Ancient Monuments

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Garvock, cairn 780m ENE of

A Scheduled Monument in Inverclyde South West, Inverclyde

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Latitude: 55.9051 / 55°54'18"N

Longitude: -4.7796 / 4°46'46"W

OS Eastings: 226333

OS Northings: 671485

OS Grid: NS263714

Mapcode National: GBR 34.0SM7

Mapcode Global: WH2MH.KT6Z

Entry Name: Garvock, cairn 780m ENE of

Scheduled Date: 25 March 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12829

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Inverkip

County: Inverclyde

Electoral Ward: Inverclyde South West

Traditional County: Renfrewshire


The monument comprises the remains of a cairn, built probably in the late Neolithic or Bronze Age, between 3000 and 1000 BC. It is visible as an irregular turf-covered mound and lies in moorland at about 225m above sea level. The cairn lies on the N slopes of Colaouse Hill and has extensive views to the north.

The upstanding remains of the cairn measure 9.5m N-S by 8.5 m transversely and stand to 0.9m in height. In the centre of the cairn is an irregular hollow, probably the result of antiquarian excavation, which gives a misleading impression of two chambers. The hollow measures 4.5m by 3.2m transversely.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around 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 suggests that many round cairns were used to cover and mark human burials and are late Neolithic or Bronze Age in origin, dating most commonly from the late third millennium BC to the early second millennium BC. Although there has been some disturbance to the centre of this cairn, much of the monument appears intact suggesting that archaeological information is likely to survive beneath its surface. One or more burials may survive, particularly as archaeologists often find burials away from the centres of cairns. 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 flintwork; comparable remains may exist beneath this cairn. These deposits 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 land surface that could provide evidence of the immediate environment before the monument was constructed, and 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, as well as the activities of archaeological researchers, 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, tending 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 radius of 2km, and may be related to the concentrations of late Neolithic or early Bronze Age pottery found during survey work around Loch Thom and Gryfe Reservoir and the many hut circles known in the area. One researcher has proposed that some of the simpler hut circles here are of late Neolithic or early Bronze Age date. 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 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 28. The WoSAS SMR records the site as WoSASPIN 5926.


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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