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Settlement (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Sandside

Classification Settlement (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Cnoc Stanger

Canmore ID 7322

Site Number NC96NE 9

NGR NC 9590 6510

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Reay
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Caithness
  • Former County Caithness

Archaeology Notes

NC96NE 9 9590 6510.

(Name centred: NC 9590 6510) Supposed Site of (NAT).

Ancient Town (NR)

Stone Cists, Urns, Human Remains, Bronze Pins, etc, found here (NAT)

OS 6" map, Caithness, 2nd ed., (1872)

In 1751 a torrent 'cut out a new channel through the sand between Reay and the shore, 16ft deep which discovered the remains of a town. The ends of seven houses, built with stone, were seen in a line, and the remains of several others with some pieces of pavement. The stones being of good quality were carried off, and the banks soon falling prevented any further search. Pieces of earthenware were found among the ruins.' This description may indicate the former site of the township of Reay, but see NC96SE.

NSA 1845.

These remains were found at Cnoc Stanger (NC96NE 8), but there is now no trace of them. 'Mr Sutherland (J Sutherland, St Mary's cottage) has told me that he has found in the sand in the vicinity of Cnoc Stanger bodies buried in every conceivable position - some erect, some leaning backward, some forward, others in a crouching position, with and without cists - also some urns with burned bones, bronze pins and needles, etc. After a strong NE wind the sand drifts so much as to some - times lay bare human skeletons. Skulls are frequently found; two very large ones with other bones may be seen in Sandside House'.

Name Book 1873.

NC 9599 6520. About 20m S of Knock Stanger (NC96NE 8) in the face of the eroded stream bank, about 1.0m below the present ground level and about 12.0m above the stream, the remains of dry-stone structures can be seen.

Visited by OS (J L D) 1 May 1960.

(NC 9599 6520) Settlement (NR) (site of)

OS 6" map, (1967)

Excavation of an area of the settlement S of Cnoc Stanger NC96NE 8) was carried out in 1980 by a team from Edinburgh University directed by Mercer, following the recognition of a structure eroding out above the river in June 1978 (Information from R Gourlay, Highland Region Archaeologist).

This proved to be the lower of two successive, circular, thin-walled enclosures lying between the second and third, and the fourth and fifth layers (reading downwards) of a sixteen layer deposit overlying the boulder-clay. At the lower level charcoal lay on the boulder-clay surface, and from the sixth layer downwards ard-marks were preserved in some of the cultivated soil deposits. The other layers were of sand or turf.

The lower of the two enclosures, of which only a short arc was revealed, was estimated to measure 20m in diameter. Only the basal course survived, set to produce an even outer face, with the inner face left ragged. Walled and paved areas were identified within the structure, the latter bearing substantial occupation deposits which produced pottery, shell, bone and charcoal.

The later enclosure was similar in size and shape but different in construction, being of horizontally coursed flagstone, as opposed to beach stones. It lay slightly E of the earlier enclosure, and the walls, being only about 1 m thick, could never have stood to a great height. Possible post-holes at the edge of the SW sector were suggestive of an entrance.

The enclosure overlay the last surviving phase of cultivation on the site and was apparently overwhelmed by an early phase of dune formation. No close parallels for these enclosures are known although there are similarities to the Wag of Forse. The conclusion is that the areas could not have been roofed but that roofed and paved structures existed within them, possibly as lean-to's against the walls.

It is hoped to continue the excavation in 1981.

Information from TS of R J Mercer excavation report, May 1981.

When visited, the site had been back-filled after excavation. The visible remains are as described by the previous field investigator.

Visited by OS (J B) 17 August 1981.


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