Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Garadh an Ratha, roundhouse

A Scheduled Monument in Thurso and Northwest Caithness, Highland

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »
Street or Overhead View
Contributor Photos »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.


Latitude: 58.5237 / 58°31'25"N

Longitude: -3.667 / 3°40'1"W

OS Eastings: 303010

OS Northings: 960710

OS Grid: ND030607

Mapcode National: GBR K696.BZ6

Mapcode Global: WH5BV.N00Z

Entry Name: Garadh an Ratha, roundhouse

Scheduled Date: 13 January 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13636

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: hut circle, roundhouse

Location: Reay

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Thurso and Northwest Caithness

Traditional County: Caithness


The monument is the remains of a roundhouse, probably dating to the Iron Age (between 600BC and AD 400). It is visible as an oval structure defined by concentric turf-covered banks constructed of earth and rubble stones.  The outer bank is overlain by the remains of a later stone wall. The monument lies in open moorland, at about 80m above sea level.

The substantial outer bank varies from 0.5m high to 0.8m high and is about 1.2m wide; it encloses an area measuring around 17m east-west by 10.5m north-south. The second, inner bank measures about 0.2m high and 0.5m wide. It encloses a subcircular area about 7m in diameter.

The area to be scheduled in irregular in plan, to include the remains described above and an area around 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

The monument is the remains of a later prehistoric roundhouse. The substantial nature of this structure suggests it represents a complex stone-built roundhouse of Iron Age date. Although the roundhouse is overlain by a later structure, this has not had a significant impact on the archaeological potential of the roundhouse. There is high potential for the survival of buried archaeological deposits, including occupation and abandonment debris, artefacts and environmental remains such as charcoal and pollen within, beneath and around the standing structure. Additionally, architectural features may be preserved within the turf-covered banks. The monument has the potential to add to our understanding of settlement, land-use and environment during later prehistory, and can provide information about the economy, diet and social status of the occupants and the structure of contemporary society and economy.

Scientific study of the form and construction of the roundhouse has the potential to clarify the date of the remains and the development sequence, while comparative study of the form and structure of the roundhouse has the potential to provide information about the design, construction and development of later prehistoric buildings. The presence of two banks may indicate an extended development sequence.

Contextual Characteristics

Later prehistoric roundhouses are found throughout Scotland, while complex roundhouses are a widespread class of monument across northern Scotland with notable concentrations in Caithness, Sutherland, Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and the northwest Highlands. The structure at Garadh an Ratha is of particular interest because of its well-preserved condition, but it also forms part of a very significant grouping of later prehistoric sites, including hut circles, roundhouses and burnt mounds. This includes less substantial roundhouse remains about 25m to the west and about 60m to the west-northwest, and a cluster of four large upstanding roundhouses about 1.7km to the south (Scheduled Monument Reference SM13630, Canmore ID 350723). The proximity of these remains has the potential to enhance and broaden our understanding of the development of later prehistoric settlement and economy. There is potential to study these sites together to understand their functions within the local communities, social status and settlement hierarchy in the area, as well as changing settlement patterns and systems of inheritance.

Associative Characteristics

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

Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it can make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular of Iron Age society and the construction, use and development of settlement in the north of Scotland. It is a good example of later prehistoric building that retains its field characteristics very well and has significant potential for the survival of buried archaeological deposits. As a well-preserved example, the monument can significantly expand our understanding of domestic buildings, agriculture and economy. The monument's importance is enhanced by its association with a wider cluster of later prehistoric remains. The loss of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the character and development of Iron Age buildings in Caithness.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 7940 (accessed on 15/07/2016).

The Highland Council Historic Environment Record reference is MHG987 (accessed on 15/07/2016).

Ordnance Survey (Name Book. Object Name Books of the Ordnance Survey (6 inch and 1/2500 scale). Book No. 9, 118.

RCAHMS. (1911b) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Third report and inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of Caithness. London.

ScARF 2012 Hunter, F and Carruthers, M (eds) Iron Age panel report, Scottish Archaeological Research Framework: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Available online at


HER/SMR Reference


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Other nearby scheduled monuments is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself. is a Good Stuff website.