Ancient Monuments

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Scotsburn House, chambered cairn 400m NNW of Scotsburn Bridge

A Scheduled Monument in Tain and Easter Ross, Highland

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Latitude: 57.757 / 57°45'25"N

Longitude: -4.1607 / 4°9'38"W

OS Eastings: 271529

OS Northings: 876191

OS Grid: NH715761

Mapcode National: GBR J836.T16

Mapcode Global: WH4F5.2908

Entry Name: Scotsburn House, chambered cairn 400m NNW of Scotsburn Bridge

Scheduled Date: 1 December 1975

Last Amended: 16 January 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3750

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: chambered cairn

Location: Logie Easter

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Tain and Easter Ross


The monument is the remains of a chambered cairn dating from the Neolithic period to early Bronze Age (between 3800 and 2500 BC) and is visible as a mound of earth measuring approximately 12m in diameter with large projecting stones. The monument is located on a knoll, 135m east of Balnagown River, at around 125m above sea level.

The monument is an Orkney-Cromarty type chambered cairn, a diverse group of cairns distributed across northern Scotland and the Orkney Isles which are characterised by a single long chamber, divided into stall-like "compartments" by stone uprights. Near the centre of this cairn are two large slabs set on edge, each approximately 1m high and 0.75m wide, marking the position of the central chamber. Around 4m west of the chamber, a large stone slab, over 2.5m long and 1m wide, resting on two small boulders, is possibly a lintel and indicates the remains of the cairn passage. Immediately west of the lintel, the cairn edge is marked by at least three small kerb stones protruding from the ground. The monument is located at the eastern edge of Strath Rory on a hillside with open views over the Cromarty Firth to the east and south.

The scheduled area is circular on plan, measuring 37m in diameter and 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 is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

Much of the overlying cairn material has been removed from this site in the past, perhaps associated with the construction of a nearby dun in the Iron Age. Despite this historic disturbance, key internal components survive. These include upright slabs indicating the location of the passage and chamber of the cairn, a possible lintel and remains of the kerb. The above ground remains are around 12m in diameter but ta slight slope around the cairn indicates that it may have originally been 17-20m in diameter.

As parts of the chamber of the cairn appears to survive and as there is no record of excavation at this site, significant archaeological deposits are expected to survive. Excavations of chambered cairns elsewhere show the continuing potential for undisturbed deposits including evidence of earlier structures, human burials and artefacts and ecofacts such as pottery, flints and bone, within, beneath and around the upstanding structure of such cairns. Scientific study would allow further understanding of the chronology of the site, including its date of origin, state of completeness and any possible development sequence.

The cairn dates from the late Neolithic to early Bronze Age (around 3800 to 2500 BC) and its original function was as a burial or funerary site although it may also have had other ceremonial or ritual uses for the local community. It is likely to have been a prominent place for the local community and would have been a focal point in the landscape. This example helps us understand more about ritual and funerary practice, the architecture of prehistoric burial and the construction, use and abandonment of these monuments.

Contextual Characteristics

Orkney-Cromarty cairns are found only in north and west Scotland, with the greatest concentration in Orkney. Their design is particularly interesting because the shape and form, with subdivisions formed by upright slabs, is comparable with contemporary house forms e.g. Knap of Howar, Orkney. It is likely that this was deliberate, with the tombs representing 'houses for the dead'. This cairn is an interesting example as it has never been excavated and the chamber appears reasonably intact.

Scotsburn House cairn is one of a group of well-preserved burial monuments lying relatively close to the coast between Brora and Beauly. Many lie close together, which can give insights into the nature of the Neolithic landscape and add to our understanding of social organisation, land division and land-use. This example is one of a small group of cairns in the Scotsburn area, the others located between 900m and 1500m to the northwest (scheduled monument reference SM2914, SM2915 and SM2916, Canmore ID14577). In addition, a large Iron Age roundhouse lies adjacent to the cairn (scheduled monument reference SM375, Canmore ID 14578), and the cairn may have provided construction material for the roundhouse and influenced its siting in this location. There is high potential to carry out spatial and landscape analysis of this cairn in comparison others nearby, and other prehistoric monuments in the vicinity, which could enhance our understanding of the placing of such sites in the landscape and the organisation, division and use of land.

Chambered cairns are often placed in conspicuous locations within the landscape, at the edge of arable land and overlooking or inter-visible with other ritual monuments. This cairn sits on the east side of the entrance to Strath Rory, overlooking the Balnagown River. There are open views across the adjacent landscape to the coast in the southeast and in the opposite direction lie the surrounding hills. The focus appears to be over the hillside towards the coast, as do the other cairns situated in this area.

Associative Characteristics

There are no known associative characteristics which contribute to the site's cultural significance.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance as it makes a significant contribution to our understanding of design and construction of prehistoric burial monuments, and the nature of belief systems and burial practices during the late Neolithic and Bronze Age within northern Scotland. The monument retains its field characteristics including details such as the remains of a chamber and kerb, allowing us to interpret its form, function and position in the landscape. It can be compared with a varied group of other chambered cairns that survive in the immediate vicinity and more widely along the Cromarty Firth. Chambered cairns are often our main source of evidence for the Neolithic in Scotland, and are important for our understanding of Neolithic society and economy, and as well as the nature of burial practices and belief systems.  They are an important component of the wider prehistoric landscape of settlement, agriculture and ritual. The loss of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the meaning and importance of death and burial in Neolithic times and the placing of cairns within the landscape.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 14579 (accessed on 31/05/2016).

Highland Council Historic Environment Record reference is MHG 8626 (accessed on 31/05/2016).

Henshall, A S 1972, The chambered tombs of Scotland, vol. 2. Edinburgh. Page 568.

RCAHMS 1979 The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. The archaeological sites and monuments of Easter Ross, Ross and Cromarty District, Highland Region, The archaeological sites and monuments of Scotland series no 6. Edinburgh. Page: 9, No. 21.


HER/SMR Reference

MHG 8626

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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