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Achcheargary 'Cairns', Strathnaver - a NOSAS project

Site name and SMR or NMRS No.
Achcheargary 'Cairns' -
(1.)NC75NW0016, (2.)NC75SW0002A, (3.)NC75SW0002B, (4.)NC75NW0019 and (5.) previously unrecorded

Strathnaver, Farr Parish, Highland Region

NC 7198 5490

Site type/class

Visited 4th November 2001 by Marlyn Price and Meryl Marshall, NOSAS, with the purpose of surveying and recording the archaeological features. Weather - sunny with occasional heavy showers, windy and cold. The site lies on a fluvio-glacial terrace on the west side of the strath. The site is enclosed and used for grazing sheep.
The site could be described as multi-period. The 3 main features have been interpreted as cairns and are situated on knolls overlooking the flood plain of the river, there are a number of other cairns and small enclosures which may be burial or clearance sites, and the footings of a longhouse with associated earthwalls.
Some of the stonework from the sites may have been robbed in order to construct a substantial wall enclosing a field on the lower valley floor nearby.
The site is shortly to be included as one of the stopping points on the Strathnaver Archaeological Trail.

NC75NW 0016
1.0 Cairn - NC 7194 5500
- This major feature at the north end of the site appears to be a natural knoll which has been enhanced to form a central cairn, identified by a scattering of stones over an area with a diameter of 24m. There is a hollow at the highest, central point where there are three large flat elongated stone slabs, the largest being 1.3m in length and 0.7m wide. Two of the slabs are upended on their long sides - ?evidence of a chamber. Other smaller stones are in this vicinity and there is evidence of possible recent excavation/disturbance.

NC75SW 0002A
2.0 Circular enclosure/?Cairn -NC 7198 5489
- The middle of the three "cairns" already recorded, this feature is situated atop a small knoll at the edge of the escarpment overlooking the flood plain. The circular earthbank encloses an area with an internal diameter of 9m. The earthbank has some stones evident and is generally 1m in width and variable in height (0.3m at its highest) but is barely discernible for a small section in the north. There may be an entrance in the southeast.

NC75SW 0002B
3.1 Circular enclosure/?Cairn - NC 7202 5486
- The southmost of the three main features at this site. Situated on top of a knoll and on the edge of the escarpment overlooking the flood plain. This circular feature appears to be much degraded by stone robbing and possibly more recent use in connection with management of animals. An internal area of diameter roughly 12m has an encircling earth and stone wall of between 0.2m and 0.4m in height and 1m to 1.5m in width. Internally there is a central raised area, 3m in diameter and 0.2m in height. There is a shallow scooped area 3m in diameter adjacent to the wall on the west side, it is enclosed by a low bank of stones 0.2m in height. There are many grass-covered stones in evidence on the western slope, where it falls away to a marsh and ditch. The ditch and earthbank to the south and west appear to be associated with this feature.

A possible interpretation of this feature is that of unfinished broch or a "moated homestead" (see NC75NW0014 situated 500m to the NW.

3.2 Ditch and Earthbank - NC 7201 5484 - Almost certainly associated with feature 3.1. The ditch measures 20m in length and 1.5m deep, it forms an arc to the southwest of feature 3.1 and finishes abruptly at its south end. The outer earthbank is roughly 35m in length and may have been formed of the upcast material from the ditch. There is a small knoll with a depression at its centre at the northern end of the earthbank.

NC75NW 0019
4.1 Enclosure - NC 7188 5499
- A low circular earth and stone wall enclosing a dished area with an internal diameter of 5m. Height of the wall is roughly 0.3m and width variable from 1m to 1.5m. There appears to be an entrance in the southeast.
4.2 Cairn - NC 7186 5499 - A low grass covered cairn beside the road, 2m in diameter.
4.3 Cairn - NC 7190 5498 - A substantial grass and stone covered cairn, rising to 1m in height and with a diameter of 6m.
4.4 Cairn - NC 7189 5498 - A low cairn - a scattering of stones over an area with a diameter 5m, 0.3m high.
4.5 Enclosure - NC 7192 5497 - A low oval earthbank surrounding a shallow dished area, roughly 6m long by 4m. There appears to be an entrance at the southeast end.
4.6 Cairn - NC 7191 5497 - A grass covered cairn rising to a height of 0.7m and with diameter of 5m, this too appears to have an associated earthbank, encircling the eastmost 180 degrees. This earthbank rises to 0.3m and has a width of between 1m and 1.5m.
4.7 Cairn - NC 7190 5497 - A grass covered cairn rising to 0.5m in height and with a diameter of 4m. There appears to be an associated earthbank to the west making an encircling arc through roughly 60 degrees.
4.8 Cairn - NC 7189 5496 - A small low cairn beside the road, 3m in diameter.
4.9 Cairn - NC 7190 5498 - A low grass covered cairn on a slope, 5m in diameter, and 0.5m in height.
4.10 Cairn - NC 7191 5495 - A flattish grass covered cairn, 5m in diameter.
4.11 Cairn - NC 7191 5494 - A small low oval cairn, measuring 3m by 2m and 0.4m high, grass covered but with some stones showing.
4.12 Cairn - NC 7192 5493 - A grass covered cairn, 3m in diameter with a regular conical shape, rising to 0.5m in height.
4.13 Cairn - NC 7192 5491 - A cairn next to the road, 6m in diameter, 0.4m in height and grass covered, with stones evident.
4.14 Cairn - NC 7193 5489 - A low cairn next to the road, roughly 5m in diameter and grass covered .
4.15 Cairn - NC 7194 5488 - A flattish cairn next to the road, roughly 6m in diameter, grass covered with occasional stones.

5.1 Footings of building/structure - NC 7199 5482 - Turf and stone footings of a building, on a north/south axis, rise to a height of between 0.2m and 0.3m. There are 2 compartments to the structure, the northmost measures 6m by 2m and the southmost, 16m by 2m. The building slopes gently down towards the marsh to the north. There is no evidence of a end wall at the north.
5.2 Earthwall/Boundary - NC 7198 5486 and NC 7200 5480 - Associated with structure 5.1 but may not be contemporary with it as it "emerges" from the centre of the end walls of the structure and appears not to be connected to it. From the south end of structure 5.1 it is a stone and turf wall which is continuous in a southeasterly direction for 20m before finishing in the marsh. The line emerges on the other side of the marsh 60m away as a dry ditch, 15m in length, crossing a small "col" in the moraine. From the north end of structure 5.1 the earthwall stretches northwards for 90m in total, the southern part of this section is entirely of turf and wasted to a degree, it is generally 1m wide and 0.2m in height. Further north it is more substantial and 0.3m to 0.4m high, it ends in a marsh.

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