Scheduled Monument

Loirston Country Park, cairn and dyke 220m NE of Cat CairnSM12342

Status: Designated


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Date Added
Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cairn (type uncertain), Secular: consumption dyke
Local Authority
NJ 95357 3314
395357, 803314


The monument comprises a burial cairn of probable Bronze-Age date and part of a consumption dyke of post-medieval date. It survives as a prominent circular mound of turf- and gorse-covered loose stones and two sections of adjoining low dyke, each with rubble infill. The cairn and dyke are located on open recreational ground on a low ridge, running NE-SW and overlooking Nigg bay, approximately 1.5km inland from the coast.

The cairn measures approximately 18m in diameter at its widest and is approximately 3m high. It is roughly circular in plan and is partly obscured (in its centre and eastern side) by the removal of stones and overgrown whin and gorse bushes. The two sections of consumption dyke, adjoining the NE and SW quadrants of the cairn, are each approximately 4m wide, 5m long and 1.5m high. They are each formed by two inwards-leaning retaining walls (built using selectively-sized and graded stones) and joined by a rubble core. These sections are part of a longer, isolated consumption dyke whose overall length is roughly 50m.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, centred on the cairn, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of a post-and-wire fence and a ventilation stack with a concrete base, to allow for their maintenance.

Statement of National Importance

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

This cairn survives with the majority of its structural detail intact. It is likely to seal not only one or more burials and possible grave goods but also the prehistoric land surface that was present when the cairn was first built. The monument therefore has the potential to tell us about the architecture of these monuments, the practice of burial and ritual at the time, and the contemporary environmental conditions. The sections of consumption dyke abutting the cairn are a well-preserved example of 19th-century agricultural improvement works. Their style and form reflect the skill of those who built them and they act as a signature of the estate in which they were built. They have the potential to tell us about the changing nature of agriculture and land improvements here.

Contextual characteristics

The cairn belongs to a large and widespread group of prehistoric burial monuments, one of around nearly known 200 examples in the Strathdon area. Along with six other broadly contemporary cairns surrounding Tullos Hill, it forms a small cemetery that has extensive seaward views over Nigg Bay and the North Sea. Other prehistoric structures and remains here suggest that the ridge on which the cairn sits was significant not just for death and burial during the Bronze Age but also for settlement, agriculture and associated activities. The cairn can therefore help us understand more about the nature of Bronze-Age society and how funerary practice integrated with other aspects of prehistoric life.

The presence of substantial, later clearance works, in the form of 19th-century consumption dykes, indicates another chapter of land use here, where agricultural improvements allowed for the spread of cultivation and expansion of farming generally. Their appearance is in marked contrast to previous clearance works (usually heaped stones in the corner of existing field boundaries) and marks the formal laying out of field units. These two sections of the same consumption dyke are a direct result of land improvements and, interestingly, they have incorporated the cairn into their length. There is a local concentration of well-preserved consumption dykes on Tullos hill and more than 100 sections of consumption dyke are known about in NE Scotland overall. Despite being isolated from other boundary features, it is possible that they once functioned to enclose a farmed area, along with similar dyking. Their design and construction (typically being wider at their base than their original height) reflects a specific, NE tradition of field clearance. Being in an area of Scotland that helped to pioneer agricultural improvement, some of these dykes may date to the early 18th century rather than the more common 19th-century examples. They can therefore tell us about changes in land management and the ways in which these boundary features changed the landscape character of Eastern Strathdon.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past, in particular prehistoric burial architecture and the agricultural improvements of the 18th and 19th centuries. Comparison of this burial monument with others can reveal more about the nature of Bronze-Age burial practice and the role these monuments played in prehistoric life and death. The study of the consumption dykes can help us understand more about the origins of modern farming, the division of land parcels and the development of boundary features in NE Scotland. The loss of the monument would impede our ability to understand the nature of prehistoric activity, the incorporation of these monuments into later land use and the development of modern farming.



RCAHMS records the monument as NJ90SE 123.


Aberdeen City Council Archaeological Unit 2006, THE CHEERFUL VASLE: EXPLORING THE PAST OF BALNAGASK, TULLOS AND TORRY, Aberdeen: Aberdeen City Council.



About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map showing the scheduled area is the legal part of the scheduling. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

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Printed: 16/06/2019 09:35