Kilmartin Glen: Nether Largie North Cairn

  • Near Kilmartin, Argyll



A linear cemetery

A 2km line of burial cairns runs north to south in Kilmartin Glen, with Nether Largie North second from the north. All five are large, round cairns dating to the late Neolithic and Bronze Age periods – about 5,000 to 3,500 years ago.

The linear cemetery is part of an extensive archaeological landscape in Kilmartin Glen, and is associated with other ritual monuments such as Temple Wood Stone Circle.

Construction and reconstruction

Nether Largie North is largely a 1970s reconstruction of the cairn excavated by archaeologist J.H. Craw in 1930. The original cairn was about 21m wide and 3m tall.

Its reconstruction features a concrete inspection cell, from which visitors can take a look at the remarkable cist and its carvings, at the centre of the cairn.

The axe and the ox

When Craw excavated the cairn in 1930, he found a large cist near its centre, covered with a huge capstone. When it was lifted, there was just one item inside: a single human molar.

But the capstone itself revealed something much more interesting. On the north end of the slab’s face were two extremely rare pecked carvings of axe-heads. They overlay about 40 cup and ring marks, suggesting this may have been fashioned from an even older standing stone.

The axe carvings may reflect the status of the person buried here – bronze flat-axes were an indicator of wealth.

Another grave was found to the north-east. It contained charcoal, and again, one single molar. This time, the tooth was that of an ox.

A prehistoric landscape

A rich prehistoric landscape survives in Kilmartin Glen, providing a tantalising insight into its prehistoric population. The surviving rock art along the glen is remarkable for the number of elaborately carved outcrops, the style of and extent of the carvings, and their close association with other prehistoric monuments.  No other place in Scotland has such a concentration of prehistoric carved stone surfaces, and Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments.

Other carved rock outcrops around Kilmartin Glen include:

Other monuments include:

The glen is also home to an important collection of medieval sculptured stones.


Opening times

Please note that currently, only the exterior of the monument can be visited.

1 Apr to 30 Sept:
Daily, 9.30am to 5.30pm
Last entry 5pm

1 Oct to 31 Mar:
Daily, 10am to 4pm
Last entry 3.30pm

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