Leathad Carnaich, Dalhalvaig, Caithness

Cairn:  OS Grid Reference – NC 89044 55882

Archaeology & History

An unexcavated ring cairn in a very good state of preservation can be seen in the field immediately west of the River Halladale.  Measuring more than 14 yards across east-west and 15 yards north-south, the site stands in association with several other unexcavated cairns.


Although some of the cairns here have been found with prehistoric burials in them, tradition tells that the cairns here were the result of “a great battle between the native Pictish inhabitants and the invading Norsemen.” So wrote George Sutherland, many moons ago. He continued:

“The Norsemen were defeated in that battle, and Halladha, their leader, was slain. It is from him that the river and the dale take their name. The battle was fought on a hillside, on the east side of the river and that hillside is covered with cairns which are supposed to mark the graves of those slain in this battle, but the body of Halladha, the norse leader, was interred on the west side of the river, and his sword was laid in the grave beside his body. Near the circular trench where he is said to have been buried there are several heaps of stones which are supposed to mark the graves of other Norsemen of note who fell in the battle.”


  1. Sutherland, G., Folklore Gleanings and Character Sketches from the Far North, John o’ Groats Journal: Wick 1937.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian