Ancient Monuments

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Broadford Bay, chambered cairn 35m north east of Eirigh na Greine

A Scheduled Monument in Eilean á Chèo, Highland

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Latitude: 57.2438 / 57°14'37"N

Longitude: -5.9106 / 5°54'38"W

OS Eastings: 164161

OS Northings: 823782

OS Grid: NG641237

Mapcode National: GBR C9SK.X10

Mapcode Global: WGZ95.56P6

Entry Name: Broadford Bay, chambered cairn 35m NE of Eirigh na Greine

Scheduled Date: 7 January 2020

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13724

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: chambered cairn

Location: Strath

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Eilean á Chèo

Traditional County: Inverness-shire


The monument comprises the remains of a prehistoric chambered cairn, dating to the Neolithic period between around 4000 to 2500 BC. It survives as a partially grass and tree-covered stone mound measuring up to around 26m in diameter and standing up to around 4m in height. It lies on the western side of Broadford Bay, overlooking the bay itself.

The scheduled area is irregular. 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. The scheduling specifically excludes the drains, and the above ground elements of the telegraph pole and all post and wire fences and walls within the scheduled area, to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):

a. The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the design and construction of prehistoric burial monuments, the nature of burial and ritual practices and their significance in Neolithic society.

b. Although partially excavated in 1832, the field characteristics of the monument survive substantially intact and there is significant potential for surviving archaeological deposits associated with the structural remains.

c. The monument is one of only around twelve known examples of chambered cairns on Skye and is therefore a rare example of its type.

d. The monument is a good representative example of a prehistoric burial cairn on the Isle of Skye; as such any new information retrieved form this site can help to improve understanding of the group more widely.

e. The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding or appreciation of the past. This includes the further investigation of buried archaeological deposits within the cairn and around the monument that can enhance our understanding of prehistoric ritual and funerary practices within Scotland.

f. The monument makes a significant contribution to today's landscape and our understanding of the historic landscape around Broadford Bay, Skye, an area that archaeologists believe was a focal point for activity in prehistory. Its prominent location on the western side of the bay, gives it long views in all directions, and particularly to the east and north across the water.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance.

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The monument is a well-preserved example of a chambered cairn, a prehistoric burial monument dating from the Neolithic period around 4000 – 2500 BC. Its substantial size is comparable to other examples. Partial excavations of the cairn took place in 1832, identifying a large capstone and a substantial burial chamber. The excavations recovered a small number of artefacts including a stone wrist-guard and an urn with a secondary burial.  Although stone is also likely to have been robbed from the cairn, the mound nevertheless appears to survive to a substantial degree.

Given the apparently good level of preservation of the cairn, there is a high potential for the survival of further human remains, associated grave goods and environmental or palaeobotanical remains associated with the structure. Such archaeological deposits can help us to better understand beliefs surrounding death and burial in the Neolithic period, as well as funerary rites and practices, trade and contacts, social organisation and the climate and local vegetation at the time of construction.

Excavation of similar large cairns have also demonstrated a complex construction sequence to create the final structure. Such evidence indicates not only how such a structure was built, but in some cases how it was used as a place of internment. Scientific study of the cairn's form and construction techniques compared with other prehistoric burial cairns would also enhance our understanding of the development sequence of this site and of cairns in general.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

Chambered cairns are found throughout Scotland, with concentrations in the north and west. This example is one of only around a dozen known on the Isle of Skye, including Rubh'an Dunain (SM901), Carn Liath (SM3514) and Cnocan nan Cobhar (SM896), all of which are located along the coastline. It is part of a local group of four sites around Broadford Bay and by the Broadford River (Canmore IDs 11577, 11585, 11601). The field characteristics of this example accords with a class of cairn known as Hebridean passage graves - distributed across the Hebrides, Isle of Skye and the mainland west coast. They were of round shape with passages in their eastern halves. The burials would have been covered by cairn material and the edges of the cairns would probably have had a kerb.

Prehistoric burial cairns are found in a variety of locations. Some are placed in conspicuous locations within the landscape, such as on the summits or the shoulders of hills, perhaps to be seen on a skyline or otherwise in profile. Others are found in less conspicuous locations, for example on valley floors. Relationships to routeways and/or other ritual sites, locations near to good upland pasture and views over specific areas of land may also have had significance.

The cairn at Broadford Bay is located next to a minor coastal road that runs along the western side of the bay itself. Although surrounded on three sides by housing, the cairn remains a prominent feature in the landscape. It occupies an open coastal position and would have had extensive views of the landscape in all directions, particularly across the water to the east and north. Burial monuments such as this are one of our main sources of information about the nature of Scotland's prehistoric society and landscape.  These monuments can give important insights into the prehistoric landscape and add to our understanding of social organisation, land division and land-use. In 2011, archaeological excavation in advance of the construction of a new medical centre around 130m to the northwest identified a variety of prehistoric features. Together, these monuments suggest that Broadford bay may have been an important focus of activity in prehistory.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

There are no known associative characteristics which significantly contribute to the cultural significance of this site.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 11585 (accessed on 26/11/2019).

Highland Council HER References MHG6271 and EHG3667 (accessed on 26/11/2019).

Henshall, A.S. and Ritchie, J.N.G. (2001) The Chambered Cairns of the Central Highlands, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh

MacSween, A. and Sharp, M. (1989). Prehistoric Scotland. London: B.T. Batsford Ltd.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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