Ancient Monuments

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Kelly Bank Cottage, cairn 1200m ENE of

A Scheduled Monument in Inverclyde South West, Inverclyde

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Latitude: 55.8796 / 55°52'46"N

Longitude: -4.8506 / 4°51'2"W

OS Eastings: 221781

OS Northings: 668839

OS Grid: NS217688

Mapcode National: GBR 31.2N9X

Mapcode Global: WH2MN.GGDY

Entry Name: Kelly Bank Cottage, cairn 1200m ENE of

Scheduled Date: 25 March 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12843

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 with burial cist, built probably between 3000 and 1000 BC in the late Neolithic period or Bronze Age. The cairn is visible as a low turf-covered mound built partly into the hillside, and the cist as an arrangement of stones protruding though the turf at the centre of the mound. The monument lies at about 200m above sea level, in moorland on the W slopes of Berry Hill. It stands on gently sloping ground just below a ridge above the N side of the Kelly Glen.

The upstanding remains of the cairn measure 9m in diameter and stand to 0.3m in height. The cairn remains are most pronounced to the west, extending gradually into the slope where the ground rises to the east. The cist measures around 1.7m E-W by 0.9m externally. It is built of sub-angular cobbles and boulders that protrude up to 0.2m above the surface of the cairn.

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 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. This cairn preserves evidence of a burial cist, confirming that it marks the position of at least one burial. The cairn survives as an upstanding feature, suggesting that archaeological information is likely to exist beneath its surface. The excavation of similar mounds elsewhere in SW Scotland confirms 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. Additional undiscovered cist graves may also 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 and 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 often 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, the position and significance of cists in relation to contemporary agricultural land and settlement merits future detailed analysis.

This monument can be compared with three other cairns that lie within 1.7km, including a similar cairn with cist 90m to the north. In addition, nine cairns lie 6.5 km to the north-east, around Gryfe Reservoir. Survey work around the reservoir has revealed concentrations of late Neolithic or early Bronze Age pottery as well as several hut circles, and similar remains may exist in the vicinity of this 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 significant because it lies in close proximity to several comparable monuments and may represent a distinct type of cairn, smaller than those that have been excavated to date. 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



The monument lies within the Renfrewshire Heights SSSI and SPA.

On 3 March 2010 RCAHMS and the WoSAS SMR held no records on this monument. Scheduling Team is passing information on the monument to RCAHMS.


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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