Corse Law Cairns

Two volunteers sit on top of somr pf the cairns within the group
Two volunteers sit on top one of the cairns within the group

The cairns lying on the northern slopes of Corse Law [NT 020 505] are part of a major concentration of such features, possibly the largest in Scotland, that extends in the southern part of the Pentland Hills from the West Linton area in the east to the Carnwath area in the west, a distance of about 12 miles.

In the spread as a whole, the cairns occur singly or in groups. There are a number of prominent members, including a chambered cairn and several long cairns, but the great majority can be classed as small cairns, measuring less than 10m in diameter and, more often than not, less than half of that.

Clearing the site prior to excavation
Clearing the site prior to the 2005 excavation

The group of cairns at Corse Law was visited more than once by the RCAHMS. When the area was ploughed in 1987, in advance of forestry planting, intensive fieldwalking by the Lanark and District Archaeology Society  recovered lithic materials of Mesolithic to Bronze Age date (Archer and Taylor, 1987). An analysis of the assemblage by Ann Clarke was published in 1990.

Following clear-felling of the plantation in 2004, a survey of the area carried out by the Biggar Group located a further 43 cairns, up to 6m in diameter. Most had been damaged by the forestry operations.

Cairn 1 with overburden removed
Cairn 1 with overburden removed

Three of the worst-affected, representing a range of sizes, were selected for investigation by excavation in an attempt to ascertain if the cairns had had a funerary function. It was concluded that they were simple clearance piles, although a small sherd from a comb-decorated beaker was found under one (T Ward, 2005).

Corse Law Report

  • Corse Law Cairns | 2005 | 504KB | This report describes the results of survey and excavation of three small cairns, which are part of a larer group at Corse Law.


RCAHMS, 978a. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Lanarkshire: an inventory of the prehistoric and Roman monuments, Edinburgh. Held at RCAHMS A.1.1.INV/20.
Archer, E and P. Taylor,1987. ‘Lang Whang (Carnwath parish), prehistoric structures and artifacts’,Discovery Excav. Scot. 44-5.
Clarke, A. 1990. Corse Law, Carnwath, Lanarkshire: a lithic scatter Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot., vol. 119, 43-54.
Ward, T. 2005f Clydesdale Survey, South Lanarkshire (Crawford; Culter; Carnwath parishes) Discovery Excav. Scot., vol. 6, 134.