The monument is a Clyde-type chambered long cairn of Neolithic date. It is visible as a long, low mound of stones within a forestry clearing. The cairn measures some 45m in length and has a deep concave forecourt facing NNE. At this end, the cairn is about 17m in width externally and survives up to 1.6m in height. The cairn tapers to a width of about 3.5m at the SSW end, where it stands up to 0.6m high. The forecourt measures about 8m in width between the horns and about 2.6m in depth. Three standing orthostats delineate the façade, while three other fallen orthostats lie within the forecourt. About 5.3m behind the facade is the rear slab of the main chamber: this is the only slab which remains in situ. About midway along the cairn is a second chamber, curving laterally across the width of the cairn. This chamber is 5.5m long and divided into three compartments by septal slabs. The outer compartment, which has its entrance facing the ESE side of the cairn, is about 1m wide tapering to about 0.4m at the far end of the inner compartment. The long cairn is situated on a natural terrace about halfway up a NW-facing slope above the Auchoish Burn at about 140m above sea level. The monument was first scheduled in 1933 but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.
The area to be scheduled is oval on plan and measures 55m NE-SW by 28m NW-SE (maximum). 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 monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:
Excavations elsewhere have demonstrated that chambered cairns were in use between around 4000 BC and 1500 BC, although the Clyde cairn form dates predominantly to the third millennium BC. They were used for communal burial over a long period of time and often reveal evidence of complex development sequences. The chambered long cairn at Auchoish has several features typical of the Clyde group. It comprises a trapezoidal mound with a simple megalithic chamber and has a recessed front edged by an orthostatic façade. An entranceway from the forecourt would have allowed access to the main chamber for the deposition of human remains over time.
The cairn at Auchoish was partly excavated in 1931. No artefacts were reported, but the results of the investigation suggest that the cairn had a complex sequence of construction, adaptation, re-use and abandonment. As well as the main chamber and the compartmentalised chamber midway along the cairn, the excavator discovered evidence of a possible third chamber, which had been badly damaged at some point during the lifetime of the cairn. This comprised a substantial stone setting of six boulders in a line and two slabs aligned with this setting to N and S, together possibly indicating a chamber; a line of stones running northwards at right angles might represent the remains of a passage.
Despite the earlier excavations and some subsequent disturbance, the footprint of the monument remains largely intact and it is in a stable condition. This chambered long cairn has high potential to enhance our understanding of the evolution of prehistoric burial monuments and the study of regional and local variations. There is also potential for the survival of further significant archaeological remains, particularly in and around forecourt area. This area appears to have been left untouched by the 1931 investigations and more recent excavations elsewhere suggest that important archaeological deposits are likely to occur here, including hearths and ritual deposits, for example, quartz pebbles, shells and deliberately broken pottery. In addition, the cairn is likely to overlie and seal a buried ground surface that could provide evidence of the environment when the monument was built. Botanical remains including pollen or charred plant material may survive within archaeological deposits deriving from the cairn's construction and use. This evidence can help us build up a picture of climate, vegetation and agriculture in the area before and during construction and use of the cairn.
Clyde type cairns have a wide distribution in the southern part of the western seaboard. The greatest concentration is in the southern half of Arran, although significant groupings are also found on the upper reaches of Loch Fyne, Kilmartin, Kintyre, Islay, Bute, and to the north of the Clyde estuary. Many were sited in prominent locations to maximise their visual impact, and they often appear to have been positioned with reference to other prehistoric monuments in the landscape.
The long cairn at Auchoish is situated on the SE slope of the valley of the Auchoish Burn, with its main axis lying at a slight angle to the contour. It has commanding views along the valley and this positioning would have ensured that it was also clearly visible to anyone travelling on the natural route way along the valley floor. The cairn is aligned towards the valley entrance to the SW, where there is a high concentration of prehistoric rock art and several standing stones. In addition, another possible cairn is situated some 650m to the NW, on the other side of the valley but almost directly opposite the Auchoish long cairn. Prior to forestry planting, these cairns would have been inter-visible. The position of this cairn in relation to the other prehistoric monuments in this landscape merits future analysis. It has the potential to further our understanding of funerary site location, ritual practice, and the structure and beliefs of early prehistoric society.
This monument is of national importance because it is a fine example of a Clyde type chambered long cairn of the early prehistoric period in Argyll. 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. Chambered cairns provide the chief material evidence for the Neolithic in this part of Scotland. Buried evidence from chambered cairns can enhance our knowledge about wider prehistoric society and economy, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contact with. This monument is particularly valuable because it is reasonably well preserved and because of its position relative to other broadly contemporary prehistoric monuments. 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 prehistoric times.
RCAHMS records the site as NR89SE 8. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service SMR reference is 4151
Campbell, M and Sandeman, M 1964 'Mid Argyll: an archaeological survey', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 95, 9, no 40.
Craw, J H 1932b 'Two long cairns (one horned) and an Ogham inscription, near Poltalloch, Argyll', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 66, 445-7.
Henshall, A S 1972a The chambered tombs of Scotland, vol. 2, 332 (ARG 19), Edinburgh.
RCAHMS 1988a The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Argyll: an inventory of the monuments, vol 6: Mid-Argyll and Cowal, prehistoric and early historic monuments, pp. 41-2, no. 8, Edinburgh.
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Printed: 17/02/2019 16:30