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Cnoc Chaornaidh, chambered cairn 570m WSW of

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

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Latitude: 58.0302 / 58°1'48"N

Longitude: -4.8776 / 4°52'39"W

OS Eastings: 230177

OS Northings: 908182

OS Grid: NC301081

Mapcode National: GBR G7BH.NJT

Mapcode Global: WH296.1FMB

Entry Name: Cnoc Chaornaidh, chambered cairn 570m WSW of

Scheduled Date: 23 December 1977

Last Amended: 23 November 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM4023

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 stony turf covered mound measuring around 13m in diameter and up to around 2.4m in height. The remains of a passage is visible facing toward the south southwest. The monument is located on a southwest facing hillslope and ridge below Cnoc Chaornaidh at around 190m above sea level.                                                                                 

The position of the entrance passage is indicated by very large orthostats (edge set, upright stones) visible within the body of the cairn. The entrance front of the cairn may have been an impressive facade as indicated by some large surviving stones exposed on this elevation of the cairn. The entrance passage appears to be curved and extends towards the centre of the cairn. The centre of the cairn is likely to contain a chamber as indicted by the passage and a depression in the centre of the cairn.

The scheduled area is circular with a diameter of 33m. 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 post and wire fence is specifically excluded from the schedule.

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 which is now covered in vegetation. Although some disturbance and collapse is evident, this has not significantly altered the overall profile of the cairn and the monument probably stands close to its original scale and appearance. It has a south-southwest facing façade, an entrance passage and probably an internal chamber. The position of the entrance and line of passageway indicate the passage was curved leading to a central burial chamber. The orthostats forming the sidewalls of the entrance passage and flanking the entrance on the façade are particularly large in size and could have formed an impressive façade and entranceway to the cairn. Much of the cairn appears largely undisturbed and it is highly likely that other features, such as the chamber, 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. The archaeological remains have 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 Cnoc Chaornaidh is important as an upstanding, well-preserved and partly undisturbed example. It is part of a wider group of chambered cairns in Glen Oykel. Of particular interest is the very close proximity of two other chambered cairns; Cnoc Chaornaidh, chambered cairn 570m SW of (SM4022; Canmore ID 4739), and Cnoc Chaornaidh, chambered cairn 180m NNE of, Stratheskie (SM4045; Canmore ID 4606). Both of these cairns are similar in type and features and they are all located on the same hillside ridge with similar outlooks across the valley. 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 Cnoc Chaornaidh is positioned on a southwest facing slope. It occupies a prominent position and is has extensive views to the west, south and southeast.

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 4738 (accessed on 06/09/2018).

Highland Historic Environment Record Reference: MHG7389 (accessed on 06/09/2018).

Henshall, A S. (1963). The chambered tombs of Scotland, vol. 1. Edinburgh. p. 344.

Mercer, R J. (1980). Archaeological field survey in northern Scotland, 1976-1979, University of Edinburgh, Department of Archaeology, Occasional Paper No. 4. Edinburgh. p. 152.


HER/SMR Reference

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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