Ancient Monuments

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Scoor Cave, prehistoric and early Christian carvings 550m SSW of Scoor

A Scheduled Monument in Oban South and the Isles, Argyll and Bute

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Latitude: 56.2898 / 56°17'23"N

Longitude: -6.1741 / 6°10'26"W

OS Eastings: 141799

OS Northings: 718649

OS Grid: NM417186

Mapcode National: GBR CD42.W7G

Mapcode Global: WGZFP.456H

Entry Name: Scoor Cave, prehistoric and early Christian carvings 550m SSW of Scoor

Scheduled Date: 21 May 2002

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM9470

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Crosses and carved stones: cross-incised stone; Prehistoric domestic and defensive: cave; Prehistori

Location: Kilfinichen and Kilvickeon

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Oban South and the Isles

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument is known as Scoor Cave. The cave is situated at the head of a narrow inlet on the rocky shore of the S coast of the Ross of Mull, about 550m SSW of Scoor. The cave measures 4m in width at the mouth by 15m in depth; the maximum height of the roof is about 8m. Both walls of the cave are profusely decorated with symbols, which are found at heights of from 0.4m to 1.8m above the floor.

About sixty of the markings are small circular or oval depressions, which make no formal pattern, sometimes occurring in groups and at other times singly along each wall; about half of them are cup-shaped, measuring on average 50mm in diameter and 10mm in depth, and are indistinguishable from prehistoric cup-markings; many of the others, however, are conical rather than hemispherical in section, measuring up to 90mm across and 50mm in depth, and in some cases appear to have been enlarged, if not actually made, in comparatively recent times.

The remainder of the symbols comprise a motif closely resembling a small labyrinth device, a trident and some eighteen linear incised crosses, including plain Latin and Greek crosses, crosses with expanded, barred or bifid terminals, and ringed crosses.

The crosses are generally similar to those found in the Nuns' Cave further E along the coast, and may reflect occupation of the cave in the Early Christian period, probably in the late 6th - 9th centuries. No parallel has been found for the trident motif but it probably belongs to the later, rather than to the earlier, series of carvings.

Most of the loose stones that constitute the floor of the cave have fallen from the walls in comparatively recent times, no doubt destroying other symbols in the process, and it is likely that the original floor-level was at least 0.5m lower than the present one. Local sources state that below the layer of fallen rock, the cave floor is made up of shell midden.

The area to be scheduled is a circle measuring 35m in diameter, which includes the cave and an area around in which traces of activities associated with the occupation of the cave may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map extract.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance because it has prehistoric, early Christian and perhaps early modern rock carvings preserved in their original setting. It is one of the very few caves in Scotland to contain cup marks, the others being Michael Colliery, East Wemyss, Fife and King's Cave, Arran. The labyrinth motif found at Scoor is unknown in Scotland, but it is found in Ireland, although still rare.

The early Christian motifs suggest that the cave functioned as a hermitage site such as at St Ninian's Cave, Isle of Whithorn, and was perhaps associated with the Columban foundation of Iona. It has been suggested that the later carvings may be associated with early modern recusant activity.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NM 41 NW 5.


RCAHMS (1980) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the monuments volume 3: Mull, Tiree, Coll and Northern Argyll (excluding the early medieval and later monuments of Iona), Edinburgh, 166-7, No. 326.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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