Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Gaich Wood

Cairn (Bronze Age)

Site Name Gaich Wood

Classification Cairn (Bronze Age)

Alternative Name(s) Croftskellich; Croft Scalliach; Croftscalich

Canmore ID 15696

Site Number NJ02NW 2

NGR NJ 0077 2535

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2022.

Toggle Aerial | View on large map

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Cromdale, Inverallan And Advie
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Badenoch And Strathspey
  • Former County Morayshire

Archaeology Notes

NJ02NW 2 0077 2535.

(NJ 0077 2535) Cairn (NR)

Stone Coffin containing Ashes found AD 1860 (NAT)

OS 6" map, Morayshire, 2nd ed., (1905)

Near the south side of Gaich Wood, a short distance from Croftscalich, is a large cairn of stones which was opened about six years ago (c. 1865), when a cist containing dust or ashes was found near its centre. Most of it has been removed to build walls around the adjoining fields.

Name Book 1871.

No trace of this cairn; presumably destroyed by re-afforestation.

Visited by OS (N K B) 1 September 1966.

This chambered cairn has not been destroyed by the planting of trees as previously reported, but survives within a mature plantation 100m N of Lairig Ghru and Croft Skellioch cottages. The monument comprises a central chamber enclosed within a cairn that measures about 22.3m from N to S by 18.8m transversely over a spread of rubble little more than 0.3m in height. There is a probable kerbstone on the SSE and several low scarps within the rubble provide evidence for periods of quarrying. The chamber measures at least 1.8m from NNE to SSW by 1.1m transversely and comprises a massive block of stone (measuring 4m from NE to SW by 2.3m transversely and 1.7m in height) on the SSE, and two large slabs (up to 0.9m in height) on the SSW and WNW. The slab that once formed the NNE end is no longer evident and the chamber is now choked with stones and modern rubbish.

Visited by RCAHMS (AGCH) 11 October 2006.


Field Visit (24 September 1943)

This site was included within the RCAHMS Emergency Survey (1942-3), an unpublished rescue project. Site descriptions, organised by county, vary from short notes to lengthy and full descriptions and are available to view online with contemporary sketches and photographs. The original typescripts, manuscripts, notebooks and photographs can also be consulted in the RCAHMS Search Room.

Information from RCAHMS (GFG) 10 December 2014.

Measured Survey (8 March 2007)

RCAHMS surveyed Gaich Wood cairn on 8 March 2007 with plane-table and alidade at a scale of 1:100. The resultant plan and section was redrawn in vector graphics software at a scale of 1:200.

Publication Account (2007)

The bronze age burial cairn in Gaich Wood (NJ02NW 2), situated 2km south-west of Grantownon-Spey, was visited during the survey of the Braes of Abernethy in 2006, in order to revise the existing record. The cairn is depicted on the 1st edition of the Ordnance Survey 6-inch map (Elginshire 1874, sheet XXXII) with the annotation ‘Stone Coffin containing Ashes found here AD 1860’ ; the contemporary OS Name Book entry (Elginshire, Book 6, p. 166) reports that ‘a stone chest was found near the centre containing dust or ashes. The greater part of the cairn is taken away for the purpose of building stone fences around the adjoining fields‘.

The cairn was sought in vain by the Ordnance Survey in 1966, who reported that ‘no trace’ of it was to be found, presumably on account of the fact that it had been ‘destroyed by afforestation’ (OS Record Card, 1 September 1966). It was quite a surprise to find not only that the cairn still remained visible, but that a large cist had survived at its centre.

The cairn is situated on a rocky, relatively steep south-facing slope on the north-west side of the Spey Valley. Oval on plan, it measures up to 22m in diameter from north to south by 18.5m transversely, but robbing has reduced the body of the cairn to a tree- and grass-grown spread of rubble about 0.3m in height.

At the centre of the cairn is a large cist, set against the northwest face of a very large boulder standing up to 1.7m in height. The cist measures about 1.8m from north-east to south-west by 1m transversely; and although the north-east end-slab is missing, those at the south-west end and on the north-west side survive, the latter comprising a massive slab measuring 2.3m in length by 1.3m in height and 0.4m inthickness. An earthfast boulder

on the south-south-east side of the cairn indicates that there was probably once a retaining kerb around the mound. Scarring on the surface of the cairn indicates at least two episodes of robbing.


The cairn in Gaich Wood is one of a clutch of burial cairns lying to the west of Grantown and north-west of the River Spey, some of which have been robbed to reveal central cists. Indeed, one such previously unrecorded monument (NJ02NW 151) was discovered about 900 m to the north-west of the Gaich Wood cairn during the survey.

This group of early bronze age cairns is complemented by a series of Neolithic rock carvings and burnt mounds, which probably date to the centuries around the end of the second millennium BC. Together they suggest that the area north-west of the River Spey was relatively densely occupied throughout this period. This contrasts markedly with the corresponding area south-east of the river, where the same range of monuments is found more thinly spread. Quite why there should be sucha a contrast probably cannot be explained without setting the archaeology of the survey area in a wider geographical context.

This highlights one of the drawbacks to undertaking surveys of relatively small areas: there can be no certainty that the archaeology of these areas is truly representative of the broader picture. The discovery of so many new burnt mounds north-west of the Spey and hut-circles to the south-east has clearly demonstrated that the existing record of the area was largely unrepresentative of the archaeology that actually survives. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that the same is true of the areas surrounding the survey area and so it necessarily follows that there is no meaningful record to which theresults of the Braes of Abernethy survey can be compared.


The most important lesson to arise from the rediscovery of the Gaich Wood cairn is that Ordnance Survey records can never be taken at face value. While it is probable that this cairn and another about 500 m to the north-east (NJ02NW 1), were situated in impenetrable young woodland in 1966, the statement that there was ‘No trace of this cairn‘ in each case was simply wrong. The fact that these accounts were inaccurate has implications for those other sites recorded around the same time.

The second lesson is that forty years is perhaps too long an interval between the revision of site records. Many of the sites visited during the Commission’s survey at Yarrows in Caithness during 2004 and the present survey in East Renfrewshire were last evaluated by the OS in the mid-1960s. While many of the OS site descriptions often require little emendation, it is common for them to be the only record of many that have since been destroyed.

Lastly, the recognition that both of the cairns in Gaich Wood still survive has implications for their future management. The cairn with the cist adjacent to the large boulder is a most unusual monument, worthy of further research and also legal protection. The Commission can be pleased that it has played its part in its rediscovery and in bringing it to a wider audience.

Information from ‘Commissioners’ Field Meeting 2007'.

Watching Brief (October 2009)

NJ 00904 25259 A watching brief was conducted for a new house in October 2009. The development site is to the SE of the site of a cairn (NJ02NW 2). No archaeological features or deposits were recorded.

Report: HSMR and RCAHMS

Funder: Mr G Rae

Stuart Farrell


MyCanmore Image Contributions

Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions