is high potential for archaeological evidence to survive in and around the monument.

f. The monument makes a significant contribution to today's landscape and also our understanding of the historic landscape by its prominence within the arable farmland along this stretch of the River Tay valley.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The monument is a well-preserved example of a prehistoric burial cairn. Its substantial size is comparable to other examples. It is unclear from the available evidence whether the monument is a chambered cairn dating from the Neolithic period around 4000 – 2500 BC or a later example without chambering from the Bronze Age around 2500 – 800 BC. Archaeological evidence within the monument itself would provide more accurate information on the type and date of construction of the cairn.

The cairn has been slightly disturbed, including by the development of surrounding housing, but it nonetheless still retains significant amounts of its material and character.  Given the apparently good level of preservation of the cairn, there is a high potential for the survival of human remains, associated grave goods and environmental or palaeobotanical remains. If the cairn dates from the Neolithic period, the mound contain structural features such as burial chambers or access passages, as well as burials. Such archaeological deposits can help us to better understand beliefs surrounding death and burial in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, as well as funerary rites and practices, trade and contacts, social organisation and the climate and local vegetation at the time of construction.

These deposits can help us understand more about the practice and significance of burial and commemoration of the dead at specific times in prehistory. There is also good potential for the survival of secondary or 'satellite' burials and related archaeological evidence for funerary pyres or other funerary activity in the area surrounding the cairn. The monument therefore has the potential to enhance our understanding of the nature and development of prehistoric monumentality and burial, the nature of belief systems, ceremonial and burial practices.

Excavation of similar large cairns have also demonstrated a complex construction sequence to create the final structure. Such evidence indicates not only how such a structure was built, but in some cases how it was used as a place of internment. Scientific study of the cairn's form and construction techniques compared with other prehistoric burial cairns would also enhance our understanding of the development sequence of this site and of cairns in general.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

Prehistoric burial cairns are found throughout Scotland. This example is one of a number of similar monuments located in this part of the Tay Valley, including two at Tom of Cluny (scheduled monument No. 6251) and one at Middleton of Derculich (scheduled monument No. 2666), along with undesignated examples such as Castle Dow (Canmore ID 26360) and the example at Sketewan (Canmore ID 26380) that was excavated in 1988. 

Prehistoric burial 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. Some later cairns are located with higher ground on two or more sides. This means that the cairn is hidden from certain directions and often will have more restricted views.

The cairn at Balnaguard is positioned on the southern edge of the River Tay floodplain. Many cairns in similar situations within prime arable land have been denuded by agricultural activities. This cairn is therefore a relatively rare survival.

Despite the surrounding houses, the cairn remains a prominent landscape feature, and the extensive view east and west along the Tay valley and north across the river itself can still be appreciated from the cairn. Immediately south of the cairn the land begins sloping up from the floodplain of the river, reducing the views in this direction. Burial monuments such as this are one of our main sources of information about Scotland's prehistoric society and landscape.  These monuments can give important insights add to our understanding of social organisation, land division and land-use.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to this site's cultural significance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 26351 (accessed on 08/07/2020).

Local Authority HER/SMR Reference MPK1686 (accessed on 08/07/2020).

MacSween, A. and Sharp, M. (1989). Prehistoric Scotland. London: B.T. Batsford Ltd.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Other nearby scheduled monuments is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself. is a Good Stuff website.