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Lewis, Shader, Steinacleit

Building (Prehistoric)(Possible), Chambered Cairn (Neolithic)(Possible), Enclosure (Prehistoric)

Site Name Lewis, Shader, Steinacleit

Classification Building (Prehistoric)(Possible), Chambered Cairn (Neolithic)(Possible), Enclosure (Prehistoric)

Alternative Name(s) Stein-a-cleit; Lower Shader; Siadar

Canmore ID 4275

Site Number NB35SE 2

NGR NB 39630 54080

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Western Isles
  • Parish Barvas
  • Former Region Western Isles Islands Area
  • Former District Western Isles
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Archaeology Notes ( - 1980)

NB35SE 2 39630 54080

(NB 3962 5407) Steinacleit (NAT)

Chambered Cairn (NR)

OS 6" map, (1964)

Reputed chambered cairn: Although described by the RCAHMS as a denuded chambered cairn and stone circle, Henshall, although she found the site greatly ruined and difficult to understand, saw little indication that it had been a chambered tomb, and believes that it may be the remains of a building.

About 1920 the site was stripped of 3 or 4ft of peat which partly covered it, revealing what, in 1928, the Commission described as an oval enclosure, 270ft by 183ft, formed by a wall varying in width from a single stone up to 5 or 6ft. The reputed cairn lay within the SW end, with its centre about 50ft from the enclosure wall.

Today (A S Henshall 1972) the most obvious feature of the cairn is its kerb or wall-face, with a diameter of 54ft. The RCAHMS described it as consisting of ten large upright stone blocks mostly broad of face and thin of edge: there were indications of four others beneath the ground, while, of six prostrate stones, one resembles, possibly fortuitously, the shape of an axe. Henshall adds that the stones stand on the east side up to 3ft 8ins high above the turf and that their full length, as suggested by the fallen stones, is between 6 and 7 1/2ft. Round the north part the wall is continuous, with large stones set horizontally between the earthfast blocks. On the ESE there seems to be part of an outer wall-face with three stones joining it at right-angles to the main wall (A S Henshall 1972). The RCAHMS saw this as an overlapping of the ring, or kerb, with a single stone set at right-angles, suggestive of an entrance.

"Within the kerb, and at places outside it, there is a considerable quantity of loose stones or cairn material, banked near the edge to a maximum height of 3ft, but dish-towards the centre. In the interior there are several large set stones apparently belonging to an interior structure" .., the most notable being an upright stone on the west side 2 1/2ft wide and 2ft thick which projects 4ft above the present ground-level. "The concave centre and the space between the interior orthostats make it difficult to interpret the remains as a tomb. In some respects the site suggests a ruined building, though the use of such large stones set on their sides or their ends is, on the whole, against this." (A S Henshall 1972).

Within the SE end of the enclosure is a standing stone, and 145ft distant from the kerbed structure is a standing stone 5 1/2ft high: another (NB35SE 3) lies 540 yards due N.

(RCAHMS 1928; A S Henshall 1972).

'Stein-a-cleit', according to the MoPBW guide-post.

Visited by OS (A W B) 22 June 1956.

Steinacleit (Information from MoPBW plaque), a multilated cairn 15.8m in diameter, is prominently situated on a false crest. It is defined by a discontinuous circular kerb of 11 large slabs set on edge, with several others now prostrate. The hollowed interior is a disturbed area of turf-covered stones containing 3 earthfast blocks, apparently too widely spaced to be part of a chamber. The 'outer wall face' on the ESE edge of the cairn is formed by 4 loose slabs on edge, one of which crosses the line of the kerb. These do not form part of the original structure.

There is no clear evidence of a 'building' here but these slabs and the 3 interior blocks may be part of an intrusive structure.

The alleged stone circle around the cairn is a ruined field wall of indeterminate age terminating in the S on the scant remains of an oval structure c.4.0m across. The wall is almost certainly constructed from material robbed from the cairn, and the 'standing stones' are bracing stones incorporated in it, and fortuitous tumble.

Re-surveyed at 1/2500

Visited by OS (N K B) 18 June 1969.

Steinacleit may be a homestead (defended?) showing at least two phases and possibly adopted from a megalithic structure. The enclosure wall would appear contemporaneous. The evidence for a cairn is dubious.

Visited by OS (J R L), May 1980.


Field Visit (20 June 1921)

Circle and Denuded Cairn, Steinacleit, Shader.

Overlooking Loch an Duin, ½ a mile south-south-east of Lower Shader Schoolhouse and at an elevation of 150 feet above sea-level, are the remnants of a chambered cairn with stone circle kerb marked Steinacleit on O.S. map. (Figs. 49, 50).

