Kilmartin Glen: Nether Largie South Cairn

  • Near Kilmartin, Argyll



A linear cemetery

A 2km line of burial cairns runs north to south in Kilmartin Glen, with Nether Largie South its second-most southern monument. 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.

Oldest in line

Nether Largie South is the oldest of the five cairns that stretch along the valley floor. Unlike the four Bronze Age cairns, Nether Largie South is a chambered Neolithic cairn dating. It was built more than 1,000 years before the other burial cairns which now form the linear cemetery.

It was originally long and trapezoidal in shape, with a central chamber built to house a number of dead.

The central chamber of Nether Largie South was set into its broader end, and divided into compartments by slabs. Several individuals would have been placed into these compartments – we can see from contemporary cairns, such as at Cairn Holy, that skulls and long bones were neatly piled up to make room for new internments.

Funerary rites probably took place in a dramatic forecourt formed by upright stones at the broader end of the cairn.

Bronze Age expansion

About 4,000 years ago the cairn was expanded into a round cairn, measuring more than 30m wide. The alteration was to accommodate two new stone-lined cists, probably each built to house one individual, likely a chief.

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

Open year-round.

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