Scheduled Monument

Smoo Cave,prehistoric occupation siteSM5482

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
Supplementary Information Updated
Prehistoric domestic and defensive: cave
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NC 41878 67124
241878, 967124


The monument consists of deposits related to human occupation which occur on the floor of Smoo Cave. Smoo Cave is situated at the head of a narrow inlet which runs inland 600m from the N coast of Durness. It consists of a main cave (33m wide and 48m deep) and a series of smaller, subsidiary, caves. Visible archaeological deposits are confined to the main cave and consist of a midden covering much of the E portion of the cave; this is at least 17m long and a maximum of 8m wide.

At its deepest the midden is a minimum of 1.3m deep. It is likely, however, that significant deposits may extend over the whole of the cave floor, beneath the present floor level. Recent excavation of the exposed section of the midden has revealed at least three phases of human activity. The bottom layer was not studied in detail, but could be Mesolithic in date. This was sealed by a layer of sand. On top of this was evidence for 2 successive occupation deposits, containing charcoal, animal bone and possible stone structures.

The final layer was a shell midden of probable Iron Age to Medieval date. The area to be scheduled measures 35m NNE-SSW by a maximum of 30m WNW-ESE, to include the middens and an area to the S and W in which further archaeological deposits may survive below the present floor of the cave, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance for its potential contribution to an understanding of the way of life and economy of successive human communities in the north of Scotland over a period possibly dating from as early as 10,000 years ago until the present day. The lowest deposit may well be of Mesolithic date and, if so, this is the furthest N that Mesolithic finds have been made in Scotland.



RCAHMS records the monument as NC 46 NW 6.

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


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Printed: 25/01/2022 08:06