Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Muiredge, cairn 1050m west of

A Scheduled Monument in Inverclyde Central, Inverclyde

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Latitude: 55.9052 / 55°54'18"N

Longitude: -4.7526 / 4°45'9"W

OS Eastings: 228023

OS Northings: 671428

OS Grid: NS280714

Mapcode National: GBR 35.0SSC

Mapcode Global: WH2MH.ZT0X

Entry Name: Muiredge, cairn 1050m W of

Scheduled Date: 24 February 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12854

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Greenock

County: Inverclyde

Electoral Ward: Inverclyde Central

Traditional County: Renfrewshire


The monument comprises the remains of a cairn built probably between 3000 and 1000 BC, in the late Neolithic or Bronze Age. It is visible as a prominent stony mound and lies within a forestry plantation at about 210m above sea level. The ground slopes down gently to the north and east into the valley of the Gryfe Water.

The upstanding remains of the cairn are oval on plan, measure 14.5m E-W by 13m transversely and stand up to 2m in height. The top of the cairn is almost flat and measures around 4m by 3m.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, to include 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

Excavation elsewhere suggests that many round cairns were used to cover and mark human burials in the Neolithic or Bronze Age and that they date most commonly from the late third millennium BC to the early second millennium BC. This cairn appears to be extremely well-preserved and there are no signs of earlier disturbance except for a forest drain that skirts the western edge of the visible remains. This excellent preservation suggests that significant archaeological information is likely to survive within and beneath the cairn. The excavation of similar mounds elsewhere in SW Scotland shows that cairns often incorporate or overlie graves or pits containing cist settings, skeletal remains in the form of cremations or inhumations, and artefacts such as pottery and flint work. Comparable remains may exist beneath this cairn. These deposits can help us to 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 land surface that could provide evidence of the immediate environment before and when 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

This monument belongs to a diverse group of up to 86 known or possible cairns in the former county of Renfrewshire, including some that have been destroyed by modern land use since they were recorded. The cairns cluster at between 200m and 300m above sea level, on the NE fringe of the uplands that define the southern edge of the Clyde Valley. The intensive use of the lowlands for agriculture, housing and industry, and the selection of areas for archaeological research, have influenced the distribution pattern we see today and it seems certain that cairns would originally have been a feature of the lowlands as well as the uplands. Cairns seem to be positioned for visibility both to and from the site. They tend to be located on hill tops, false crests and ridges and are generally inter-visible. In this area, their position and significance in relation to contemporary agricultural land and settlement merits future detailed analysis.

This monument can be compared with eight other cairns that lie within a distance of 2km. In addition, concentrations of late Neolithic or early Bronze Age pottery have been found during survey work around Loch Thom and Gryfe Reservoir, and many hut circles are known in the area, including a group recorded only 150m to the north of this site. It has been proposed that some of the simpler hut circles here are of late Neolithic or early Bronze Age date and may therefore be contemporary with the cairn. The monument can also be compared with excavated examples further afield, such as the cairn at East Green Farm, Kilmacolm, where at least two Bronze Age funerary urns were found, and that at South Mound of Houston, where the cairn covered a cist grave containing cremated human bone, a flint knife and a Bronze Age food vessel. Cairns were often long-lived foci of religious or funerary activity and have the potential to contain secondary burials. This longevity is demonstrated at South Mound of Houston, where the cairn re-used the location of a group of Neolithic pits and lay close to a probable cist cemetery. Given the many comparable 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. Skeletal remains and artefacts 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 appears to survive in excellent condition and lies in a landscape where there are several other cairns and settlement sites. 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



RCAHMS record the site as NS27SE 19. The WoSAS SMR records the site as WoSASPIN 5916.


Alexander, D (ed) 1996, Prehistoric Renfrewshire; Papers in Honour of Frank Newall, Renfrewshire Local History Forum.

Newall, F 1962, 'Early open settlement in Renfrewshire', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 95 (1961-2), 159-70.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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