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Ri Cruin

Cairn (Prehistoric)

Site Name Ri Cruin

Classification Cairn (Prehistoric)

Canmore ID 39456

Site Number NR89NW 16

NGR NR 8254 9711

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Kilmartin
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Archaeology Notes ( - 1977)

NR89NW 16 8254 9711.

(NR 8254 9712) Cairn (NR)

OS 6" map (1900)

The New Statistical Account notes 'urns' found in cairns in the Kilmartin Valley.

NSA 1845.

Cairn, Ri-Cruin: This very much spread cairn, c.6' above the marsh, was excavated in 1870 by Mapleton. Three cists, all with grooved side-slabs were found, containing fragments of inhumed bone. Cist (1) measured 4'5" x 2'1" x 1'8": 2), 21' S of (1), was partly destroyed when making a lime kiln, only the side-slabs remained, 6' and 5' long. (3), 5' S of (2), was 6'5" x 3'4" - 2'2" x 3'4". It contained slabs sculptured as illustrated by Mapleton, the slab with axe-carvings is still in situ; the other was lost in a fire at Poltalloch, but a cast is in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland [NMAS].

R Mapleton 1871; M Campbell and M Sandeman 1964

Generally as described. The cairn has a maximum diameter of 20.0m. Resurveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (IA) 26 March 1973

Carvings, visible only in favourable light, have been noted on the W edge of the cover slab of the northernmost cist at this cairn. They seem to consist of shallow grooves, some double, some apparently multiple, forming chevron or lozenge markings pendant from the upper edge of the slab, over a distance of c.60cm.

J G Scott and Mrs Scott 1974

Ri Cruin Cairn (DoE nameplate) is as described in the previous information. The carvings mentioned by Scott and Scott are as described but indistinct.

Surveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (TRG) 15 February 1977


Field Visit (May 1982)

This cairn is situated in trees 200m S of Ri Cruin and is accessible from the public road along a signposted path. Excavations were undertaken by Mapleton in 1870, by Craw in 1929, and by Childe in 1936, when the site was prepared for public access. The following account makes use of the published reports and of Childe's notes in the Office of Works papers (SRO MW 1/628; Craw 1930; Childe 1962; Campbell and Sandeman 1964).

As it appears today, the cairn is largely reconstructed, but it probably measured between 18.3m and l9.5m in diameter with intermittent traces of kerbstones, visible or recorded in excavation, on the S and E arcs. The cairn may originally have been intended to cover the most northerly cist visible at present, which was set in a pit at the centre of a mound. Aligned NNE and SSW and covered by a massive slab (3m by 1.05m and 0.18m thick), (The W edge of the cover slab bears faint chevron or lozenge markings, but these appear to be natural, a view confirmed by Morris) the cist measures 1.25m by 0.62m and 0.65m deep internally; the floor was formed by a carefully inserted slab, with the space at the side 'filled up very neatly with a border of small boulders'. The side-slabs were grooved to receive the N end-slab. Mapleton discovered cremated bone on the basal slab, but, as the cist had been investigated some forty years previously, it is possible that any accompanying grave-goods had been rifled.

Set within the cairn material about 7m to the SSE, and just inside the kerb of the cairn (here represented by four massive stones), there are the side-slabs of a second cist, now collapsed; the slabs are grooved at the W end to receive an end-slab, and in Mapleton's day one end-slab remained in position. Aligned roughly ENE and WSW, this cist measured about 1.1m by 0.3m internally. There were no finds.

Lying just outside the line of the kerb and set into a pit, there is a third cist, now partly covered by a large capstone; aligned approximately E and W, it is formed of a series of upright slabs and measures 2m in length, 1m in breadth at the W end, 0.6m in breadth at the E end, and 0.8m in depth. Each side consists of a pair of slabs, those on the N forming a straight line, while those on the S now bow inwards. The W end-slab is decorated with seven pecked axes. There was formerly a narrow vertical slab at the E end of the cist decorated with a vertical groove with shorter strokes at right angles to it, and the end stroke rather more bulbous; this has been variously interpreted as a boat or a halberd with a beribboned haft. The slab was later destroyed in a fire at Poltalloch House, but a cast is preserved in the Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.

The cairn had been seriously disturbed by the building of a lime-kiln in its SW quadrant, but in the course of restoration all trace of this intrusive feature has been removed.

RCAHMS 1988, visited May 1982.

Measured Survey (May 1982)

RCAHMS surveyed Ri Cruin cairn on May 1982 with plane-table and alidade producing a plan at a scale of 1:100. The plan of the cairn was redrawn in ink and published at a scale of 1:250 (RCAHMS 1988a, 72).

Publication Account (1985)

This cairn is now very much reduced in height, but its diameter of about 20m is probably close to its original extent Excavated on two occasions, by Dean Mapleton in 1870 and J H Craw in 1929, three cists were discovered, all without gravegoodsi but all have interesting features about their construction: that to the north of the centre, which was covered by a massive slab and contained a cremation deposit is grooved and rebated at one end to give the end-slab a tighter-fit; both cists to the south of the centre have grooved and rebated slabs. The west end-slab of the southernmost cist has been decorated with seven pecked axe-markings. The narrow vertically placed slab at the east end is a replacement for a further decorated slab, which bore a long pecked groove with short pecked lines at right angles to it; the original stone was sadly destroyed in a fire, but there is a cast in NMAS.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Argyll and the Western Isles’, (1985).


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