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Cave (Period Unassigned), Wall(S) (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Learnie

Classification Cave (Period Unassigned), Wall(S) (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Moray Firth

Canmore ID 288285

Site Number NH76SE 29

NGR NH 7575 6082

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Rosemarkie
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Ross And Cromarty
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Archaeology Notes

NH76SE 29 7575 6082

Large - medium natural cave with well built 1m thick wall - stone faced on both sides - large boulders. 0.3m high across whole entrance. Small secondary wall 1.5m into cave from first wall. Less well built perhaps more modern. Cave is 25m long, 8-10m wide, 4-5m high at entrance.

CFA/MORA Coastal Assessment Survey 1998.


Excavation (16 June 2013 - 13 October 2013)

NH 756 608 (vicinity of) The Rosemarkie Caves Project (RCP) is currently investigating the archaeology of 19 caves on the S shore of the Black Isle. These caves have been high and dry for at least 6000 years and Cairds’ Cave (DES 2011, 114–5) was found to have been in use since the Iron Age.

Following a survey of the 19 caves (2011–2012) and test pits dug in Ivy Cave in 2012, the RCP group dug further pits in 4 caves (Learnie 1B, 2B, 3B and 3C) on the coast below Learnie Farm (NH 755 610), from 16 June – 13 October 2013. This work aimed to recover the earliest dating material and pits were dug in the cave entrances, where it was hoped that old hearths might be located. Typically, the pits attained a depth of at least 1.5m before beach sand and bedrock was reached.

The presence of talus at the entrance to Learnie 3C prevented the excavation of a pit in the entrance to the cave. The floor inside this cave was composed of a 0.5–0.6m deposit of fine, silty sand. Underlying this was a stony layer, which contained bone and charcoal. The cave is linked by a tight passage with Learnie 3B, and this passage may have acted as a chimney for any fires lit within the cave.

This year’s work has provided the RCP with good samples of bone and charcoal, which are being sent for C14 dating, as well as three pieces of medieval pottery from Learnie 2B. This last cave has the remains of a mortared wall at the entrance, 0.9m deep, which suggests more permanent habitation or use as an animal shelter.


Funder: Highland Council, The Cromarty Trust, North of Scotland Archaeological Society (in kind)

Simon Gunn and Eric Grant, Rosemarkie Caves Project (NOSAS approved project), 2013

(Source: DES)

Test Pit Survey (6 October 2013 - 10 October 2013)

Test pits were dug in five caves, 6–10 October 2013, primarily to look for charcoal and bone for radiocarbon dating. These caves were on the S shore of the Black Isle near Inverness. Caves investigated were: NH 751 601 Ivy Cave; NH 756 607 Learnie 1B; NH 757 608 Learnie 2B; NH 757 609 Learnie 3B; NH 759 608 Learnie 3C. No suitable samples for dating were

found in Ivy Cave, but the other caves revealed use of the caves from AD 200–1200. The detailed results can be seen in the radiocarbon section of this volume of DES.

Funder: Highland Council and The Cromarty Trust

Simon Gunn – Rosemarkie Caves Project, affiliated to NOSAS

(Source: DES)


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