Ancient Monuments

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Cairn Irenan, chambered cairn

A Scheduled Monument in Black Isle, Highland

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Latitude: 57.538 / 57°32'16"N

Longitude: -4.3961 / 4°23'45"W

OS Eastings: 256661

OS Northings: 852296

OS Grid: NH566522

Mapcode National: GBR H8JS.T73

Mapcode Global: WH3DW.FSVN

Entry Name: Cairn Irenan, chambered cairn

Scheduled Date: 29 December 1971

Last Amended: 10 May 2016

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3122

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: chambered cairn

Location: Killearnan

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Black Isle

Traditional County: Ross-shire


The monument is a chambered cairn surrounded by the remains of a stone circle, dating from the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age (fourth to third millennia BC). It is visible as an outer kerb of stones about 13m in overall diameter and a smaller inner kerb around the centre of the cairn. Eight monoliths form a stone circle measuring 22m in diameter around the cairn. The monument is located within garden ground on the crest of the natural ridgeline of Kilcoy at around 155m above sea level.

The burial cairn is a Clava cairn, a type only found in the Inverness-shire area. These are circular chambered cairns, sometimes with a surrounding stone circle, named after a collection of cairns at Balnuaran of Clava near Inverness. The cairn has a largely complete outer kerb formed by a circuit of boulders measuring 0.4m-1.2m tall. The inner kerb, centred on the cairn and forming the chamber, is sub-oval in plan and measures 4.25m by 3.25m, formed by smaller boulders each measuring 0.2m-0.6m tall. On the south-southwest of the cairn, an entrance passage, 0.6m wide, leads to the chamber. Two displaced lintels which formed the passage roof now lie across the passageway. The stone circle around the cairn comprises eight large boulders, four of which remain erect as standing stones and the tallest measures 1.8m in height.

The scheduled area, centred on the monument, is circular on plan and measures 30m in diameter. The scheduled area 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. The post-and-wire fences and the electricity pole with associated anchor are excluded from the scheduling. The monument was first scheduled in 1971, but the documentation did not meet current standards: the present amendment rectifies this.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance because of its potential to make a significant addition to our knowledge and understanding of the past, particularly the design and construction of burial monuments, and the nature of belief systems and burial practices during the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age in Ross and Cromarty. It retains its field characteristics to a marked degree including the surviving structural form of stone kerbs, passageway and remains of a stone circle. There is no record of any previous excavation, suggesting high potential for the survival of important archaeological evidence. The well-defined field characteristics of this cairn allow us to interpret its form, function and position in the landscape.  The monument, together with other broadly contemporary sites in the vicinity, can give insights into the nature of the Neolithic landscape and add to our understanding of social organisation, land use and ritual within Ross and Cromarty in the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age.  Clava type cairns are only situated in the Inverness-shire area and loss of the monument from within this relatively small distribution area would significantly diminish our ability to appreciate and understand structures and practices associated with death and burial in prehistory.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 12824 (accessed on 04/05/2016).

Bradley, R. et al. 2000, The Good Stones: a new investigation of the Clava Cairns. Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Monograph Series Number 17, Edinburgh.

Childe, V G 1944, An unrecognised group of chambered cairns , Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol. 78. Page: 37-8.

Henshall, A S 1963, The chambered tombs of Scotland, vol. 1. Edinburgh.

RCAHMS, 1979 The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. The archaeological sites and monuments of the Black Isle, Ross and Cromarty District, Highland Region,. Edinburgh. Page: 8, No. 16.

Woodham, A A 1956, A survey of prehistoric monuments in the Black Isle , Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol. 88. Pages: 66-8.


HER/SMR Reference

Highland HER MHG9027

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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