Scheduled Monument

Crosskirk,St Marys Chapel and broch S of Chapel PoolSM90086

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
Ecclesiastical: burial ground, cemetery, graveyard; chapel, Prehistoric domestic and defensive: broch; enclosure (domestic or defensive, rather than ritual or funerary)
Local Authority
ND 02493 70114
302493, 970114


The monument consists of the roofless remains of the chapel of St Mary (later used as two burial enclosures) lying E-W within a square burial ground, together with the adjacent remains of a broch and outer defensive works.

St Mary's Chapel was a dependent chapel within the parish of Reay, and may date from the 12th century. In form, it resembles contemporary churches in Orkney and Scandinavia rather than those elsewhere in the Scottish Highlands, in its possession of separate nave and square-ended chancel. The walls of the chancel seem to have been largely reconstructed on the earlier foundations, possibly in


The chapel was originally entered from the W through a door (now blocked) with inclined jambs. The present S door is probably modern, and may replace an earlier window. The chancel arch is similar to the W door. The N wall of the nave seems to survive to its original height, some 2.5m above present ground level, but the W and S walls are less complete. The E and W gables of the nave show that it had a pitched roof. The walls are built of whinstone slabs irregularly coursed and those of the nave are approximately 1.25m thick.

The burial ground is enclosed by stone walls, and the earliest dated stone to survive is inscribed 1692.

The broch lay to the N of the burial ground, and succeeded a promontory fort on the site. The remains were partly excavated between 1966-72 before demolition of the above-ground remains. The foundations and lower parts of the walls remain, though some has been lost to erosion.

The dry-stone wall of the promontory fort (which had a ditch on its outer side) was penetrated near its E end by an entrance passage with a possible guard cell on its W side. To the fort was subsequently added a broch, approximately 20m in diameter, entered from the ESE

and with a guard cell on the N side.

The walls, filled with earth and boulders, were approximately 5m thick, and contained the base of a stair and one further mural chamber. Further structures were later built outside the walls of the broch, and occupation probably continued until at least the 8th century. A Pictish symbol stone, now lost, has been found on this site.

The scheduled area is irregular in plan and measures approximately 85m N-S by the same ENE-WSW. It includes the chapel and burial ground and the broch, together with an area of ground in which traces of activities associated with their construction and use may survive, and is as marked in red on the accompanying map. It is partly limited by the outer edge of the walls of the burial ground. It excludes all lairs with existing burial rights.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance as the well-preserved remains of a chapel probably of the 12th century, associated with the earlier remains of a broch from which there may be continuity of occupation on the site, and for its potential to contribute to an understanding of prehistoric and medieval architecture, settlement, social and ecclesiastical organisation in prehistoric and medieval Scotland.



RCAHMS records the monument as ND 07 SW 1.


Anderson, J 1973, 'Introduction, in Hjaltalin, J and Goudie, G Orkneying Saga Translation Edinburgh, xcvii-xcviii.

Fairhurst, H, 1984, Excavations at Crosskirk Broch, Caithness.

Macfarlane, W, 1906-8, Geographical collections relating to Scotland, in Mitchell, A and Clark, J. T. 3v, Edinburgh, vol. 1, 185.

Ordnance Survey 1872, Object Name Books of the Ordnance Survey, Book No. 9, 3, 9.

Pennant, T, 1769, A tour in Scotland, and voyage to the Hebrides; MDCCLXXII,, 1 2v Chester, 348-9.

RCAHMS 1911, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Second report and inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of Sutherland, Edinburgh, xxviii-xxix, 89-90, No. 338, Fig. 18.

Historic Environment Scotland Properties

St. Mary's Chapel, Crosskirk

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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.

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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).

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Printed: 22/04/2024 00:45