Ancient Monuments

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Armadale Bay, cairn 30m east of Faoilinn Cottage

A Scheduled Monument in Eilean á Chèo, Highland

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Latitude: 57.0653 / 57°3'55"N

Longitude: -5.8998 / 5°53'59"W

OS Eastings: 163679

OS Northings: 803899

OS Grid: NG636038

Mapcode National: GBR CBT1.GDY

Mapcode Global: WGZ9Y.BPT0

Entry Name: Armadale Bay, cairn 30m E of Faoilinn Cottage

Scheduled Date: 19 February 2020

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13725

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cairn (type uncertain)

Location: Sleat

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Eilean á Chèo

Traditional County: Inverness-shire


The monument comprises the remains of a prehistoric burial cairn, probably a 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 25m in diameter and standing up to around 3.5m in height. The cairn lies on the north side of a narrow isthmus in the southeast of Skye, overlooking Armadale Bay to the east and another unnamed bay to the south.

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 above ground elements of all post and wire fences 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(s) (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 prehistoric societies.

b. 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 likely to be 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 particularly good example of a prehistoric burial cairn on the Isle of Skye and is therefore an important representative of this monument type. As such, any new information retrieved from 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 this site, and 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 Armadale Bay. A location on the north side of a narrow isthmus overlooking the bay, gives it long views, particularly to the east, south 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 prehistoric burial cairn. The location size, and field characteristics of the cairn indicate that it is probably a chambered cairn, a prehistoric burial monument dating from the Neolithic period around 4000 – 2500 BC. Its substantial size is comparable to other examples. There are no known records of the excavation of this cairn and it appears relatively undisturbed, although some cairn material has been removed, for example around the south and east sides. Nonetheless, it remains highly likely that buried features survive.

Given the apparently good level of preservation of the cairn, there is a high potential for the survival of human remains, associated grave goods and environmental or palaeobotanical remains. Such archaeological deposits can enhance understanding of beliefs surrounding death and burial in prehistory, as well as funerary rites and practices, trade and contacts, social organisation, and the climate and local vegetation at the time of construction.

Excavations 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 burial. 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 the examples at Rubh'an Dunain (SM901), Carn Liath (SM3514) and Cnocan nan Cobhar (SM896). Given its location and field characteristics, this example may accord 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 of hills or on 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. Some later cairns are located with higher ground on two or more sides. This means that the cairn is hidden from certain directions and with more restricted outward views.

The cairn at Armadale Bay occupies a wooded (2019) coastal location on the north side of a narrow isthmus in the southeast of Skye. This is an open position and the cairn would have had extensive views of the landscape in most directions, particularly across the water to the east, south and north, although the views westwards are constrained by the rising ground. 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. Immediately to the south of the cairn, archaeological excavation in 2009-10 in advance of the construction of new housing, identified a variety of prehistoric features and artefacts (Canmore 179120; Highland Council EHG3464). Together, these monuments suggest that Armadale 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 significant associative characteristics connected to the monument.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 11553 (accessed on 26/11/2019).

Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 179120 (accessed on 07/01/2020).

Highland Council HER Reference MHG5246 (accessed on 26/11/2019).

Highland Council HER Reference EHG3464 (accessed 15/1/2020).

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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