MHG459 - Cladh Aindreis Chambered Cairn - Swordle Bay, Ardnamurchan


A Clyde-type Chambered Cairn measuring 47m in length and of possible Neolithic or Bronze Age date. Excavation work on this site by the Ardnamurchan Transitions Project revealed that the site had been robbed in recent centuries as well as providing a more thorough understanding of the site.

Type and Period (1)

  • CHAMBERED CAIRN (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2401 BC)

Protected Status

Full Description

Stone Cist found AD 1860 (NAT)
OS 1:10,000 map, (1974)

Chambered Cairn, Cladh Aindreis: This Clyde-type chambered cairn is situated on a terrace on the E bank of the Allt Sordail at a point some 500m N of Swordle. Aligned NW and SE, it measures about 47m in length, tapers in width from about 30m at its SE end to 6m at the NW end, and stands to a height of 0.5m. It has, however, not only been severely robbed to provide material for walls, but has also had field-gathered stones added to it, particularly at the SE end, and for these reasons its present shape is little guide to its original appearance.
At the SE end the remains of a chamber are visible, comprising two slabs of the S side, and of the N side and the end-slab. Aligned approximately E and W, the chamber has been rectangular on plan and has measured at least 3m by 0.8m. It has been divided into two compartments, but, although three stones of the inner compartment still survive, only one side-slab of the outer compartment is visible. The end-slab of the inner compartment stands to a height of 1.05m above the present floor-level of the chamber.
A S Henshall 1972, visited 1962; RCAHMS 1980, visited 1972.

This mutilated chambered cairn was in a similar condition when seen in 1970.
Surveyed at 1:2500.
Visited by OS (N K B) 12 June 1970.

Five seasons of excavation work were undertaken at this cairn between 2006 and 2010 by the Ardnamurchan Transitions project:

In 2006, the entire Swordle Bay and Sanna Bay areas were examined as a part of a walkover survey 2km in radius from the site of Cladh Aindreis chambered cairn to define boundaries and relationships between this monument and other sites around it and to record the palaeoenvironmental setting of the site. Three areas of excavation were targeted during this season, one of which was in proximity to the chambered cairn, revealing robbed material from the cairn and a succession of archaeological layers and associated features. <1> <2>

In 2007, three trenches were opened up on the site of the Cladh Aindreis Chambered Cairn as well as numerous test pits (11 in total) to the south of the site. Two of the trenches on the cairn confirmed the badly robbed nature of the site and hinted at the sequence of the cairn. A single piece of prehsitoric pottery was recovered amongst tumbled cairn material. The trench at the foot of the cairn revealed a large ditch containing prehistoric flints. A hearth, previously uncovered in 2006, was also fully excavated although no finds were discovered. <3> <4>

In 2008, a geophysical survey and a further seven trenches were carried out on the monument further adding evidence to the argument of robbing activity of the site. The cairn was suggested to be a Clyde type cairn, due to a curved façade of similar likness with an associated ditch. The monument was suggested as dating to the early Bronze Age or of possible Neolithic construction. <5>

In 2009, three of the trenches that had been opened during previous phases of archaeological investigation were extended to excavate possible features and to further record and examine the site. Trench 1 was extended to find the front of the cairn. Trench 9 was opened immediately behind the chamber in the centre of the monument to determine if the cairn was constructed on a shell midden. A possible closed cist was encountered in this area and potentially neolithic pottery was recovered. Trench 4 was re-opened following the previous discovery of of a possible entrance to the structure, revealing a complex sequence of structures including a possible kerb cairn structure. <6> <7>

The excavations in 2010 aimed to clarify the nature of the deposits in Trenches 1 and 4, including finding the front façade of the cairn and exploring a potential Bronze Age kerb cairn. They also aimed to excavate a putative ""closed cist"" to the immediate west of the chamber and investigate the potential for midden deposits below in-situ cairn material. Trench 1 revealed a recent 'robber' trench and in situ blocking at the front of the cairn. A fragmented crouched inhumation, probably from the beaker period and a series of discrete concentrations of disarticulated of disarticulated but tightly packed remains, most likely dating to the neolithic were discovered in what appeared to be a damaged front chamber of the cairn. Trench 9 produced evidence from cremation that preceded the monumnet as well as bones from a circular cist. Trench 4, the previously uncovered Bronze Age kerb cairn from the 2009 season of work was fully exposed and planned. <8> <9>

Sources/Archives (11)



Grid reference Centred NM 5469 7075 (45m by 33m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NM57SW
Unitary Authority HIGHLAND
Geographical Area LOCHABER

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Related Investigations/Events (6)

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