Cairn: OS Grid Reference – NN 90728 41161
Also Known as:
- Canmore ID 26253
- White Cairn
Take the A826 road south out of Aberfeldy, uphill – and uphill. Several miles up, past the roadside Loch na Craige, and past the solitary farmhouse of Scotston, you’re getting close. A few hundred yards past here watch out for the small bridge over the small burn; and literally another half-mile past this, keep your eyes peeled for the small track on your right, onto the moors. Walk 70 yards on the track and there, on your left, it rises from the heather!
Archaeology & History
This giant neolithic tomb in the middle of a beautiful nowhere is perhaps the tomb of an ancestral King or Queen, later idolised into creation myths by our heathen ancestors who, we know, lived across this huge moorland plain for countless centuries. One account tells that “a circle of free-standing boulders set at irregular intervals” used to surround the cairn, but this seems to have gone.
Measuring 21 yards (19.2m) across east-west, and just over 21 yards (19.3m) north-south, this is quite a large construction made up of thousands of small stones in a near-perfect ring that measures 68 yards (62m) in circumference. The cairn seems to have been built in three layers, with its outer defining ring of medium-sized rocks, upon which a layer of typical cairn-spoil stones were laid. A couple of yards within this, a second internal ring has been set consisting of much larger stones, more typical of those found in small stone circles or average ring-cairns. Within this, the cairn seems to have been raised again and another large deposit of countless stones were scattered, with many pieces of white quartz (very common in this area) incorporated in the construction.
At the very centre of the cairn, at least one large central ‘tomb’ or cist is clearly evident. Within this cist were found the severely damaged ruins of a small decorated beaker, in which, perhaps, the ashes of the dead might have once been found. A very large and heavy capstone that covered the central tomb, has been rolled over and lays just off-centre. No rock art seems visible on this capstone, but we were unable to check its underside. When standing here at the middle of the tomb, you are four feet above the average ground-level of the surrounding moorland.
Curiously and erroneously reported by Margaret Stewart (1961) to have “been completely removed”, this large and very visible monument lives near the middle of a very large and extensive prehistoric enclosure, whose walled remains extend for some distance all round this section of the moors. Within this arena we find large numbers of other architectural features, including many smaller cairns, some hut circles and additional lines of internal prehistoric walling. Just a few yards south of the tomb itself, we can clearly see a length of walling running east-west and another seemingly reaching up to the White Cairn. Whether these were built at the same time, or later, is difficult to say.
In the event that you visit this site, take your time! All round here, mainly to the north and west, you will find masses of prehistoric remains, none of which has been adequately excavated. A few hundred yards north is an extended necropolis that doesn’t appear to have been surveyed.
- Stewart, Margaret E.C., “Strath Tay in the Second Millenium BC – A Field Survey”, in Proceedings Society Antiquaries Scotland, volume 92, 1961
Acknowledgements: Huge thanks again to Paul Hornby for his assistance with site inspection, and additional use of his photos.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian