Scheduled Monument

Oslie, chambered cairn 250m S of Lynegar HouseSM472

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
ND 22719 56797
322719, 956797


The monument is the remains of a chambered cairn dating from the Neolithic period to early Bronze Age (between 3800 and 2500 BC) and is visible as an oval mound from which large slabs and stones protrude. The cairn lies 25m above sea level on ground gently sloping down towards Loch Watten with good views in all directions.

The monument is an Orkney-Cromarty type chambered cairn, a diverse group of cairns distributed across northern Scotland and the Orkney Isles which are characterised by a single long chamber, divided into stall-like "compartments" by stone uprights. Near the centre of this cairn two large slabs are visible and a third was noted in 1910. They represent the end compartment of a chamber, oriented east southeast-west southwest. The northeast slab is 0.5m long and 0.15m thick. The southwest slab, which leans slightly to the southwest, is 1.5m in length and 0.3m thick.

The scheduled area is oval on plan, to include the remains described and an area around 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 cairn appears substantially intact, although at present the surface is devoid of turf. The chamber itself appears largely complete and as there is no record of excavation at this site, archaeological deposits are expected to survive. Excavations of chambered cairns elsewhere show the continuing potential for undisturbed deposits including evidence of earlier structures, human burials, artefacts and ecofacts such as pottery, flints and bone, within, beneath and around the upstanding structure of such cairns. Scientific study would allow further understanding of the chronology of the site, including its date of origin, state of completeness and any possible development sequence.

The cairn dates from the late Neolithic to early Bronze Age (around 3800 to 2500 BC) and its original function was as a burial or funerary site although it may also have had other ceremonial or ritual uses for the local community. It is likely to have been a prominent place for the local community and would have been a focal point in the landscape. This example helps us understand more about ritual and funerary practice, the architecture of prehistoric burial and the construction, use and abandonment of these monuments.

Contextual Characteristics

Orkney-Cromarty cairns are found only in north and west Scotland, with the greatest concentration in Orkney. Their design is particularly interesting because the shape and form, with subdivisions formed by upright slabs, is comparable with contemporary house forms e.g. Knap of Howar, Orkney. It is likely that this was deliberate, with the tombs representing 'houses for the dead'. Oslie is an interesting example as it has never been excavated and the chamber appears substantially intact. This contrasts with several other chambered cairns in Caithness, which were excavated at an early date or otherwise disturbed.

Oslie is one of a group of inland burial monuments lying between Wick and Thurso. 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. There are nine other chambered cairns within 10km of Oslie. They comprise five cairns on high ground above Loch Scarmclate and the River Thurso (e.g. Mill of Knockdee, scheduled monument reference SM468, Canmore ID 8525), two cairns close to the summit of low hills north of Loch Watten (scheduled monument reference SM439 and Canmore ID 8855, scheduled monument reference SM434 and Canmore ID 8851), a cairn on the south bank of the Wick River (Bilbster chambered cairn, scheduled monument reference SM43, Canmore ID 8759) and a cairn at Spittal (Fairy Hillock chambered cairn, scheduled monument reference SM528, Canmore ID 8337). This group of nearby monuments encompasses a range of landscape positions and chamber arrangements, giving high potential to carry out typological and landscape analysis, enhancing our understanding of the placing of such sites in the landscape and the organisation, division and use of land in the Neolithic and Bronze Age.

Chambered cairns are often placed in conspicuous locations within the landscape, at the edge of arable land and overlooking or inter-visible with other ritual monuments. This cairn is located on ground gently sloping down to Loch Watten, with good views in all directions. It is a visible feature in the landscape.

Associative Characteristic

There are no known associative characteristics which contribute to the site's cultural significance.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance as it makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the design and construction of prehistoric burial monuments, and the nature of belief systems and burial practices during the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age within northern Scotland. The monument retains its field characteristics and can be compared with a varied group of other chambered cairns that survive in the vicinity. Chambered cairns are often our main source of evidence for the Neolithic in Scotland, and are important for our understanding of Neolithic society and economy, and as well as the nature of burial practices and belief systems. They are an important component of the wider prehistoric landscape of settlement, agriculture and ritual. The loss of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the meaning and importance of death and burial in Neolithic times and the placing of cairns within the landscape.



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 8740 (accessed on 31/05/2016).

Highland Council HER/SMR reference is MHG2313.

Davidson, J L and Henshall, A S 1989, The chambered cairns of Orkney: an inventory of the structures and their contents, Edinburgh.

Henshall, A S 1963, The chambered tombs of Scotland, vol. 1. Edinburgh. Page 285.

RCAHMS. 1911 The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Third report and inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of Caithness. London. Page 132, No. 478.

HER/SMR Reference

  • MHG2313

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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Printed: 28/09/2023 21:13