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Baile Mhargaite, Bettyhill

Cairn(S) (Period Unassigned), Cist(S) (Period Unassigned), Field System (Period Unassigned), Settlement (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Baile Mhargaite, Bettyhill

Classification Cairn(S) (Period Unassigned), Cist(S) (Period Unassigned), Field System (Period Unassigned), Settlement (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 5791

Site Number NC66SE 3

NGR NC 699 611

NGR Description Centred NC 699 611

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Farr
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Sutherland
  • Former County Sutherland

Archaeology Notes

NC66SE 3 centred 699 611.

(Centred NC 699 611), Enclosure (NR) (5 times), Cairn (NR) (4 times), Cists (NR) Hut Circle (NR)

OS 6" map, (1964)

There is a gravelly plateau called Baile Mhargait on the W bank of the River Naver, near its outlet and opposite Bettyhill. Devoid of vegetation, it is elevated c. 20' above the river, and measures about 1/2 mile long by 1/3 mile broad. On it are numerous constructions of various kinds; stony mounds abound, mostly small and circular, as well as numbers of cairns and hut circles. No remains of brochs are observable. The sand on the surface of the plateau is constantly shifting, disclosing various remains.

The plateau called Baile Mhargait (Margaret's Town) was inhabited until 1780 when encroaching sand drove the tenants away. In early 1900 after a stormy winter which blew away much of the sand, numerous structures of various shapes and sizes - evidently 18th century buildings - were exposed.

H Morrison 1883; A Mackay 1906; RCAHMS 1911, visited 1909.

A settlement of at least 8 stone-walled huts (A-H) and a contemporary field system, centred at NC 700 612 on a raised beach eroded to the original gravel and interspersed with occasional sand dunes. On vantage points within the field system are at least 3, possibly 6 burial cairns (I-IV). There are also 3 isolated cits (a-c). There is no evidence of Medieval occupation. Erosion has exposed inner and outer wall faces with rubble infill as a feature of all the huts.

Hut 'A' is 11.5 diameter within a wall 2.1m thick. The annexe described by the previous investigator in the S arc is now mutilated. The entrance is not evident. There are traces of a possible hearth near the centre of the hut.

Hut 'B' measures c. 11.0m diameter within a wall 1.5m thick, and is partly obscured by blown sand. The entrance is not evident. A clearance heap lies against the SE wall. A stone setting 7.0m in diameter, now flat, in the interior, was described previously as a hut circle.

Hut 'C' is circular, measuring 8.6m within a wall 1.3m thick. The W arc is covered by a sand dune from which two transverse slabs 1.4m apart protrude, possibly the sides of the entrance. Abutting onto the N and SE arcs of the hut and apparently with access to it are two identical circular annexes 3.0m diameter within a wall 0,7m thick. About 10.0m E of the hut are the amorphous traces of another structure. Pieces of iron slag were found outside the hut by the field investigator and there are marked concentrations of iron slag on the ground surface about 45.0m N, and also at NC 7015 6071 (NC76SW 12).

Hut 'D' measures internally 11.0m E-W within a wall 1.6m thick. N and S arcs are obscured by sand and it is uncertain whether the hut is circular or oval. The entrance is not evident.

Hut 'E' is oval, measuring 12.0m N-S by 11.0m transversely within a wall 1.5m thick. The entrance is not evident. No trace of the internal square setting of stones noticed by the previous investigator.

Hut 'F' measures 14.5m overall diameter. The outer face is well defined and what little can be seen of the inner face in the SW, and possibly SE, indicated a wall thickness of about 3.0m. The entrance is not evident.

Hut 'G' is 8.5m in diameter between the centres of a wall spread to 2.0m.The outer face is evident in the N but sand partly obscures the wall elsewhere. The entrance is not evident.

Hut 'H' is buried under a sand dune, with only the NE segment protruding showing several outer facing stones, and appears to be about 10.0m in diameter. About 20.0m NW is another circular structure measuring c.14.5m in overall diameter, but mainly overlaid by a sand dune. It may be a hut but the quantity of stone visible in the sand dune suggests it is more likely a cairn (VI).

The fields, where free of blown sand, are well defined cleared areas occasionally bounded by banks of heaped stones and clearance heaps, and measure approximately between 35.0 x 20.0 and 15.0 x 10.0m.

Cairn 'I', 7.5m in diameter and 0.7m high, is surrounded by a kerb of stones on edge. In the centre is a cist 1.0 x 0.5m and about 0.6m deep oriented E-W with a displaced capstone. An intrusive cist of similar proportions, but minus its capstone and W end slab, is inserted into the W edge of the cairn.

