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Lewis, Cnoc Na Croich

Chambered Cairn (Neolithic), Execution Site (Post Medieval)

Site Name Lewis, Cnoc Na Croich

Classification Chambered Cairn (Neolithic), Execution Site (Post Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Lews Castle Policies; Stornoway Castle Policies

Canmore ID 71507

Site Number NB43SW 26

NGR NB 4173 3232

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

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

Archaeology Notes

NB43SW 26 4170 3229.

Cnoc na Croich: Gallows Hill - traditionally once the place of execution for the Isle of Lewis.

Name Book 1848.

There are extensive remains of a large un-recorded chambered cairn. The spread of stones of the cairn extends over a sub-circular area of approximately 30m in diameter. There are three upright stones (the largest being 1.40m long) and one fallen stone, of the preistaliths positioned on a ring of radius of about 12m with centre approximately 3m N of the chamber. Within the SW quadrant of the cairn there is a hollowed area about 6m across, possibly where a second chamber has been robbed (but see below).

The chamber is set within the SE quadrant of the cairn and is aligned approximately NE to SW. It is 5m long and maximum of 1.25m wide inside. There are seven wall stones set on edge, the largest being 2.10m long, 0.65m thick and 1.15m high above the present internal floor level, which is about 0.5m below the level of the surrounding cairn material. There are no capstones and there is no end wall visible at either end.

The cairn is located some 40m N of the true summit of Gallows Hill, the hilltop being nearly level. It is the highest hill around Stornoway and overlooks the harbour. The cairn is largely covered by thick undergrowth and an ancient hawthorn tree and is surrounded by young trees. In 1849 it had been ' lately planted with fir and ash' (ONB 1849)

The Mathesons, who owned Lewis in the 19th century, developed the Stornoway Castle grounds, in which Gallows Hill stands, planting trees and building a track which circles the hilltop, encloses the cairn and may have truncated the E edge of it. The hollowed area in the cairn may have been a borrow pit for this track. To commemorate the visit of King Edward VII on 2 September 1902 a drystone cairn 3.6m in diameter and 2m high, surmounted by a flagpole (now a rotting wooden stump) was built at the eastern limit of the chambered cairn, the stones almost certainly being taken from the latter.

This modern cairn is presumably at the same location as the (supposed) execution site. The Stornoway Trust, who drew our attention to the site have copies of our drawings.

Sponsor: Outer Hebrides Archaeology

M R Curtis and G R Curtis 1993.


Field Visit (28 May 1999)

Site recorded during a short-notice survey which undertaken of c 250ha of land in the grounds of Lews Castle to the W of Stornoway Harbour: the remains of a chambered cairn previously recorded at NB 4170 3229 (NMRS NB43SW 26).

Sponsor: Historic Scotland.

M Dalland 1999.

The remains of the cairn cover a subcircular area measuring approximately 30m in diameter. The chamber is aligned from NE to SW and measures 5m by 1.2m internally. There are no capstones surviving. As part of landscaping of the Stornoway Castle in the 19th century, a path was laid out around the E side of the cairn and may have cut into the edge of it. In commemoration of a royal visit in 1902, a drystone cairn, measuring 3.6m in diameter and 2m in height, was built at the NE edge of the cairn.

Information from M Dalland and J Wordsworth (Headland Archaeology) 28 May 1999; NMRS, MS/899/138, no.5


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