Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Ladie Hill, cairn 325m east of 1 Gossaford

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland North, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.3992 / 60°23'57"N

Longitude: -1.3432 / 1°20'35"W

OS Eastings: 436295

OS Northings: 1168546

OS Grid: HU362685

Mapcode National: GBR R117.TH4

Mapcode Global: XHD1Y.XWB6

Entry Name: Ladie Hill, cairn 325m E of 1 Gossaford

Scheduled Date: 20 December 1974

Last Amended: 17 August 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3558

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Delting

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland North

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument is a burial cairn dating probably from the Neolithic or Bronze Age, sometime between 4000 and 1000 BC. It is visible as low, circular, turf-covered mound, with several stones protruding through the turf. The mound is 14m in diameter and stands 0.7m high. There is a shallow depression towards the centre of the cairn where traces of a central structure are visible. The remains of a later dry stone structure in a 'figure of 8' shape overlie the cairn on the SE side. The cairn stands at about 30m above sea level in improved grassland on the lower slopes of Ladie Hill. It offers views to the west over lower ground, particularly the narrow neck of land that separates the heads of Sullom Voe and Busta Voe. The monument was first scheduled in 1974, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, 34m in diameter, centred on the centre of 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

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 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 Scotland shows that cairns often incorporate or overlie graves or pits containing cist settings, skeletal remains in the form of cremations or inhumations, pottery and stone tools. These deposits can help us understand more about the practice and significance of burial and commemorating the dead at different times 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. 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, and following its abandonment.

Contextual characteristics

Cairns are well represented in Shetland, but this example has particular interest because of its location close to several other cairns and its landscape position close to the heads of two large voes that link the east and west coasts of Mainland. The chambered cairn at Bays Water lies 3 km WSW of this monument and a pair of cairns, including one heel-shaped example, lie 1.1 km to the south at Hill of Burravoe. Across Scotland, cairns seem to be located in positions with good visibility and where they can themselves be seen, and they are generally inter-visible. Here, there is no line of sight to the nearby cairns, but the cairn is inter-visible with the massive Busta standing stone, 1.8 km to the SW on the opposite shore of Busta Voe. The position and significance of this cairn in relation to contemporary agricultural land and settlement is likely to be significant and merits future detailed analysis. Several prehistoric houses lie within 3 km of this site and have the potential to contribute to this analysis. 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 is located 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 rituals and importance of death and burial in prehistoric life.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland




RCAHMS 1946 Twelfth Report with an Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Orkney and Shetland, 10.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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