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Cnoc Freiceadain

Chambered Cairn (Neolithic)

Site Name Cnoc Freiceadain

Classification Chambered Cairn (Neolithic)

Canmore ID 7831

Site Number ND06NW 10

NGR ND 01326 65425

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

ND06NW 10 01326 65425

(ND 0133 6542) Standing Stones (NR)

OS 6" map, Caithness, 2nd ed., (1907)

This chambered cairn is 220ft long with two horns at the NE end projecting an additional 18ft and 30ft. A possible horn at the SW end projects 16ft. The SW end resembles a round flat-topped steep-sided cairn 8ft high and 53ft wide; from thence to the NE end the cairn is about 35ft wide and 3 to 4ft high. Stones projecting from the cairn suggest a peristalith, a chamber, and cists or other structures (A S Henshall 1963), and these probably account for the OS publication (RCAHMS 1911).

RCAHMS 1911; A S Henshall 1963.

This turf-covered long cairn is generally as described above, but there is now no trace of the horn at the SW end.

Resurveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (N K B) 18 November 1964.

(ND 0133 6542) Long Cairn (NR)

OS 6" map, (1969)

No change to the previous field report.

Visited by OS (J B) 8 August 1981.


Field Visit (16 August 1910)

About 100 yards N of the E end of the long cairn (RCAHMS 1911, No. 369) is another cairn (RCAHMS 1911, p. XXXV) of similar type, stretching along the crest of the hill as it begins to slope towards the NNE. It lies NNE and SSW and rises in height and increases in breadth towards the latter direction. The horns at that extremity are not apparent on the surface, but at the NNE end they are both visible, where that on the E side has been exposed to some extent by the removal of the turf. The total length, irrespective of the horns at the SSW end, is some 240ft [73.1m]. The cairn begins to expand at about 60ft [18.2m] from the SSW end, and attains to a width of 53ft [16.1m] and an elevation of 8ft [2.4m]. Immediately in rear of the expanded head, which rises almost like a separate cairn, is a slight depression or trench across the body, which, however, is probably secondary. The breadth of the body of the cairn is about 35' and its elevation 4ft. All along its length are small pits from which stones have been quarried. The width of the terminal portion towards the NNE is 37ft and its elevation about 4ft, but it has originally been higher, as three large slabs set on end protrude for about 1ft 6in through the turf indicating the existence of a chamber. The length of the horns is about 20ft; the distance between their outer extremities 46ft; and thence to the centre of the concavity at that end of the cairn 29ft. The SSW end shows no signs of excavation, and the whole cairn is overgrown with turf.

The OS map indicates ‘standing-stones’ beside these cairns, but none were observed except those protruding from the denuded chamber at the NNW end of the second cairn.

RCAHMS 1911, visited 16 August 1910

OS 6” map (1907) ‘Supposed Broughs’ and ‘Standing Stones’

Publication Account (1995)

Two impressively long cairns of stone, now both grass-grown, are set at right angles to each other on top of the hill. For much of their length the mounds are low, but the south cairn has higher mounds at both ends, and the north cairn has a round mound at the south end. These three prominent humps clearly provided the name Na Tri Shean (the three fairy mounds) now applied only to the south cairn. It is probable that three separate round chambered cairns were incorporated into two later long structures, the north cairn being given an unusual northeast-southwest alignment to fit it onto the crest of the hill. Low horns can be seen at both ends of the south cairn, and at the north end of the north cairn, defining rectangular forecourts. Neither cairn has been excavated.

The south cairn [Canmore ID 7832] seems to be virtually intact, and at 71m long is one of the longest of its type. There is probably a chamber under the round mounds at either end, and two tilted slabs at the east end may be collapsed capstones from the roof of one chamber. The north cairn [Canmore ID 7831] at 67m is nearly as long, but the body of this cairn has been extensively disturbed down the centre. As well as a presumed chamber at the south end, some projecting slabs suggest another at the northern end. A few isolated slabs near the centre of this cairn may belong to later cist burials inserted into the existing mound. From the top of Cnoc Freiceadain, the site of two of the oldest monuments in Caithness, one looks down on one of the newest, Dounreay Atomic Power Station, and there are extensive views from this hill across much of Caithness and Orkney.

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


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