Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Loch of Freester, chambered cairn 100m south east of Old Trafford

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland North, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.2674 / 60°16'2"N

Longitude: -1.1875 / 1°11'15"W

OS Eastings: 445052

OS Northings: 1153965

OS Grid: HU450539

Mapcode National: GBR R1FL.LJ4

Mapcode Global: XHD2S.Y6G5

Entry Name: Loch of Freester, chambered cairn 100m SE of Old Trafford

Scheduled Date: 30 December 1974

Last Amended: 9 August 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3595

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: chambered cairn

Location: Nesting

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland North

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises the front part of a heel-shaped chambered cairn of the Neolithic period, built probably between 4000 and 2500 BC. It is visible as low turf-covered mound that measures around 10.5m E-W by 5.8m transversely and stands 0.8m high. Several large stones protrude through the turf, defining a slightly concave S façade. An upright stone stands at the W corner and four more stones lie on their sides. Near the E side, three stones in a line running N-S may represent an internal wall face. The cairn stands 20m above sea level on a knoll that dominates the head of Cat Firth, lying 350m to the west. The monument was first scheduled in 1974, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, measuring 30.5m E-W by 26m transversely. The scheduling includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may 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

The monument is in a stable condition and retains its form to a significant degree, despite having been robbed of stone in more recent times. Some localised rabbit burrowing has brought burnt bone to the surface on the W side, suggesting that the site has not been investigated by antiquarians and that burials may survive in situ. The monument retains several interesting features, including the curving line of stones revetting the S façade, and the cairn is likely to preserve evidence for its development sequence.

Chambered cairns are Neolithic in origin, dating most commonly from the third and fourth millennia BC. Excavation elsewhere suggests that they were used over a lengthy period and housed the remains of multiple individuals. Despite the removal of stone from this cairn, significant archaeological information is likely to survive beneath its surface. The excavation of similar mounds elsewhere in Scotland shows that cairns might be adapted over time and also form a focus for burial in later periods. Buried deposits associated with cairns can help us understand more about the practice and significance of burial and commemorating the dead at specific points in prehistory. They may also help us to understand the changing structure of society in the area. In addition, the cairn is likely to overlie and seal a buried ground surface that could provide evidence of the immediate environment before the monument was constructed. Botanical remains including pollen or charred plant material may survive within archaeological deposits deriving from the cairn's construction and use. This evidence can help us build up a picture of climate, vegetation and agriculture in the area before and during construction and use of the cairn.

Contextual characteristics

Heel-shaped cairns are a rare and distinctive form of chambered cairn found in the Shetland Islands. This example also has particular interest because of its location in a landscape rich in prehistoric monuments, including other cairns and settlement remains. There are cairns 0.4km to the ENE and 0.6km to the SE, a standing stone 1.8km to the NE, and homesteads 2km to the WSW, 1km to the E and 1.2km to the NE. Across Scotland, cairns are commonly positioned to see from and to be seen and are often inter-visible. The position and significance of this cairn in relation to contemporary agricultural land and settlement is likely to be significant and merits future detailed analysis. Given the many prehistoric sites in the area, this monument has the potential to further our understanding not just of funerary site location and practice, but also of the structure of early prehistoric society and economy.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, particularly the design and construction of burial monuments, the nature of burial practices and their significance in prehistoric and later society. Buried evidence from cairns can also enhance our knowledge about wider prehistoric society, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contact with. This monument is particularly valuable because it lies in a landscape where there is a variety of prehistoric monuments, including settlements and other cairns. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape and the meaning and importance of death and burial in prehistoric life.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland




Henshall, A S, 1963 The Chambered Tombs of Scotland, vol 1. Edinburgh. 588.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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