Amid the loose stones of the cairn to the south of the interior are three upright stones, probably of the chamber, and the circle kerb, which is about 50 feet in diameter, consists of ten uprights, mostly broad on face and thin on edge; there are indications of four others beneath the surface of the ground, while there are six prostrate stones, one of which on the south markedly resembles the shape of an axe. It is 5 feet long, 2 feet 2 inches broad at base, diminishing by a concave side to 1 foot 8 inches about the middle, where it projects 1 foot 4 ½ inches on the other side to a narrowing edge and finishes 2 feet 8 inches along the top. The greatest thickness of base is 1 foot 1 inch, reduced to an arris on one side by 7-inch and 9-inch splays, and to 7 inches at the other by more gradual splays. These splays run the whole length of the stone and reduce the thickness to 2 inches at what would be termed the cutting edge of the axe. The character of the stone may be quite fortuitous.

The majority of the cairn stones are set in the south-east, where the ring seems to overlap and where one stone is at right angles to the others, which may indicate an entrance.

Nearly south-east, and 145 feet distant (cf. plan, Fig. 29), is a standing stone 5 ½ feet high, pentagonal on plan, with sides averaging about 1 foot; and 540 yards away, in a direction 4 degrees east of true north, is Clach Stei Lin or Clachan Mora Steinacleit, described in Article No. 18.

The site is surrounded by the usual peat bog, and recent digging for turf has revealed an exceptional feature, at a depth of 3 to 4 feet beneath the surface, in a ring of stones forming an oval enclosure, in the south-west of which the cairn is situated. The enclosure lies east and west and measures 270 and 183 feet respectively in greatest length and breadth. No attempt seems to have been made to form a wall of the ring, which is composed of fairly close-set stones single in height, and which varies from 5 or 6 feet broad in parts to a single stone at others. The turf is not wholly removed, but the stones are sufficiently exposed to assume a continuity of ring, which at most is 192 feet and at least 50 feet distant from the centre of the cairn.

Lewis v.

RCAHMS 1928, visited 20 June 1921

Publication Account (1985)

The monument known as Steinacleit is a confusing one and was at one time thought to be a chambered cairn, surrounded by a roughly oval stone setting 82m by 60m. The supposed cairn lies just within the southwest side of this enclosure and measures about 16m in diameter with what appear to be eleven kerb-stones still in positioni towards the south-east edge of the enclosure, there is a standing stone. Another standing stone, Clach Stei Lin, can be seen about 165m to the north, and Clach an Trushal (no. 77) is visible in the distance to the west.

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

Note (9 May 1994)

Scheduled as Steinacleit, homestead and field system.

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 9 May 1994.

Measured Survey (2003)

NB 396 541 A topographic survey was undertaken in March and April 2003 of the area occupied by Steinacleit cairn and stone circle. The site is difficult to interpret and has variously been described as a ruined chambered cairn, stone circle and homestead. What is clear is that the visible ruins represent at least two distinct phases of use. The nucleus of the site is the mutilated circular 'cairn', defined by a discontinuous kerb of edge-set slabs, which is best preserved around the N side. The body of the cairn comprises both loose and turf-covered stone that has been partly redistributed forming low banks that hint at an inner face. The centre of the cairn is hollowed out, the result of robbing and perhaps the insertion of some later domestic or agricultural structures. The arrangement of orthostatic stones on the E edge of the cairn, including four earthfast blocks within, are probably the remnants of such. Also on the SE, outside the cairn circle, are the vestigial remains of an oval structure, partly obscured by another stone spread.

The cairn is located within the SW corner of an oval enclosure that is most likely secondary to the cairn or homestead. The enclosure survives as a low earth and stone bank and incorporates a number of larger orthostats. The enclosure is broken along its S side adjacent to the cairn. A shorter stretch of bank of similar appearance encloses the N side of the cairn. Redundant peat cuttings encroach around the W end of the enclosure, and much of the site itself was only stripped of peat cover in the 1920s.

The enclosure may be contemporary with the first use of the site as a homestead, perhaps as a cattle enclosure. It does not appear defensive in nature.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

A Dutton 2003

Field Visit (29 August 2009)

Apart from an impressive kerb of at least thirteen stones, graded towards the SE, it is difficult to reconcile the surviving remains as those of a chambered cairn. Though the interior may well have been robbed to build the adjoining enclosure, the three upright stones still visible are too far apart to belong to a chamber and are more easily interpreted as some form of building.

Visited by RCAHMS (ARG,SPH) 29 August 2009

Watching Brief (11 March 2015)

NB 3963 5408 (centred on) A watching brief was undertaken on 11 March 2015 during the excavation of three small holes to allow the installation of survey markers. The three trenches did not intrude below the topsoil, and did not reveal any deposits or features of archaeological significance.

Archive: National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) intended

Funder: Historic Scotland

Andrew Hollinrake – Kirkdale Archaeology

(Source: DES, Volume 16)

OASIS Id: kirkdale1-311409


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