The monument is a cave and an adjacent prehistoric house. The cave was used intermittently from at least the 3rd millenium BC until the early medieval period and has produced a rich assemblage of artefacts. The cave and house are located at Creag a' Chapaill on the south side of the peninsula known as Rubha an Dunain overlooking Soay Sound at about 30m OD.
The cave measures approximately 3.35m in width at the entrance, approximately 4.3m in length, and 2.74m in height. The prehistoric house is located approximately 10m to the south of the cave entrance. It consists of two conjoined circles of edge-set stone slabs approximately 3-4m in diameter aligned east west, with a small circular annex attached to the westernmost circle. The cave is located on a small west-facing cliff; in front of the cave is a natural shelf.
The scheduled area is rectangular on plan, measuring 40m north south by 30m east west. The scheduling includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.
Statement of National Importance
The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:
The entrance to Creag a' Chapaill Cave is visible as a rough natural archway at the base of a 3-4m high cliff. The cave was partly excavated in 1932 by Mr Lindsay Scott, who recorded four main layers of accumulated sediment overlying bedrock.
The lowest two layers contained 219 worked stone implements, cores and chips and is indicative of a stone knapping workshop. These layers also contained fragments of Neolithic beaker pottery similar to that found in the excavation of the chambered cairn located 600m to the east-northeast. The next layer contained a large amount of iron slag, some pottery dating from the Iron Age and most importantly the remains of a furnace. The abundance of iron slag and the furnace demonstrates that the cave was used for iron working.
The finds of flint and stone implements, considerable quantities of iron slag, bone, pottery and a worked wooden object possibly part of an oar, demonstrates multiple phases of use in prehistory. Other finds suggest that the cave continued in use until at least the early medieval period. The cave therefore contains evidence of a long sequence of intermittent occupation during the Neolithic, the Iron Age and Early Historic periods. The plan of the adjacent prehistoric house suggests that it dates from the Bronze Age.
The excavation report shows that Scott dug several trenches within the cave, but his excavations were incomplete and it is likely that the remaining buried sediments retain significant archaeological potential. The prehistoric house was unexcavated. It is expected that further investigation of this site using current archaeological techniques would reveal new evidence about the various uses of Creag a' Chapaill Cave. This could include further details relating to the date of its original and later uses, and its relationship with the neighbouring prehistoric house. The house may have been the domestic site for the industrial activities taking place within the cave.
The monument is located on the peninsula of Rubha an Dunain, on the southern end of the Isle of Skye. The peninsula contains significant evidence for prehistoric occupation. Two cairns are located approximately 600m to the west, on the far side of Loch na h-Airde. The larger cairn, which has been excavated, has a central chambered which contained beaker pottery similar that found in the cave. A stone build dun is located approximately 470m to the southwest of the cave, and it occupation may have been contemporaneous with the metalwork evidence from the cave.
On the Isle of Skye, there are seven other recorded examples of caves and rock shelters that show signs of human presence, most of them found in relict cliffs. These include Uamh an Ard Achadh also known as High Pasture Cave, located 19km to the east north east of Creag a' Chapaill Cave. High Pasture Cave has produced significant evidence of Iron Age occupation and metal working, indicating that these sites were important focal points on the Isle of Skye in the Iron Age.
When compared with other caves and rock shelters and other prehistoric monuments on the Isle of Skye, the cave at Creag a' Chapaill has considerable potential to inform us about the date and manner in which prehistoric and specifically Iron Age peoples settled the Atlantic seaboard and about trading contacts along this western seaboard.
There are no known associative characteristics which contribute significantly to the cultural significance of this sites
Statement of national importance
This monument is of national importance as a natural cave and associated prehistoric house occupied intermittently from at least the Neolithic period through to the early medieval period. It can add to our understanding of the past, particularly the use of caves in this region of Scotland during prehistory. It is particularly notable for its rich assemblage of Neolithic pottery and Iron Age metalworking remains, which demonstrates that it was a significant site in prehistory. The associated structural remains of the furnace and neighbouring prehistoric house are rare survivals, and indicate the importance of this site. It adds to our wider understanding of prehistoric society and of early settlement of the Atlantic seaboard. It derives additional importance as one of a number of coastal caves across the Isle of Skye with evidence of human occupation and extensive early industrial activity.