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Nether Largie South, chambered cairn 120m south of Nether Largie

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Argyll, Argyll and Bute

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Latitude: 56.1246 / 56°7'28"N

Longitude: -5.4951 / 5°29'42"W

OS Eastings: 182861

OS Northings: 697932

OS Grid: NR828979

Mapcode National: GBR DDTJ.FQC

Mapcode Global: WH0HX.KBH5

Entry Name: Nether Largie South, chambered cairn 120m S of Nether Largie

Scheduled Date: 15 August 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13299

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: chambered cairn

Location: Kilmartin

County: Argyll and Bute

Electoral Ward: Mid Argyll

Traditional County: Argyllshire


The monument is a burial cairn of Neolithic date with Bronze Age modifications, in use sometime between 4000 BC and 1000 BC. It is visible as a low mound of stones measuring about 34m by 27m and standing to about 1m high. The cairn, which is reported to have had a diameter of about 40m, was robbed of stone in the 19th century revealing a Clyde-type central chamber and two secondary cists. The chamber is aligned with its entrance facing NE. It measures 1.9m in breadth at the entrance, tapering to 1m wide at the SW end, and it is 6.1m in length. It is divided into four compartments by three transverse slabs. Excavations by Reverend Greenwell in 1864 found a series of burial deposits and artefacts dating from the Neolithic to Bronze Age. The chamber has been cleared and is now open to view. Of the two cists found in the cairn material, the most northerly is no longer visible but is recorded as measuring 1.6m in length by 0.94m in breadth. It contained fragments of food vessels. The second is situated about 8.5m to the SSW and is exposed to view along with its massive capstone. It is formed of four large slabs and measures 1.15m by 0.8m with a depth of 0.83m. On excavation it was found to be empty. The cairn is located on flat pasture land of the Kilmartin Valley floor.

The scheduled area is circular on plan, measuring 65m in diameter, centred on the cairn. The scheduled area includes the remains described above and an area around them within which associated remains are expected to survive. The scheduled area specifically excludes the above-ground elements of the boundary fences enclosing the monument and the above-ground elements of the interpretation panel to allow for their maintenance.

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics:

Excavations elsewhere have demonstrated that chambered cairns were in use between around 4000 BC and 1500 BC, although the Clyde-type cairn form dates predominantly to the third millennium BC. They were used for communal burial over a long period of time and often reveal evidence of complex development sequences. This chamber at Nether Largie has several features typical of the Clyde group. A series of orthostats has been placed to form an almost parallel-sided gallery and the walls were further built up by the use of drystone masonry, slightly corbelled at the upper courses to reduce the span of the roof. The entrance is flanked by two portal stones and the interior of the chamber is divided into compartments by transverse stone slabs. The stone slabs, recorded in 1894 as 0.8m high, would allow access to the rear chamber rather than sealing them. Excavation evidence also suggests that the chamber was used as a mausoleum with interments deposited over an extended period of time and, in some cases, the bones were sorted and piled into groups (of skulls or long bones), perhaps to make space for new interments.

Clyde-type cairns are predominantly long or trapezoidal in shape. Some are round, but it is likely that this cairn was modified to this shape during the Bronze Age in order to cover the two later cists. Overall, the monument has the inherent potential to inform our understanding of Neolithic funerary architecture, burial practice and ritual, and the re-use of monuments into the Bronze Age. In addition, although the monument was subjected to scientific excavation in the late 1920s, advances in archaeological techniques mean that the monument still retains high potential for the preservation of buried remains. As well as additional and as yet undiscovered burials, undisturbed archaeological layers offer excellent potential for the preservation of ancient botanical remains which can help us to ascertain the nature of the climate, vegetation and agriculture in the area when the cairn was in use.

Contextual characteristics

Across Scotland, burial cairns are often inter-visible and sometimes seem to have been positioned specifically to maximise their visual impact. They are usually located on low ground in valleys and on the edges of higher ground, close to important route ways and agricultural land. Argyll cairns are often components of a ritual landscape created over many centuries, demonstrating the re-use and veneration of earlier foci of ritual activity. Clusters of cairns may point to areas of the landscape where power and wealth was concentrated, perhaps generated in part through the control of trade and exchange. Cairns have additional importance because they are the most prominent remains of early societies, whose domestic houses, farms and field systems have so far proved difficult to identify in the archaeological record.

This cairn is situated in Kilmartin Glen, which contains one of the densest concentrations of prehistoric ceremonial and burial monuments in Scotland. It is one of a series of burial monuments aligned along the valley floor, which are not only inter-visible with each other, but also have a clear line of sight to standing stones or stone circles and rock art.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

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 society. This monument is particularly valuable because it is well preserved and has the potential to inform our understanding of the re-use of burial monuments and the importance of place over a very long period of time. In addition, the cairn is of interest because of its location within the Kilmartin Valley, which contains one of the densest concentrations of ceremonial and ritual monuments in Scotland. 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 ritual, death and burial in prehistoric life.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as NR89NW 2. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service SMR reference is 4151. This monument is in the care of Scottish Ministers.


Campbell and Sandeman, M and M (1964) 'Mid Argyll: an archaeological survey', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol. 95, p. 11, no. 59.

Craw, J H (1930) 'Excavations at Dunadd and at other sites on the Poltalloch Estates, Argyll', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol. 64, p. 130.

Greenwell, W (1868) 'An account of excavations in cairns near Crinan', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol. 6, p. 341-7.

Henshall, A S (1972a) The chambered tombs of Scotland, vol. 2, p. 335-40, ARG 23. Edinburgh.

RCAHMS (1988a) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the monuments, vol. 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, prehistoric and early historic monuments, p. 21, 23, 25, 48-51, no. 19, photos (A, B, C), 49; plan (A, B, C), 50. Edinburgh.

Ritchie, G (1997d) 'Monuments associated with burial and ritual in Argyll', in Ritchie, G, The archaeology of Argyll, p. 68, 76, 78, 82. Edinburgh.
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Nether Largie South Cairn
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Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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