Ancient Monuments

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Glacbain, cairn 270m north east of

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

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Latitude: 58.0615 / 58°3'41"N

Longitude: -5.0135 / 5°0'48"W

OS Eastings: 222310

OS Northings: 912011

OS Grid: NC223120

Mapcode National: GBR G70F.099

Mapcode Global: WH17S.YMSV

Entry Name: Glacbain, cairn 270m NE of

Scheduled Date: 17 September 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13704

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: kerb cairn

Location: Assynt

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: North, West and Central Sutherland

Traditional County: Sutherland


The monument comprises the remains of a burial cairn likely to date to the Bronze Age (between around 2500BC and 800BC). It survives as a partially turf-covered mound of stones with part of a cist structure exposed in its interior. The cairn measures approximately 5m in diameter and survives up to 0.3m high. The cairn is located on moorland, on a prominent spur, overlooking Cam Loch to the north, at approximately 170m above sea level.

The scheduled area is circular on plan with a diameter of 20m, 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

This is a well-preserved example of a prehistoric burial monument, characteristic of Bronze Age burial practice in Scotland. Cairns of this type, however, are relatively rare in northwest Scotland. This example survives in open moorland and it retains several visible elements such as a burial structure or cist which is surmounted by a drystone cairn. Part of the cairn has been removed to reveal the cist and this feature has been previously investigated – a cap stone over the cist has been moved and now lies broken, to one side of the structure. There is an arc of stones at the perimeter of the cairn, most visible in the southern half of the monument, which appears to be a kerb – the deliberate placing of selected stones to form a clear boundary between the monument and ground beyond. As with other types of cairn, this monument may contain one or more burials or cremations.

The monument has the potential to retain significant buried deposits such as human remains, associated grave goods and environmental or palaeobotanical remains. These deposits can help us to understand beliefs surrounding death and burial in the Bronze Age, as well as funerary rites and practices, trade and contacts, social organisation and the climate and local vegetation at the time of its construction and use. They can also help us understand more about the practice and significance of burial and commemoration at specific times in prehistory. There is also the potential for secondary or 'satellite' burials and related archaeological evidence in the area immediately surrounding the cairn.

Archaeological survey in this area may reveal further unrecorded examples. This would increase our knowledge of this type of monument and improve our understanding of their distribution and survival.

Contextual Characteristics

These types of cairns are relatively uncommon in northwest Scotland, being more commonly found in the lowlands. There are few other recorded examples and these include Kylestrome, cairn SSW of (SM1800; Canmore ID 4677) and Creag Sron Chrubaidh, cairn 1km SSW of Inchnadamph Hotel (SM13696; Canmore ID 136086).

The relative scarcity of such monuments is particularly notable when compared to the number of chambered cairns, which are earlier dating to the Neolithic period, in the same area. This is in part may be due to differences in discovery and survival but could also reflect changing burial practices or population change. The study of the distribution of prehistoric funerary monuments in this locale could therefore further contribute to our understanding of the Neolithic and Bronze Age of this relatively remote area.

Bronze Age cairns are often located with higher ground on two or more sides. The cairn is therefore less visible from certain directions and deliberately, more visible from other, lower-lying ground not least when they are skylined on a horizon. There is always one open aspect to the cairn usually with a view or connection to lower lying ground often beside a water course. The cairns are normally prominent from the lower lying land; this profile usually appears as the highest side of the cairn. These cairns are typically located in areas where there are naturally occurring outcrops of the bedrock which the cairn appears to emulate. This monument is positioned to overlook a low-lying natural routeway between Cam Loch and Loch Urigill. It has predominant views to the north and southeast and has clear sight of the major landmarks in the area, particularly Cul Mor and Canisp.

Associative Characteristics

There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to this site's significance.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance as a prehistoric cairn which can 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 Bronze Age and later society. This example is relatively well preserved and has clear evidence of its internal structure. The cairn is particularly important as it appears to be an uncommon type of burial monument in the Highlands. As such it adds to our understanding of differing forms of burial monument and ritual and funerary practices during the Bronze Age – it contributes to our understanding of the form, function and distribution of Bronze Age burial monuments. Funerary monuments are often our main source of evidence for the Bronze Age in Scotland and so are an important element in our understanding of the nature of Scotland's prehistoric society and landscape. Because of the rarity of upstanding cairns of this scale and date in this part of Scotland, the loss of this monument would significantly diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape and the meaning and importance of death and burial in prehistoric times.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 4644 (accessed on 19/07/2018).

Highland Historic Environment Record Reference MHG13030 (accessed on 19/07/2018).

Cavers, G. and Hudson, G. (2010) Assynt's hidden lives: and archaeological survey of the parish, AOC Archaeology Group.


HER/SMR Reference

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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