Cairn: OS Grid Reference – NC 72858 62620
Also Known as:
A mile east of Bettyhill on the A836 road, watch for the large piles of rocks up on the hill on your left (north). Turn left on the tiny road past the first house for 150 yards and then on the track past the sheep-fanks through the gate and up the small hill. The cairn is the smallest of the pile of rocks in front of you.
Archaeology & History
Of the four giant cairns clustered here at Fiscary, a mile east of Bettyhill, this one has received the least attention. It is found amidst a massive cluster of archaeological remains running from the 19th century all the way back into the neolithic period. Quite impressive!
Sitting on top of the cairn the view is impressive: looking 360º with the Orkney islands s to the northeast, Durness and the rising mountains west and southwest, and endless craggy moorlands peppered with lochans driving in all directions to the south countless miles away. This panorama of wilderness is something to behold…
The tomb itself, with the acceptable scatter of fallen rocks to the edges, is nearly 50 yards in circumference, measuring more than 12 yards east-west and nearly 14 yards north-south, with the Earth covering the older rocks to the edges with more and more vegetation as the years pass. It stands about 5-6 feet high with the typical internal mass of thousands of stones making up the cairn. No known excavations have ever been made here.
In the otherwise superb Royal Commission (1911) survey of Sutherland, they only had scant information to say about this tomb, telling that,
“The fourth cairn…measures 28′ to 30′ in diameter and is about 6′ high. There are no signs of chambers visible and the cairn has been a good deal dilapidated.”
Even when R.J. Mercer (1981) came to give this area greater attention, he passed by the Fiscary 4 cairn with equal brevity, noting simply its dimensions, elevation above sea level and the fact that it is a “circular cairn on crest of hill.”
The tombs of Fiscary 1, 2 and 3 are very close by some beginning some 257 yards (235m) to the east. I cannot recommend this entire complex highly enough!
- Henshall, Audrey S., The Chambered Cairns of Sutherland, Edinburgh University Press 1995.
- Mercer, R.J. & Howell, J.M., Archaeological Field Survey in Northern Scotland – volume 2, University of Edinburgh 1981.
- o’ Reilly, Kevin & Crockford, Ashley, What to See Around Bettyhill, privately printed 2009.
- Royal Commission on Ancient & Historical Monuments, Scotland, Second report and inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of Sutherland. HMSO: Edinburgh 1911.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian 2016