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Glacbain, chambered cairn 760m SSE of

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

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Latitude: 58.0543 / 58°3'15"N

Longitude: -5.009 / 5°0'32"W

OS Eastings: 222538

OS Northings: 911204

OS Grid: NC225112

Mapcode National: GBR G70F.NCH

Mapcode Global: WH28Y.1T1C

Entry Name: Glacbain, chambered cairn 760m SSE of

Scheduled Date: 24 October 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13703

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 a chambered cairn dating from the Neolithic period and probably built between 4000 and 2500 BC. It is visible as a large roughly circular spread of stones measuring approximately 12m in diameter and surviving to approximately 1m high. The uneven cairn mound has been disturbed at some point in the past, to reveal part of the underlying structure of the chamber. The cairn is located on open moorland overlooking Loch Urigill and Glen Oykel to the southeast, at approximately 200m above sea level.

The scheduled area is circular, measuring 26m in diameter. It includes 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 structurally intact Neolithic chambered cairn, incorporating one or more burials and burial spaces or chambers, likely to be connected via a passage and entrance feature. The interior is of a large stone construction, surmounted by a substantial cairn mound. The mound has been disturbed in isolated areas and this is visible today as depressions at the centre and around parts of the cairn perimeter, revealing the underlying structure. The cairn material is likely to have been used as a quarry to provide materials for later, adjacent structures (recorded as shieling huts around the southwest, west and north sides). 

The cairn mound is substantially intact and the isolated areas of stone removal suggest a relatively good overall survival. There is therefore likely to be high archaeological potential for surviving buried structures, features and deposits relating to the construction and use of this site as a burial monument. Environment evidence such as relict land surfaces, plant remains and organic deposits trapped when the cairn was being built and in use are also likely to survive in these buried horizons. Such 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.

Dating evidence suggest these types of monument 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. 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

Around 600 chambered cairns are found throughout Scotland. This example belong to a broad sub-class of chambered round cairn, widespread across the north and west of Scotland in Inverness-shire, Ross-shire, Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney. The chambers are often defined by upright slabs of stones and they can be separated into compartments. The enclosing stone cairns are mainly round in plan, but there are short-horned and heel-shaped varieties.

Henshall (1963) and Henshall and Ritchie (1995) suggest that the almost all chambered tombs found in Sutherland belong to the Orkney-Cromarty group of cairns. The chambers of these tombs comprise one, two or three sections, and the place between the passage and the main chamber is defined as the ante-chamber Henshall and Ritchie (1995, 20). The chambers are typically made from large slabs of stone mixed with dry stone wall construction or dry stone at the lower courses, or sometimes just drystone walling alone.

These cairns are found in a variety of landscape contexts. Some are placed in conspicuous locations within the landscape, 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.

This example is significant as it is located along a natural, northeast to southwest routeway and is positioned with predominant views to the southeast along Glen Oykel and overlooking Loch Urigill. It is part of a larger local cluster of similar, contemporary sites situated along this routeway including Ledbeg River (Canmore ID 4642), Ledmore, chambered cairn 900m W of (SM1804; Canmore ID 4643) and Cnoc Bad na Cleithe (SM1807; Canmore ID 4634). The spatial arrangement of these examples can give important insights into the wider organisation of the Neolithic landscape and the placing and meaning of such sites at specific locations. This can help us understand more about social organisation, land division and land-use at the time of their construction and use.

Associative Characteristics

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

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 example comprising a substantially intact cairn mound surviving to a marked degree. With underlying archaeological and ecofactual deposits likely to survive, it has significant archaeological potential. It is significant as a component of a wider group of contemporary burial monuments and represents part of the Neolithic exploitation of this region of Scotland. Chambered cairns are one of the main source of evidence for the Neolithic in Scotland and so are an important part element in our understanding of the nature of Scotland's prehistoric society and landscape. They can enhance our understanding of Neolithic society and economy, as well as the nature of burial and ceremonial practices and belief systems and are an important component of the wider prehistoric landscape of settlement, agriculture and ritual activity. As a well-preserved example that is part of a group of similar monuments in this area, the loss of this cairn 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



CANMORE ID 4640 (accessed on 03.07.18). Site number: NC21SW 15

Local Authority HER Reference MHG13034 (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


HER/SMR Reference

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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