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Ledbeg, two chambered cairns 675m and 725m WSW of

A Scheduled Monument in North, West and Central Sutherland, Highland

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Latitude: 58.0722 / 58°4'20"N

Longitude: -4.9949 / 4°59'41"W

OS Eastings: 223460

OS Northings: 913160

OS Grid: NC234131

Mapcode National: GBR G71D.8TB

Mapcode Global: WH28Y.7CQL

Entry Name: Ledbeg, two chambered cairns 675m and 725m WSW of

Scheduled Date: 29 August 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13702

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: chambered cairn

Location: Assynt

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: North, West and Central Sutherland

Traditional County: Sutherland


The monument comprises the remains of two chambered cairns dating from the Neolithic period, probably built and in use between 4000 and 2500 BC. They are visible as two low, grass-covered mounds with exposed structural stone features and are located about 70m from each other. The cairns measure approximately 12m and 18m in diameter and 1.7m and 1.5m in height, respectively. The cairns are located on moorland on a gentle east-facing slope, at approximately 155m above sea level.

The northwest cairn has been interpreted as an Orkney-Cromarty type chambered cairn, characterised by a passage and in this case two possible burial chambers. The removal of much of the overlying cairn material has exposed the interior arrangement and several of the orthostats remain visible. A linear arrangement of stones at the east side of the cairn may represent the remains of a 'hornwork' or horn-shaped outer face. The second cairn lies approximately 50m to the southeast and is of a similar although simpler overall design with a single chamber. The overlying cairn has also been partly removed and exposed orthostats are visible, however, the internal arrangement is less clear.

The scheduled area comprises two circles on plan, each measuring 40m in diameter, 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 a pair of structurally intact Neolithic chambered cairns, each of a roughly circular design and incorporating a substantial inner stone structure as well as the partial remains of an overlying cairn and adjacent stone features. These examples survive in relatively good condition and there is a significant potential for the survival of archaeological remains, including human burials, artefacts and environmental remains such as pollen and charcoal, within, beneath and around the upstanding structure of the cairn. The archaeological deposits have the potential to provide information about the date of the monument, ritual and funerary practices, and the structure of Neolithic society. Any artefacts and environmental material would enhance understanding of contemporary economy, land-use and environment.

The northwest cairn has been identified as an example of the Orkney-Cromarty sub-group of chambered cairns while the southeast example is less well understood. Dating evidence suggest these monuments were in use between around 4000 BC and 2500 BC. They were used for communal burial and ritual, often over long periods of time and complex development sequences have been recorded at other excavated examples. The cairns may therefore have been in use for a long period of time. Scientific study of the cairn's form and construction techniques compared with other chambered cairns would enhance our understanding of the development sequence of this site and of chambered cairns in general.

Excavation of similar monuments has produced significant archaeological material including human burials, artefacts and environmental remains such as pollen and charcoal, all complimenting the larger architectural elements. Such evidence has the potential to provide information about the date of the monument, ritual and funerary practices, and the structure of Neolithic society, while surviving artefacts and environmental information would enhance understanding of contemporary economy, land-use and environment. The study of the form and construction techniques at chambered cairns can enhance our understanding of the development sequence of the site and of chambered cairns in general.

Contextual Characteristics

Chambered cairns are found throughout Scotland, with a concentration in the north and west. For this pair, the northwest example has been interpreted as an architecturally-distinct subgroup known as the Orkney-Cromarty group, which date to the Neolithic period in Scotland. These monument types have a widespread distribution across the north and west of Scotland in Inverness-shire, Ross-shire, Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney. They can be described as passage graves with their chambers often defined by upright slabs of stones (sometimes described as 'stalls') which demarcate burial spaces into separate compartments. The enclosing stone cairns of Orkney-Cromarty cairns are mainly round in plan, but some are short horned or long cairns and others heel-shaped, but it is the form of the chamber that defines the group (Richards 1992, 65).

Chambered cairns are found in a variety of landscape contexts. Some are placed in conspicuous locations, such as on the summits of hills or on the shoulders of hills, so as to be deliberately seen on a skyline, or otherwise seen in profile. Their relationship to routeways across and between different terrestrial and marine landscapes, location near to good upland pasture and views over specific areas of land (perhaps relating to different communities) also seems to hold significance.

These examples are of interest because of the close proximity of the two cairns to each other and their position on an east-facing slope, just above the relatively flat and lower ground of a natural junction between natural routes northward to Loch Assynt and Cape Wrath area, southeast along Glen Oykel and southwest towards Ullapool and the coast. From the monument, the predominant views are southeastwards along Glen Oykel. These cairns are also part of a larger local cluster of similar, contemporary sites situated along this routeway , including Cnoc Bad na Cleithe (SM1807; Canmore ID 4634), Ledbeg River (Canmore ID 4642) and Ledmore (SM1804; Canmore ID 4643). The proximity of these burial monuments can give important insights into the Neolithic landscape and add to our understanding of social organisation, land division and land-use. The monument has the potential to enhance our understanding of the nature and development of Neolithic monumentality and burial, the nature of belief systems, ceremonial and burial practices.

Associative Characteristics

There are no know associative characteristics related to this monument.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the past, in particular the design and construction of prehistoric burial monuments. It is an impressive monument comprising two burial cairns in close proximity which retain their field characteristics to a marked degree. In particular, they each retain important structural evidence which can inform us of how such monuments were constructed and then used, and both have significant archaeological potential. They are significant as part of a wider local group of contemporary burial monuments and can be compared with other chambered cairns that survive in the vicinity. As such the monument can significantly enhance our understanding of Neolithic society and economy, as well as the nature of belief systems, burial and ceremonial practices. The cairns would have been an important component of the wider prehistoric landscape of settlement, agriculture and ritual and would have been a prominent part of the prehistoric landscape. Chambered cairns are one of our main sources of information for the Neolithic in Scotland and so are an important element in our understanding of the nature of Scotland's prehistoric society and landscape. As well-preserved examples that are part of a wider group of chambered cairns in the area, the loss of these cairns would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the meaning and importance of death and burial and the placing of cairns within the landscape in the Neolithic period.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland

CANMORE ID 4645 (accessed on 03.07.18). Site number: NC21SW 5

Local Authority HER Reference MHG13098 & 13029 (accessed on 29.06.18)

Henshall, A S. 1963, The Chambered Tombs of Scotland, Vol. 2. Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh

Henshall, A.S. and Ritchie, J.N.G., 1995, The Chambered Cairns of Sutherland: An Inventory of their Structures and their Contents, Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh

RCAHMS, 1911, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland, Second Report and Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the County of Sutherland: Edinburgh, page(s): 5, No. 14

Richards, C, 1992, 'Doorways into Another World: The Orkney-Cromarty Chambered Tombs, in N. Sharples and A. Sheridan (eds.) Vessels for the Ancestors: Neolithic of Britain and Ireland, Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, 62-76


HER/SMR Reference

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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