Scheduled Monument

Culdoich, ring cairn 490m NW ofSM3091

Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (

The legal document available for download below constitutes the formal designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The additional details provided on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not form part of the designation. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within this additional information.


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Prehistoric ritual and funerary: ring cairn; standing stone
Local Authority
Croy And Dalcross
NH 75115 43782
275115, 843782


The monument comprises the remains of a ring cairn and a single, fallen standing stone located at the S end of an Early Bronze-Age cemetery at Clava. This complex of ritual monuments extends over 1 km along a flat terrace immediately to the S of the river Nairn, at 115m above sea level. The upstanding remains survive as an unploughed island within a cultivated field. The monument was first scheduled in 1971, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains; the present scheduling rectifies this.

The cairn is roughly circular in plan (approximately 20 m in diameter), visible as a sub-circular outer kerb of stones and boulders with an interior kerb of split stones, including a lot of sandstone blocks. Some of the cairn material between these has been removed and there is evidence of small-scale sand and gravel works on the monument, noted as far back as 1884. Professor Stuart Piggott excavated parts of the interior of the cairn in 1952-3, recovering evidence for charcoal and cremations, and the subsequent 'closing' of the cairn with a layer of rubble. The monolith lies about 10 m to the SW of the outer kerb. Both this and at least one of the kerb stones have two cupmarks pecked into their visible outer surfaces.

The area to be scheduled is a clipped circle 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 cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics: From the excavation of related monuments we now understand that the remains associated with ring cairns can include stone platforms enclosed by a circle or 'kerb' of stones, larger surrounding stone circles and rubble banks or 'rays' joining them as well as other features, and that they have a complex history of development. So, despite the fact that much of the interior of this cairn has been excavated in the 1950s, the monument still has the potential to include well-preserved remains that can help us to better understand the construction and use of this site. It is also likely to seal information about the prehistoric environment that existed at the time of its construction and use. Key structural characteristics - the kerbs and a standing stone - are still preserved and visible. Recent archaeological fieldwork under the direction of Professor Richard Bradley has highlighted the significance over the selection, position and orientation of kerbstones and this has been noted by other researchers at Culdoich. The monument therefore has a good potential to contribute to future understanding of Early Bronze-Age funerary and ritual practices.

Contextual characteristics: This monument is an example of a small, regionally-defined group of 50 or so prehistoric monuments, known as Clava cairns, which are only found in the Inverness and Moray Firth area, particularly along river valleys and low ground S of the Firth. Examples generally include components of stone circles, ring cairns and passage graves. Culdoich is an example of the close association of such monuments with water courses (two streams close to it). The monuments at Balnuaran of Clava are the type-site, and Culdoich currently forms the southwesternmost limit of an extensive, rare and very important cemetery that we believe was conceived as a unitary phenomenon. New evidence for the elements of this cemetery and its extent have recently been found. The monuments tend to have a dominant position in relation to the immediate location only.

Associative characteristics: It is the view of most prehistorians that there was an intimate relationship between the religious beliefs expressed by monuments such as Culdoich, the surrounding landscape and the movements of the main astronomical bodies. This astronomical link continues to generate considerable interest today. The importance of the relict prehistoric landscape that includes Culdoich is recognised by the fact that many of its component monuments are in the care of the Scottish Ministers. Along with nearby sites such as Culloden and Fort George, these are major tourist attractions.

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 what is happening elsewhere in the British Isles. It is a key component of an extensive and well-preserved cemetery 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.



RCAHMS records the monument as NH74SE2; Highland SMR as NH74SE0002.

Aerial photographs:

PA 5772/14A. Possible date of 14/06/1970.

PA 5772/14B. Possible date of 14/06/1970.


Barber J 1982a, 'A fallen stone at the ring cairn of Culdoich, Clava, Inverness-shire', GLASGOW ARCHAEOL J 9, 31-7.

Barber J 1982b, 'Culdoich (Croy and Dalcross parish) ring cairn and stone circle', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT 14.

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

Burl H A W 1973a, 'The recumbent stone circles of North-East Scotland', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 102, 77.

Burl H A W 1973b, 'Stone circles and ring-cairns', SCOTT ARCHAEOL FORUM 4, 31-47.

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, Vol. 1, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Piggott S 1956, 'Excavations in passage-graves and ring-cairns of the Clava group', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 88, 190-2, 207.


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 (see ‘legal documents’ above) showing the scheduled area is the designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary and provided for general information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within the statement of national importance or additional information. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

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

Find out more about scheduling and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at


There are no images available for this record, you may want to check Canmore for images relating to Culdoich, ring cairn 490m NW of

There are no images available for this record.

Search Canmore

Printed: 26/02/2024 17:48