Ancient Monuments

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Culdoich, ring cairn 490m north west of

A Scheduled Monument in Inverness South, Highland

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Latitude: 57.4671 / 57°28'1"N

Longitude: -4.0837 / 4°5'1"W

OS Eastings: 275115

OS Northings: 843782

OS Grid: NH751437

Mapcode National: GBR J89Z.L3X

Mapcode Global: WH4GK.7LM1

Entry Name: Culdoich, ring cairn 490m NW of

Scheduled Date: 28 December 1971

Last Amended: 21 March 2007

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3091

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: ring cairn

Location: Croy and Dalcross

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Inverness South

Traditional County: Inverness-shire


The monument comprises the remains of a ring cairn and a single, fallen standing stone located at the S end of an Early Bronze-Age cemetery at Clava. This complex of ritual monuments extends over 1 km along a flat terrace immediately to the S of the river Nairn, at 115m above sea level. The upstanding remains survive as an unploughed island within a cultivated field. The monument was first scheduled in 1971, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains; the present scheduling rectifies this.

The cairn is roughly circular in plan (approximately 20 m in diameter), visible as a sub-circular outer kerb of stones and boulders with an interior kerb of split stones, including a lot of sandstone blocks. Some of the cairn material between these has been removed and there is evidence of small-scale sand and gravel works on the monument, noted as far back as 1884. Professor Stuart Piggott excavated parts of the interior of the cairn in 1952-3, recovering evidence for charcoal and cremations, and the subsequent 'closing' of the cairn with a layer of rubble. The monolith lies about 10 m to the SW of the outer kerb. Both this and at least one of the kerb stones have two cupmarks pecked into their visible outer surfaces.

The area to be scheduled is a clipped circle on plan, to include the visible remains and an area around them in which traces of associated activity may be expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics: From the excavation of related monuments we now understand that the remains associated with ring cairns can include stone platforms enclosed by a circle or 'kerb' of stones, larger surrounding stone circles and rubble banks or 'rays' joining them as well as other features, and that they have a complex history of development. So, despite the fact that much of the interior of this cairn has been excavated in the 1950s, the monument still has the potential to include well-preserved remains that can help us to better understand the construction and use of this site. It is also likely to seal information about the prehistoric environment that existed at the time of its construction and use. Key structural characteristics - the kerbs and a standing stone - are still preserved and visible. Recent archaeological fieldwork under the direction of Professor Richard Bradley has highlighted the significance over the selection, position and orientation of kerbstones and this has been noted by other researchers at Culdoich. The monument therefore has a good potential to contribute to future understanding of Early Bronze-Age funerary and ritual practices.

Contextual characteristics: This monument is an example of a small, regionally-defined group of 50 or so prehistoric monuments, known as Clava cairns, which are only found in the Inverness and Moray Firth area, particularly along river valleys and low ground S of the Firth. Examples generally include components of stone circles, ring cairns and passage graves. Culdoich is an example of the close association of such monuments with water courses (two streams close to it). The monuments at Balnuaran of Clava are the type-site, and Culdoich currently forms the southwesternmost limit of an extensive, rare and very important cemetery that we believe was conceived as a unitary phenomenon. New evidence for the elements of this cemetery and its extent have recently been found. The monuments tend to have a dominant position in relation to the immediate location only.

Associative characteristics: It is the view of most prehistorians that there was an intimate relationship between the religious beliefs expressed by monuments such as Culdoich, the surrounding landscape and the movements of the main astronomical bodies. This astronomical link continues to generate considerable interest today. The importance of the relict prehistoric landscape that includes Culdoich is recognised by the fact that many of its component monuments are in the care of the Scottish Ministers. Along with nearby sites such as Culloden and Fort George, these are major tourist attractions.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it represents a rare and regionally-distinctive class of Early Bronze-Age monument that can help us to understand burial and ritual practices in NE Scotland and their relationship to what is happening elsewhere in the British Isles. It is a key component of an extensive and well-preserved cemetery and has the potential to provide important information about the activities that took place here and how these contribute to the development of this ceremonial landscape as a whole.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NH74SE2; Highland SMR as NH74SE0002.

Aerial photographs:

PA 5772/14A. Possible date of 14/06/1970.

PA 5772/14B. Possible date of 14/06/1970.


Barber J 1982a, 'A fallen stone at the ring cairn of Culdoich, Clava, Inverness-shire', GLASGOW ARCHAEOL J 9, 31-7.

Barber J 1982b, 'Culdoich (Croy and Dalcross parish) ring cairn and stone circle', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT 14.

Bradley R 2000, THE GOOD STONES: A NEW INVESTIGATION OF THE CLAVA CAIRNS, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland monograph series No. 17, Edinburgh.

Burl H A W 1973a, 'The recumbent stone circles of North-East Scotland', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 102, 77.

Burl H A W 1973b, 'Stone circles and ring-cairns', SCOTT ARCHAEOL FORUM 4, 31-47.

Fraser J 1884, 'Descriptive notes on the stone circles of Strathnairn and neighbourhood of Inverness', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 18, 350.

Henshall A S 1963, THE CHAMBERED TOMBS OF SCOTLAND, Vol. 1, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Piggott S 1956, 'Excavations in passage-graves and ring-cairns of the Clava group', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 88, 190-2, 207.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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