MHG1547 - Clearance cairns - Allt Torigil


Clearance cairns at Allt Torigil.

Type and Period (1)

  • CLEARANCE CAIRN? (Early Bronze Age to Late Iron Age - 2400 BC? to 560 AD?)

Protected Status

Full Description

A large number of clearance cairns near Broubster, probably associated with a large group of hut circles. Some may be small burial cairns.

In area centred ND 032 592 there are the remains of thirteen hut circles or enclosures, twenty-five cairns, a burnt mound (see ND05NW 24), and the footings of four rectangular buildings (see ND05NW (M) 11). Visited by OS (R D) 9 November 1964.

(ND 033 595) Cairns (NR) (ND 031 592) Cairns (NR) Hut Circles (NR) (ND 033 589) Hut Circles & Enclosures (NR)
OS 6"map, (1963)

This complex group of hut circles and cairns is situated on a gently sloping, undulating hillside. The hut circles, of which there are eleven, form two groups, one centred on ND 032 593 and the other on ND 032 589. The northern group of five huts, four circular and one oval, range in internal diameter from 4-8.5m; the oval hut is 7.5 by 6.5m. All are bounded by turf or heather-covered walls, spread to approximately 2m and 0.4m high, each with a simple entrance in SE. The southern group of six huts is more widely scattered. Their internal sizes range from 6.5 to 13.5m in diameter; all are circular or slightly oval. Three, at ND 0318 5899, ND 0330 5907 and ND 0343 5893, are well-defined examples, the latter scooped deeply into a dry rise. Their walls are spread to around 3m and 0.7m high. Their entrances are in SE. The published circle at ND 0315 5888 is ill-defined and obscured by bracken; details of it are unobtainable. At ND 0353 5897, the only feature noted was an amorphous footing 3m across. No clear pattern of cultivation is evident in the vicinity of the huts; isolated clearance heaps occur on dry rises in the area.

There are nine burial cairns centred on ND 032 594, the majority exhibiting the remains of a kerb and/or cist (cists are exposed at ND 0326 5952 and ND 0332 5948). With one exception they are on average 7m in diameter, turf or heather-covered and 0.6m high. The exceptional cairn, prominently positioned at ND 0330 5945, is partly of bare stone, 15.0m in diameter and 1.5m high. One kerbstone survives in the E, but no cist or chamber is apparent. There is the suggestion of a shallow ditch 2.0m wide around the NE half. In the vicinity are two probable cairns similar to the smaller cairns, and four further examples adjacent to the hut circles at ND 031 592. The latter vary in size from 5.0 to 7.0m in diameter and stand 0.7m high. Except for one with a protruding possible capstone they lack any diagnostic features, yet their general appearance strongly resembles the burial cairns described above. Approximately four turf and heather-covered mounds at ND 033 592 are also similar to the cairns, but whether they are funerary or simply clearance heaps cannot be judged from ground inspection. Occasional smaller and less regular mounds occur over the whole area; they are assumed to be either field clearance or natural, although the possibility that some may contain burials cannot be ignored. The stony mounds and walling centred on ND 035 592 post-date the features described above.
Surveyed at 1:10560.
Revised at 1:10,000.
Visited by OS (J B) 23 July 1981.
ND05NW 14 032 592

A large number of the cairns were identified by R Mercer in 1982 during a survey undertaken by the University of Edinburgh, one of several over a number of years in Caithness. However, they do not appear to have been recorded individually in more detail other than having their positions marked on the plan for the area. <1>

A large number of the cairns (though in some cases different to those recorded by Mercer) were identified in LiDAR data gathered by AOC Archaeology in 2011 as part of the mitigation for the visual impact on the archaeological landscape associated with the proposed Baillie Hill windfarm, Caithness. Recorded simply as 'clearance cairn', some are known to be burial cairns [see elsewhere for these - IS-L]. <2>

Some of the clearance cains lie within an area of hut circles and burial cairns Scheduled by Historic Environment Scotland on 12/05/2016. <2>

See also NMRS record ND05NW 48 for the Field Clearance Cairns

Sources/Archives (3)



Grid reference Centred ND 0330 5922 (505m by 867m) (Buffered by site type)
Map sheet ND05NW
Civil Parish REAY
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (2)

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