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Coordinates: 54°51′33″N 4°18′34″W / 54.859239°N 4.309579°W / 54.859239; -4.309579

Cairn Holy, Galloway.JPG
Cairnholy I
Cairnholy is located in Dumfries and Galloway
Shown within Dumfries and Galloway
LocationDumfries and Galloway
Coordinates54°51′33″N 4°18′34″W / 54.859239°N 4.309579°W / 54.859239; -4.309579
TypeChambered tomb
Site notes
OwnershipHistoric Scotland
Public accessYes

Cairnholy (or Cairn Holy) is the site of two Neolithic chambered tombs. It is located 4 kilometres east of the village of Carsluith in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland (grid reference NX518540). The tombs are in the care of Historic Scotland.


The Cairnholy tombs are situated on a hillside overlooking Wigtown Bay. They are situated next to Cairnholy Farm. The site can be accessed at the end of a minor road about 1 kilometre from the A75 road. The two tombs lie within 150 metres of each other.[1]

Both tombs lie open to the sky as most of their original covering stones have been taken in the past to build field walls.[1] Both tombs were partially excavated in 1949 by Stuart Piggott and Terence Powell.[1] Finds from the excavations are in the National Museum of Scotland.[2][3]

Cairnholy I[edit]

Cairnholy I, façade

Cairnholy I (grid reference NX51765389) is the more elaborate of the two tombs. It measures 50 by 15 metres and has a monumental curving façade, that formed the backdrop to a forecourt in front of the tomb.[2] Excavation showed that several fires had been lit in the forecourt.[1]

The tomb itself has two chambers. The outer chamber, which was entered through the façade, contained a fragment of a jadeite ceremonial axe, together with sherds of Neolithic pottery and a leaf-shaped arrowhead.[2] Late grave-goods comprised Peterborough-ware and Beaker-ware pottery sherds and a flint knife.[2] The inner chamber was built as a closed box, and was inaccessible from the outer one.[1] It was probably originally roofed by a great stone slab resting on the two taller end-slabs.[1] The inner chamber contained a secondary cist, with food vessel sherds and a cup-and-ring carved stone.[2]

Cairnholy II[edit]

Cairnholy II

Cairnholy II (grid reference NX51825404) is located to the north of Cairnholy I. Local tradition maintains that it was the tomb of Galdus, a mythical Scottish king.[1] It is from this tomb that the nearby farm takes its name.[2] It measures 20 by 12 metres, and is less than 60 centimetres high.[3] It has been robbed of stones but there are still two portal stones in front of the chambered tomb.[1] There is a very shallow v-shaped forecourt at the front of the tomb.[3] The tomb contained two chambers.[3] The rear chamber had been previously robbed, and the other disturbed, but an arrowhead and a flint knife were found within the filling, along with secondary sherds of Beaker pottery.[3]

Other prehistoric monuments[edit]

Around 160 metres to the east of Cairnholy farm is the remains of circular cairn less than 15 centimetres high (grid reference NX51975413).[4] When stones were being removed from it some time before 1849, it was found to contain human bones.[4]

The area is surrounded with rocks bearing cup and ring marks.[5][6][7][8]

Kirkdale Church[edit]

Around 700 metres to the west are the ruins of Kirkdale Church. The church was dedicated to St Michael. Kirkdale, which belonged to Whithorn Priory, was originally a separate parish, which united with Kirkmabreck in 1618.[9] The church is enclosed by an overgrown burial ground.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Cairn Holy Chambered Cairns, Historic Scotland, accessed 6 February 2014
  2. ^ a b c d e f Historic Environment Scotland. "Cairnholy I (63716)". Canmore. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e Historic Environment Scotland. "Cairnholy II (63705)". Canmore. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  4. ^ a b Historic Environment Scotland. "Cairnholy 6 (63757)". Canmore. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  5. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Cairnholy 4 (63726)". Canmore. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  6. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Cairnholy 5 (63728)". Canmore. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  7. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Cairnholy 8 (77510)". Canmore. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  8. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Cairnholy 9 (77506)". Canmore. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  9. ^ a b Historic Environment Scotland. "Kirkdale Church And Burial-Ground (63727)". Canmore. Retrieved 6 February 2014.

External links[edit]