Scheduled Monument

Culchunaig, cairn and standing stone 300m SE ofSM3070

Status: Designated


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Date Added
Last Date Amended
Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cairn (type uncertain); standing stone
Local Authority
Daviot And Dunlichity
NH 74206 44188
274206, 844188


The monument comprises the remains of a cairn dating to the Early Bronze Age and surviving as a low cairn defined by an outer kerb, and a single upstanding monolith. It lies in cultivated land on the coastal plain, between the River Nairn and the S shore of the Moray Firth, at 160 m above sea level. The monument was first scheduled in 1971, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains; the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The cairn, probably the remains of a chambered cairn or ring cairn, is roughly circular in plan (approximately 19 m in diameter) and displays similar features and components to the neighbouring complex of cairns at Balnuaran of Clava where central cairns are surrounded by an outer ring of standing stones. Overall the monument is likely to have been about 28 m in diameter, an estimate based on the sole survivor of an outer stone circle, a single stone sitting at nearly 2 m high, some 8 m to the S of the cairn. Several kerbstones are visible on the N, NE and S of the cairn. Large boulders similar in size to those surviving at Culchunaig have been recorded in nearby dykes and field boundaries. One of these larger stones bears the surviving relief of prehistoric rock art in the shape of cupmarks. It is possible that this and other boulders are field-cleared remnants of the monument, but we cannot prove this.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, to include the visible remains and an area around them in which traces of associated activity may be expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Statement of National Importance

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics: The cairn has been disturbed and material removed prior to the first recorded field visit in 1884. Despite this, features and components of the basic cairn structure and identifiable elements of Clava-type monuments are visible (such as the cairn, kerb and circle of outlying monoliths). The monument therefore has good potential to contribute to the archaeological record and the understanding of Early Bronze-Age and later funerary practice. It is also likely to seal an old land surface that contains information about the prehistoric environment that existed at the time when it was built.

Contextual characteristics: This monument is an example of a small group of about 50 prehistoric cairns, known as Clava cairns, which are only found in the Inverness and Moray Firth area, particularly along river valleys and low ground south of the Firth. Examples generally include components of stone circles, ring cairns and passage graves. The monument is located within 2 km to the west of a dense concentration of similar types at Clava, on the north side of the River Nairn. Its proximity to a river or water course is a shared feature among the class and it does not appear to dominate a wide landscape, again like the examples at Clava. During recent investigations in the Clava area, Professor Richard Bradley noted the significance in the setting of these monuments and reinforced this in referring to Culchunaig.

Associative characteristics: Monuments such as Culchunaig have been the subject of a long tradition of antiquarian, archaeological and more general interest.

It is the view of most prehistorians that there was an intimate relationship between the religious beliefs expressed by monuments such as Culchunaig, the surrounding landscape and the movements of the main astronomical bodies. This astronomical link continues to generate considerable interest today.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it represents a rare and regionally distinctive class of Early Bronze Age monument that can help us to understand burial and ritual practices in NE Scotland and their relationship to practices elsewhere in the British Isles. It is a key component of an extensive and well-preserved cemetery centred around the River Nairn at Clava and has the potential to provide important information about the activities that took place here and how these contribute to the development of this ceremonial landscape as a whole. As one of the few examples surviving on the higher, N bank of the River Nairn, its visibility and intervisibility with contemporary and later monuments appears to be significant. Its loss would limit the ability to understand the wider context of funerary practice in the Early Bronze Age of NE Scotland.



RCAHMS record the monument as NH74SW 7; Highland Council SMR as NH74SW0007.


Bradley R 2000, THE GOOD STONES: A NEW INVESTIGATION OF THE CLAVA CAIRNS, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland monograph series No. 17, Edinburgh.

Fraser J 1884, 'Descriptive notes on the stone circles of Strathnairn and neighbourhood of Inverness', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 18, 350.

Henshall A S 1963, THE CHAMBERED TOMBS OF SCOTLAND, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Vol. 1.


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: 29/05/2020 02:14