Past & Present

Coire na Feinne Chambered Cairn

Coire na Feinne Chambered Cairn.jpg

(Photo: Jill Harden)

Nowadays the picturesque burial cairn known as Coire na Feinne looks like an odd setting of very large boulders. A strong imagination is needed to recreate this large stone monument in its landscape of 5,500–5,000 years ago, but it is a challenge worth accepting.

This chambered cairn can be seen from the road-side, in the corner of the garden of No 6 Horgabost. Park by the entrance to the camp-site at Horgabost. Cross the main road with care and walk along the verge to the site.

The burial cairn was around 20m in diameter and over 4m high, similar to that at Barpa Langass on North Uist, which still survives.

Barpa Langass.jpg
Barpa Langass, North Uist              (Photo: Jill Harden) 

The Horgabost chambered cairn originally sat within a very different landscape. It was sited on a terrace overlooking a small loch. A river flowed northward through small farm fields and woodland into the sea beyond Aird Niosaboist. The burial mound had an entrance into a passage to a central chamber. The opening was probably in the north-eastern arc of the cairn, overlooking the lower part of Gleann Horgaboist. The area in front of the entrance would have been large enough for people to play their parts in the ceremonies that took place here.

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Chambered Cairn Reconstruction (Illustration: Alan Braby)

Most of the southern half of Coire na Feinne has probably been buried in the landscaping which is now part of the croft-house garden. But the pointed, uppermost parts of some of the huge upright boulders that line the central burial area can be seen. They must be over 2m tall, with most of their height still buried in the ground.

Coire na Feinne Chambered Cairn 2.jpg

(Photo: Jill Harden)

At some time the capstone over the central chamber and the smaller stones supporting it have been dislodged. The massive slab now lies over the largely stone-filled burial space. Unfortunately the entrance and passage to the centre of the cairn have been destroyed along with the rest of the cairn. It was removed when the road was built and then widened in the 19th and 20th centuries.

By Jill Harden

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