Cat Heaps, Swanston, Edinburgh, Midlothian

Cairns (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 2447 6828

Archaeology & History

Not far from the giant cup-marked Caiy Stone, there used to be two very large prehistoric cairns, which local historian Daviid Shankie told us “were foolishly broken up by some sacriligious hand and used for road metal”!  Not good…  Remains of human bones and several fragments of old weapons were found in them.  Fred Coles (1903) told us that:

“In the neighbourhood of this [i.e. Morton Hall], but further southwest, on the grounds of Comiston, were found, in forming the public road, under large heaps of stones, various sepulchral stone enclosures, in which were deposited urns with dead men’s ashes, and divers warlike weapons.” And again, when speaking of the levelling of a part of the ground close to the old (so-called Roman) road, by Sir John Clerk of Pennycuick, the same writer adds, there ” were discovered several stone coffins with human bones.”


According to Shankie (1902), these two great cairns were built upon lands previously known as the Templelands of Swanston and commemorated a great battle that was fought “between the ancient Picts and Scots.”


  1. Coles, Fred, ‘Notice of…Cairns and Standing Stones in Midlothian and Fife,’ in PSAS 37, 1903.
  2. Harris, Stuart, The Place-Names of Edinburgh, Gordon Wright: Edinburgh 1996.
  3. Royal Commission for the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Midlothian and West Lothian, HMSO: Edinburgh 1929.
  4. Shankie, David, The Parish of Colinton, John Wilson: Edinburgh 1902.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian