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Arran, Torlin

Chambered Cairn (Neolithic), Bowl (Neolithic), Knife (Flint)(Neolithic), Unidentified Pottery

Site Name Arran, Torlin

Classification Chambered Cairn (Neolithic), Bowl (Neolithic), Knife (Flint)(Neolithic), Unidentified Pottery

Alternative Name(s) Torrylin

Canmore ID 39655

Site Number NR92SE 2

NGR NR 95518 21073

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council North Ayrshire
  • Parish Kilmory
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Cunninghame
  • Former County Buteshire

Archaeology Notes (1973 - 1977)

NR92SE 2 95518 21073

(NR 9553 2108) Cairn (NR)

Human Remains, Urn, Flint Knife and Scraper found AD 1900 (NAT).

OS 6" map (1924)

This Clyde group, chambered cairn has been so interfered with by stone robbing and later dumping of field stones that its original shape and size are uncertain. The remains now cover an area about 65ft in diameter, lying in untidy grass-grown heaps rising to 6ft in the centre. The remains of the chamber lie at the N end of the cairn, oriented NNW-SSE, but due to robbing, it is not known whether the chamber was longer originally, or whether there was a facade or forecourt.

The chamber is known to have been interfered with at various times. About the middle of last century, the farmer found human bones and skulls, which were replaced. A little later McArthur removed the earth and stones filling the chamber, but found only shells and bird bones.

In 1896, Dr Duncan emptied the third compartment, finding it full of earth and stones. In 1900 Bryce, finding the two N compartments empty, excavated the southernmost. Artifacts found by him, now in the NMAS, were part of a bowl (EO 236) and a flint knife (EO 237). He also dug a trench from the chamber southwards, and another E-W, but found no other built structure. A small sherd of pottery, found in 1957 at the back of the chamber, is also in the NMAS (EO 964).

Sources: J McArthur 1861; Dr Duncan 1897; T Bryce 1902; A S Henshall 1972.

The chamber is 6.7m long by about 1.2m wide with each compartment about 1.4m long. The slabs forming the sides of the chamber are each splayed from the portal end outwards, overlapping each other where they are met by the vertical edges of the transverse slabs. The side slabs rise only 0.3 to 0.6m higher than the transverses.

Source: R McLellan 1977

NR 9551 2107 Torrylin Cairn; name verified (Department of the Environment nameplate). The cairn and chamber are as described.

Resurveyed at 1:2500 and 1:100.

Visited by OS (JRL), 28 November 1977


Publication Account (1985)

Stone-robbing has severely reduced the mound of this

cairn and it is difficult to be certain of its original

shape. The form of the chamber, however, suggests

that it is a Clyde-type cairn and the mound was

therefore probably rectangular or trapezoidal on plan.

The best-surviving feature of the cairn is a portion of

the chamber, which is aligned north-north-west/southsouth-

east (probably parallel to the long axis of the

cairn). The outer, or entrance, section of the chamber

has been destroyed, but parts of at least four

compartments are visible. These are built in the

characteristic form of Clyde cairns with pairs of large slabs along the long axis of each compartment which overlap the inner end of the slabs of the next chamber. This technique was probably designed to give the sidewalls of the chamber greater strength in order to support the considerable weight of the corbelled and lintelled roof The individual compartments are separated by transverse, or septal, slabs which not only serve to divide up the chamber but, being wedged against the side-slabs of the compartment, also helped to give structural support to the side walls.

Although the cairn has been excavated, or more accurately dug into, on at least three occasions (c 1861, 1896 and 1900), attention has only been paid to the chambers and there is litle information about the cairn as a whole. The finds, however, are of some interest and include four human skulls from the third chamber and the remains of at least six adults, one child and an infant from the fourth. Besides the human remains, there was a fragmentary neolithic lugged bowl (now in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland in Edinburgh) and a fine flint knife, as well as the bones of domesticated and wild animals (ox, pig, lamb or kid, bird, fish, otter and fox). The domesticated animal bones probably represent the remains of ritual feasts but the otter and fox maybe the remains of animals who used the tomb as a den. The bones of exotic mammals and birds have been found in other neolithic tombs and the animals may have played a part in the ritual life of these communities.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Clyde Estuary and Central Region’, (1985).

Watching Brief (2003)

NR 955 210 The excavation of two small pits for a new gate was monitored in September 2003. There were no features or finds of archaeological significance.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsor: HS

G Ewart 2003.

Note (29 November 2018)

The location, classification and period of this site have been reviewed.

HES Survey and Recording 29 November 2018


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