Cairn 'II' is 6.8m in diameter and 1.6m high with an intermittent boulder kerb. It is evidently undisturbed.

Cairn 'III' is a stony mound 3.8m in diameter and 0.4m high with larger stones round the perimeter, possibly a kerb. Uncertainly a cairn or a clearance heap.

Cairn 'IV' is 7.6m in diameter and 1.0m high with a kerb of stones on edge around the perimeter. It is apparently undisturbed.

Cairn 'V' described and surveyed by the previous investigator appears to be a clearance heap. There is now no sign of the kerb noted by him. Cist 'a' situated on the S side of a gravelly knoll, is oriented NE-SW and measures 0.7m by 0.4m. The cover slab lies close by.

Cist 'b' is on a gravel ridge and is oriented N-S. It measures 0.8m by 0.6m.

Cist 'c', situated on lower ground within a field of the field system, is oriented NW-SE and measures 1.4m by 0.4m. There is no sign of the end slabs; the other two sides are each formed by three stones on edge. Surveyed at 1/2500 (D,G,H,II,IV,VI).

Visited by OS (J L D) 26 April 1960 and (I S S) 7 July 1971.

As described above.

1/2500 survey reviser.

Visited by OS (N K B) 2 August 1977.

Additional features within the complex comprise three cairns and two platforms.

(NC 7008 6114) Cairn VII is a robbed round cairn 6m in diameter and 1.5m high.

(NC 7009 6141) Cairn VIII is 5m in diameter and 2m high, now overgrown but with stone still visible on the N side.

(NC 7019 6116) Cairn IX is a robbed round cairn 7m in diameter and 1.8m high.

(NC 6989 6110)A rectangular stone platform 10m N-S by 3.5m across and 0.1m high.

(NC 6991 6108) A rectangular stone platform 5m N-S by 3.5m across and 0.1m high.

Cist 'a' is rectangular, sanded up and measures 1m by 0.5m high, with the cover-slab dislodged.

Cist 'c' is rectangular, 1m N-S by 0.5m across by 0.3m high, and is enclosed by the possible remains of a cairn surround. (The 'huts' noted by OS are invariably referred to as 'enclosures' by Mercer).

Hut 'A' is 0.2m high with a rectangular area of stones 5m by 3m attached to the NE. The central stone feature measures 1m by 0.5m.

Hut 'B' is 0.1m high.

Hut 'C' is 0.2m high witth rectangular structures about 10m by 4m attached to the N and E.

Hut 'E' is 0.3m high with kerbing visible on the inside of the N arc, and two central depressions 1m by 0.5m. It is set directly on the raised beach.

Hut 'F' is 0.2m high with a possible entrance in the S and stone kerbing remaining on the NE. There is no apparent central feature.

Hut 'G' is 0.2m high, sub-circular with sand covering the NE arc.

(NC 7009 6098) Cairn VI is 14m in diameter and 2m high, grass-covered but with stone kerbing visible on the S.

R J Mercer 1981.

Sutherland Survey 1980, R Mercer Nos. 6, 8-22

No. 6 Cairn NC 700 610

8 Enclosure NC 699 612

9 Enclosure NC 699 610

10-11 Platforms NC 699 611

12 Enclosure NC 700 610

13 Cist NC 699 610

14 Cist NC 700 610

15 Cairn NC 700 610

16 Enclosure NC 699 610

17 Enclosure NC 700 610

18 Cairn NC 700 611

19 Cairn NC 700 614

20 Enclosure NC 702 612

21 Cairn NC 702 611

22 Cairn NC 700 610

R J Mercer 1981.

Of the additional features described and planned by Mercer :-

Cairn VII is a robbed stone clearance heap with no kerb or cist apparent. Apart from the robbing it is indistinguishable from other clearance heaps in the area.

Cairn VIII, a probable cairn as described by Mercer, but largely overlaid by a sand dune. Only the NE side is exposed, revealing what may be a kerb.

Surveyed at 1:2500.

Cairn IX a clearance heap identical to VII. The 'stone platforms' (Mercer nos 10 and 11) are low, flat collections of stones situated on the edge of ground cleared of stones, and are probably clearance heaps. There is no trace of structures within them.

The cists are as described but there is no evidence of a cairn around 'c'.

The hut circles are as described by previous OS investigators.

Visited by OS (N K B) 10 August 1981.


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