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Ben Freiceadain

Chambered Cairn (Neolithic)

Site Name Ben Freiceadain

Classification Chambered Cairn (Neolithic)

Alternative Name(s) Buaile Oscar

Canmore ID 7626

Site Number ND05NE 12

NGR ND 0593 5585

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

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

Archaeology Notes

ND05NE 12 0593 5585

(ND 0593 5585) Chambered Cairn (NR)

OS 6" map, (1963)

Ben Freiceadain: Orkney-Cromarty Round Cairn with (?) Camster-type chamber. This cairn is situated within the fort (ND05NE 18) which crowns the summit, towards its N end. The mound is grass-grown; the top has been reduced so that it now stands about 6ft high, and the S side has been severely robbed. The diameter is 55ft and the edge is quite distinct. The entrance has been from the ENE. At 7ft from this edge of the cairn can be seen the tops of two slabs leaning outwards which are probably transverse slabs at the entrance to the passage, part of a dry-built N wall of which is visible further W. A lintel across the passage remains in situ 6ft behind the leaning stones. In the centre of the cairn and 12ft W of the lintel, three slabs, evidently forming part of the chamber, protrude through the turf, their tops being about 2ft higher than the lintel stone. Two of these slabs are set transversely to the axis of the passage, 3ft apart, the third being set across the inner end of the S stone.

RCAHMS 1911; A S Henshall 1963, visited 1956.

The remains of this chambered cairn are as described. The remains consist of a mutilated mound of earth and stone, 16m N-S by 17m transversely, with a maximum height of 1.3m.

Visited by OS (W D J) 13 April 1962.

A chambered cairn, as described by Miss Henshall. There is a modern cairn erected on the cairn.

Visited by OS (N K B) 15 September 1981.

Beinn Freiceadain rises to a height of 238m OD from the surrounding flat moorland. Together with the slightly higher twin summit of Ben Dorrery it is one of the highest hills in the N of Caithness and a notable landmark. This chambered cairn is situated within the fort which crowns the summit, on ground which slopes down from W to E. The cairn is turf-covered with a well-defined edge which rises steeply. The top has been removed leaving the centre dished, and a hollow has been made into the S edge. The cairn diameter is about 16m. The maximum height, to the N of the chamber is 1.2m taken from the W and 2m taken from the E. The passage runs from the ENE> About 1.4m from the cairn edge on this side the tops of a pair of small slabs protrude. They are 0.8m apart, 0.3 and 0.6m long, 0.08 and 0.05m thick, and lean acutely to the E. If the slabs were upright they would stand over 0.5m to the W, in line and closer together, their tops roughly level with the under side of the lintel 1.55m behind them. The slabs probably mark the entrance to the passage. Only the E side of the lintel is exposed. It is 1.5m long by 0.15m thick, the lower surface 0.8m above the ground level to the E. The N wall of the passage is just visible for 0.4m, the W end running under the lintel. In the hollowed centre of the cairn, 4.55m W of the lintel, is a pair of slabs set 1m apart at a slight angle to each other, presumably part of a chamber. The slabs are 0.9 and 0.6m long, both are 0.05m thick and exposed for 0.25m, the N slab standing 0.8m higher than the upper surface of the lintel. Across the N end of the S slab an intact slab 0.4m long is just visible. It is firmly set but is unlikely to be in situ. A modern marker cairn has been built 3m W of the S slab.

J L Davidson and A S Henshall 1991, visited 22 September 1987.


Publication Account (1995)

An extensive fort known as Buaile Oscar occupies the plateau-like summit of the hill. The steep slopes on the north and east sides had no artificial defences, but a substantial rampart, now overgrown, encloses the rest of the hill. Most unusually, this rampart is set partway down the hill, taking advantage of a slight natural terrace. In places, cliff-like exposures of flagstone immediately behind the rampart seem to have been quarried for building material, while elsewhere quarry pits have been dug to the rear. The only visible entrance is to the north-east, where one stone slab still lines the back of the rampart.

Within the fort is a grass-grown mound, the remains of a neolithic chambered cairn. On the low ground between the fort and the road there are a number of other structures, ranging from abandoned crofthouses to neolithic and bronze-age cairns; several are indicated on the OS map.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Highlands’, (1995).


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