Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Gallow Hillock, cairn on Backlass Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Wick and East Caithness, Highland

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Latitude: 58.468 / 58°28'4"N

Longitude: -3.3646 / 3°21'52"W

OS Eastings: 320493

OS Northings: 954115

OS Grid: ND204541

Mapcode National: GBR L61B.ZBR

Mapcode Global: WH6DB.9F16

Entry Name: Gallow Hillock, cairn on Backlass Hill

Scheduled Date: 3 December 1938

Last Amended: 12 August 2005

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM450

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Watten

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Wick and East Caithness

Traditional County: Caithness


The monument is a prehistoric cairn visible as a grass covered mound. The monument was first scheduled in 1938, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The monument is visible as a grass-covered mound situated at 110m OD on the top of Backlass Hill. It is circular, 1.2m in height with maximum dimensions 24m NE-SW by 21m transversely. The mound rises to a flat top with a diameter of c.11m.

Historical mapping shows the presence of an old market stance, and it may be that the cairn was indeed reused as a gallows hill in the Middle Ages, as part of an area used for markets and the administration of justice.

The area to be scheduled is a circle 40m in diameter centred on the centre of the cairn, to include the cairn and an area around in which evidence relating to its construction and use may survive, as marked in red on the accompanying map. The above-ground portion of the triangulation pillar, situated on the NE side of the cairn, is excluded from scheduling.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

This monument is of national importance because of its potential to contribute to our understanding of prehistoric ritual and funerary practices: it is likely to contain at least one central burial as well as secondary burials dug into the mound. A mound of this size should also cover an area of prehistoric land surface, which would have the potential to enhance considerably our understanding of prehistoric environmental conditions.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



The monument is recorded by RCAHMS as ND25SW2.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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