Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Little Heog, cairn, 605m north west of Hagdale

A Scheduled Monument in North Isles, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.7762 / 60°46'34"N

Longitude: -0.8335 / 0°50'0"W

OS Eastings: 463634

OS Northings: 1210918

OS Grid: HP636109

Mapcode National: GBR S098.0NF

Mapcode Global: XHF75.LD5P

Entry Name: Little Heog, cairn, 605m NW of Hagdale

Scheduled Date: 16 November 1976

Last Amended: 17 August 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3896

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Unst

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: North Isles

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises the remains of a burial cairn of probable late Neolithic or Bronze Age date (between around 3000 and 1000 BC). It is visible as a low, roughly circular mound of stones, partly turf-covered, about 13m in diameter and standing up to 1m high. The cairn lies at 124m above sea level on the summit of Little Heog hill, with panoramic views of the surrounding hills and seawards to Harold's Wick bay and Balta Sound. The monument was first scheduled in 1976, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, measuring 37.5m in diameter, centred on the monument. 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 remains of the cairn are in stable condition, although there has been some modern disturbance: two small walkers' cairns have been erected to the E and W of the centre and an area of burning on the edge of the cairn is probably from a bonfire. Some cairn material lies slightly down the slope to the N and E.

Excavation suggests that round cairns were often 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 this cairn, much of the monument appears intact suggesting that important archaeological information is likely to survive beneath its surface. One or more burials may survive, positioned either centrally or away from the centre. The excavation of similar mounds elsewhere in Scotland shows that cairns often incorporate or overlie grave pits or pits containing cist settings, skeletal remains in the form of cremations or inhumations, pottery and stone tools. These deposits can 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 and 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

Cairns are well represented in the Shetland Islands, but this example has particular interest because of its location close to other cairns and its landscape position on a ridge overlooking the bays at Harold's Wick and Balta Sound. Two chambered cairns, one heel-shaped, lie around 0.5 km to the W of this monument at Muckle Heog. Across Scotland, cairns seem to be positioned so that they are highly visible and they are often inter-visible. 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. 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 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, 1946 The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Twelfth report with an inventory of the ancient monuments of Orkney and Shetland, 3v Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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