Scheduled Monument

Deils Wood, cairn 350m E of BonnytonSM12805

Status: Designated


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Date Added
Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cairn (type uncertain)
Local Authority
East Renfrewshire
NS 55761 53578
255761, 653578


The monument comprises the remains of a cairn that was built probably between 3000 and 1000 BC in the late Neolithic or Bronze Age. It is visible as a prominent mound of turf-covered stones situated in a copse of mature trees at around 160m above sea level. The copse is on the NE end of a low ridge 285m SW of Brakenrig Burn.

The upstanding remains of the cairn measure around 20m in diameter and stand up to 1.8m in height. The cairn is generally well-preserved but there are two areas of localised robbing, visible as depressions, on the top.

The area to be scheduled is a clipped circle on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The boundary on the SW side runs up to but specifically excludes the post-and-wire fence.

Statement of National Importance

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Excavation suggests that many round cairns were used to cover and mark human burials in the late Neolithic or Bronze Age and date most commonly from the late third millennium BC to the early second millennium BC. This cairn appears to be largely undisturbed suggesting that archaeological information is likely to survive beneath its surface. The excavation of similar mounds elsewhere in SW Scotland shows that cairns often incorporate or overlie graves or pits containing cist settings, skeletal remains in the form of cremations or inhumations, pottery and worked flints, and comparable remains may exist beneath this cairn. These deposits can help us understand more about the practice and significance of burial and commemorating the dead at specific points in prehistory. They may also help us to understand the changing structure of society in the area. The size of the cairn could mean that it is the burial site of a particularly important individual with the potential for multiple burials inserted into the monument after its first use. In addition, the cairn is likely to overlie and seal a buried ground surface that could provide evidence of the immediate environment before the monument was constructed, and botanical remains including pollen or charred plant material may survive within archaeological deposits deriving from the construction and use of the cairn. This evidence can help us build up a picture of climate, vegetation and agriculture in the area.

Contextual characteristics

This monument belongs to a diverse group of up to 86 known or possible cairns in the former county of Renfrewshire, including some that have been destroyed by modern land use since they were recorded. The majority lie between 200m and 300m above sea level on the NE fringe of the uplands that define the southern edge of the Clyde Valley. This example is the most northerly one of a group in the SE of the area, in the moorland to the W of Eaglesham and S of Paisley. The intensive use of the lowlands for agriculture, housing and industry and the activities of archaeological researchers have influenced the distribution pattern we see today and it seems certain that cairns would originally have been a feature of the lowlands as well as the uplands. Cairns seem to be positioned for visibility both to and from the site, tending to be located on hill tops, false crests and ridges and are generally inter-visible.

This monument can be compared with at least 14 other cairns that lie within 4 km of Deils Wood. The monument can also be compared with excavated examples further afield, such as the cairn at East Green Farm, Kilmacolm, where at least two Bronze-Age funerary urns were found and that at South Mound of Houston, where the cairn covered a cist grave containing cremated human bone, a flint knife and a Bronze-Age food vessel pot. Cairns were often long-lived foci of religious or funerary activity and have the potential to contain secondary burials. This longevity is demonstrated at South Mound of Houston, where the cairn reused the location of a group of Neolithic pits and lay close to a probable cist cemetery. Another example with similar dimensions is that at East Revoch 3 km to the SE where excavation in antiquity recovered several burial urns. This contextual information illustrates the potential of the cairn to retain complex remains of multiple burials, possibly of different phases. Cairns have the potential to further our understanding not just of funerary site location and practice, but also of the structure of early prehistoric society and economy.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to 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 prehistoric and later society. Skeletal remains and artefacts from cairns can also enhance our knowledge about wider prehistoric society, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contact with. This monument is particularly significant because of its impressive size and because it is largely undisturbed and lies close to several other cairns. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape and the meaning and importance of death and burial in prehistory.



RCAHMS record the site as NS26NW8. The WoSAS SMR records the site as WoSASPIN 5855. Copies of these short reports are appended.


Alexander, D (ed) 1996, Prehistoric Renfrewshire; Papers in Honour of Frank Newall, Renfrewshire Local History Forum.

Newall, F 1962, 'Early open settlement in Renfrewshire', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 95 (1961-2), 159-70.

About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for the designation of buildings, monuments, gardens and designed landscapes and historic battlefields. We also advise Scottish Ministers on the designation of historic marine protected areas.

Scheduling is the way that a monument or archaeological site of national importance is recognised by law through the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments of national importance using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The description and map showing the scheduled area is the legal part of the scheduling. The additional information in the scheduled monument record gives an indication of the national importance of the monument(s). It is not a definitive account or a complete description of the monument(s). The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief and some information will not have been recorded. Scheduled monument consent is required to carry out certain work, including repairs, to scheduled monuments. Applications for scheduled monument consent are made to us. We are happy to discuss your proposals with you before you apply and we do not charge for advice or consent. More information about consent and how to apply for it can be found on our website at

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Printed: 24/04/2019 00:56