Scheduled Monument

Cnoc Chaornaidh, chambered cairn 590m SW ofSM4022

Status: Designated


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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: chambered cairn
Local Authority
Kincardine (Highland)
NC 30329 7942
230329, 907942


The monument comprises the remains of a chambered cairn dating to the Neolithic period, probably built and in use between around 4000BC and 2500BC. It is visible as a collection of large stones on a low, grass covered, stony mound measuring around 15m east-west and 13m north-south. The monument is located on a southwest facing hillslope and ridge below Cnoc Chaornaidh at around 170m above sea level.                                                                                 

Much of the overlying material of the cairn has been removed, exposing the internal structure. However, the outline of the cairn remains visible and indicates that it was probably heel-shaped with a concave façade to the south east. This is confirmed by surviving kerb stones and their related sockets on this elevation of the cairn. A short entrance passage leads from the centre of this façade to an ante-chamber and larger central chamber. The position of the entrance passage and chambers are indicated by large orthostats (upright stones) visible within the body of the cairn.

The scheduled area is circular with a diameter of 35m. It includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Statement of National Importance

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument is a chambered cairn which survives as a stone-built mound with structural orthostats exposed. Although much of the upper cairn material has been removed, the plan and structural layout of the cairn remains clear. It has a south east facing façade, concave on plan, an entrance passage and an ante-chamber and central chamber. The entrance front would have been an impressive, slightly concave façade that framed the entrance to the cairn.

There is good potential for the survival of archaeological deposits, including human burials, artefacts and environmental remains such as pollen and charcoal, within, beneath and around the upstanding structure of the cairn. Such archaeological remains have the potential to provide information about the date of the monument, ritual and funerary practices, and the structure of Neolithic society. Any artefacts and environmental material would enhance understanding of contemporary economy, land-use and environment.

Dating evidence from chambered cairns elsewhere demonstrates that they were constructed and in use between around 4000BC and 2500 BC. They were used for communal burial and ritual, and excavations often reveal evidence of complex development sequences. Therefore the cairn may have been in use for a long period of time. Scientific study of the cairn's form and construction techniques compared with other chambered cairns would enhance our understanding of the development sequence of this site and of chambered cairns in general.

Contextual Characteristics

Chambered cairns are found throughout Scotland, with a concentration in the north and west. The example at Cnoc Chaornaidh is important as it retains its internal structural arrangements with a very clear layout evident. It is heel shaped in plan rather than a simple round cairn.

It is part of a wider group of chambered cairns in Glen Oykel. Of particular interest is the very close proximity of this cairn to two other chambered cairns; Cnoc Chaornaidh, chambered cairn 570m WSW of (SM4023; Canmore ID 4738), and Cnoc Chaornaidh, chambered cairn 180m NNE of, Stratheskie (SM4045; Canmore ID 4606). Both of these cairns are similar in type and features and they are all located on the same hillside ridge with similar outlooks across the valley. The proximity of these burial monuments can give important insights into the Neolithic landscape and add to our understanding of social organisation, land division and land-use. The monument has the potential to enhance our understanding of the nature and development of Neolithic monumentality and burial, the nature of belief systems, ceremonial and burial practices.

Chambered cairns are found in a variety of locations. Some are placed in conspicuous locations within the landscape, such as on the summits of hills or on the shoulders of hills, perhaps to be seen on a skyline or otherwise in profile. Others are found in less conspicuous locations, for example on valley floors. Relationships to routeways and/or other ritual sites, locations near to good upland pasture and views over specific areas of land may also have had significance. The chambered cairn at Cnoc Chaornaidh is positioned on a southwest facing slope. It occupies a prominent position and is has extensive views to the west, south and southeast.

Associative Characteristics

There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to this site's national importance.

Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it makes a significant addition to our understanding of the design and construction of burial monuments, the nature of burial and ritual practices and their significance in Neolithic society. Although much of the overlying cairn material has been removed, this chambered cairn retains significant field characteristics. As such it can significantly enhance our understanding of Neolithic society and economy, as well as the nature of belief systems, burial and ceremonial practices. It would have been an important component of the wider prehistoric landscape of settlement, agriculture and ritual and would have been a prominent part of the prehistoric landscape. Chambered cairns are one of our main sources of information for the Neolithic in Scotland and so are an important element in our understanding of the nature of Scotland's prehistoric society and landscape. The loss of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the meaning and importance of death and burial, and the placing of cairns within the landscape in the Neolithic period in northern Scotland and further afield.



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 4739 (accessed on 06/09/2018).

Highland Historic Environment Record Reference: MHG7390 (accessed on 06/09/2018).

Henshall, A S. (1963). The chambered tombs of Scotland, vol. 1. Edinburgh. p. 345.

Mercer, R J. (1980). Archaeological field survey in northern Scotland, 1976-1979, University of Edinburgh, Department of Archaeology, Occasional Paper No. 4. Edinburgh. p. 152.

HER/SMR Reference


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.

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Cnoc Chaornaidh, chambered cairn, line of façade visible to the left of chambers, looking southwest, during daytime.
Cnoc Chaornaidh, chambered cairn, looking west-northwest along entrance passage to chambers, during daytime.

Printed: 09/08/2022 09:06