The monument consists of an upright slab of sandstone, carved on both sides (one side with a cross), which probably dates from around AD 800. Under J Romilly Allen's classification, it is a Class II Pictish Symbol Stone.
Clach a'Charridh stands at the edge of a break of slope on a hillside running down towards the village of Shandwick and the shore, and appears to be in its original position. It measures nearly 3m high by 1m broad. The front of the slab (facing seawards) bears a cross formed by a double row of protuding bosses. Flanking the shaft of the cross are 2 angels with outspread wings, 2 beasts (possibly lions) and 2 panels of snakes or serpents. Below the cross are 4 large low bosses, surrounded by snakes meeting face to face.
The back of the slab (facing inland) is divided into 5 panels, carved in lower relief than is the front. The top 2 panels bear Pictish symbols - a double disc and a beast (both common on Class I Symbol Stones). The third panel depicts a complex scene of Pictish life, with 22 figures including horseriders, men fighting and hunting scenes. The largest panel has a pattern of 52 triskeles (3-in-1 spirals) arranged in a circular pattern. The lowest panel is divided into four, each with a different pattern.
The stone was blown over in 1846, at which point it broke in two, but it was repaired and it has recently (1988) been conserved and a glass shelter constructed around it. It is set into its original socket stone. An excavation around the stone in 1988 revealed details of the support provided for the socket stone and post pits presumably used to help raise the stone. It is also suggested that the cross-slab initially possessed a narrow 'tang' (now missing) which fitted into the socket stone, but which was lost either in 1846 or in antiquity. No evidence was revealed by the excavation for any burials in the area of the cross slab, although local tradition suggests that there is an ancient burial ground either around the stone or in its immediate vicinity.
The cross slab is one of a series of particularly impressive Early Christian carved stones in Easter Ross. Stylistically, it is particularly closely related to the stones at both Nigg and Hilton of Cadboll, although it has been suggested that it is the latest of the three. The existence of this local school of sculpture demonstrates the wealth of this area in the late 8th and early 9th centuries, the probable date of their production. The style influenced a wide area, extending as far as Iona where it has been suggested that sculptors from Easter Ross assisted in the carving of St John's and St Oran's Crosses.
The area to be scheduled consists of a circle 10m in diameter, centred on the stone, as defined in red on the accompanying map. It includes the stone and an area of ground which, although it has been partly excavated, contains evidence for the methods used to erect and support the stone. The scheduling is to exclude the above-ground structure of the shelter constructed around the stone.
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 www.historicenvironment.scot.
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