Ancient Monuments

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Tordarroch, ring cairn 250m east of

A Scheduled Monument in Aird and Loch Ness, Highland

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Latitude: 57.3728 / 57°22'22"N

Longitude: -4.1964 / 4°11'46"W

OS Eastings: 268020

OS Northings: 833503

OS Grid: NH680335

Mapcode National: GBR J907.GHF

Mapcode Global: WH4GW.HYYB

Entry Name: Tordarroch, ring cairn 250m E of

Scheduled Date: 29 August 2007

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM11559

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: ring cairn

Location: Daviot and Dunlichity

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Aird and Loch Ness

Traditional County: Inverness-shire


The monument comprises the remains of a ring cairn of Early Bronze Age date belonging to the so-called Clava group of funerary and ritual monuments. It lies in improved pasture, on a plateau at approximately 195m above sea level.

The ring cairn measures 20m in diameter, within a kerb of stones up to 1.3m in height. The N arc has been destroyed. The centre of cairn is disturbed and robbed of stone. There is a flat slab on the SW whose upper surface measures 1.8m by 1.5m. It bears at least 36 cupmarks (pecked and/or ground depressions) measuring up to 75mm across and 25mm deep with one oblong cup measuring 100mm long by 75mm broad. Around the cairn, at a distance of 7m from it, there is a circle of monoliths; eight stones remain, one on the WSW has fallen. The tallest stone is on the SW, measuring 2.25m in height.

A drainage ditch crosses the cairn on the E and a wall on the SW. A post-and-wire fence passes close to the SW stone in the outer ring of monoliths. The ring cairn is within sight of two further cupmarked stones at NH 67912 33621 and NH 67925 33622.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, to include the visible remains and an area around in which evidence relating to the construction and use of the site may be expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling excludes the above-ground portions of the existing fencing, the existing drainage ditch and associated pipework, silt trap and top cover-plates crossing the monument, to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics: Despite past disturbance and erosion, the monument retains important field characteristics that clearly identify it as belonging to this relatively rare class of monument. 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. Elements of the inner and outer kerbs of the cairn are present and the open central area is clear. Though largely ruined it is evident that the monument had been particularly impressive, covering a larger area and employing more massive stones than is usual in the Clava cairns. The monument as a whole is still clearly visible in the landscape and the monument potentially preserves archaeological deposits relating to prehistoric burial rites.

Contextual characteristics: The site's surviving field characteristics, with the tallest monoliths at the SW, and its location on a SW-NE oriented valley floor close to a river, identify it as a Clava-type ring cairn, a class of Early Bronze Age funerary monument peculiar to the NE of Scotland. Clava cairns are a small, regionally defined group of 50 or so prehistoric monuments which are only found in the Inverness and Moray Firth area, particularly along river valleys and low ground south of the Firth. Examples generally include components of stone circles, ring cairns and passage graves. Comparing this monument with nearby prehistoric funerary monuments and others outwith the region would therefore improve our understanding of regional identity and society. Prehistoric rock art is often found on and near Clava cairns. Two cupmarked stones are located 175m NW, within sight of the ring cairn, and are likely to form part of the same prehistoric 'ritual' complex.

Associative characteristics: It is the view of most prehistorians that there was an intimate relationship between the religious beliefs expressed by monuments such as Tordarroch, the surrounding landscape and the movements of the main astronomical bodies (these cairns share a common orientation to the S and SW, which correlates with movements of the sun and moon across the southern sky). This astronomical link continues to generate considerable interest today. The number of Clava cairn cemeteries within Strathnairn indicates that the valley had special importance in the Early Bronze Age.

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 an upstanding monument with the potential to reveal much about funerary and ritual practice in the prehistoric communities of NE Scotland. The loss of the monument would affect our future ability to appreciate and understand the prehistoric landscape and its inhabitants.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the monument as NH63NW 3; Highland Council SMR as NH63SE0003.


RCAHMS, NH63SE 3, Tordarroch Stone Circle and chambered cairn from SW, N/18.

RCAHMS, NH63SE 3,86,16 Tordarroch Stone circle; cairn: ring; cup-markings 6790 3363; building 6798; enclosure 3380, C26297.

RCAHMS, NH63SE 3, Tordarroch Stone Circle; Cairn: ring, C26293.


Bradley R 2000, THE GOOD STONES: A NEW INVESTIGATION OF THE CLAVA CAIRNS, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland monograph series No. 17, Edinburgh, 7, 176, 178, 182, 184.

Fraser J 1884, 'Descriptive notes on the stone circles of Strathnairn and neighbourhood of Inverness', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 18, 331-2.

Henshall A S 1963, THE CHAMBERED TOMBS OF SCOTLAND, 1, Edinburgh, 385, INV 48.

Jolly W 1882, 'On cup-marked stones in the neighbourhood of Inverness; with an appendix on cup-marked stones in the Western Islands', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 16, 324-5.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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