One of the most famous of the Neolithic long cairns of south-west Scotland. Walk of four miles to site.A Neolithic chambered tomb
Dotted about Arran are numerous stone cairns in which our Neolithic ancestors buried their dead around 4,000 years ago. Most were dug into in the 19th and early 20th centuries, by antiquarians and others seeking grave-goods. The only comparatively undisturbed example is Carn Ban, on the Allt an t’Sluice, a tributary of the Kilmory Water.
Carn Ban is a ‘Clyde’ cairn, a type of long cairn unique to the Clyde and south-west Scotland. It is trapezoidal, rather than rectangular, in shape. At the wider end is a semicircular forecourt. This contains a portal leading into a long chamber divided into compartments by cross-slabs. It is 30m long and 18m broad, and its long axis lies roughly NW–SE.
The antiquarian, T.H. Bryce, investigated Carn Ban in the late 19th century. He discovered a chamber divided laterally into four compartments of roughly equal size. The same arrangement exists at Torrlyin Cairn, downriver from Carn Ban near the mouth of the Kilmory Water, and also in Historic Scotland’s care.
The roof of the chamber comprises five huge stone slabs, formed from sandstone, schist and granite. The only ‘finds’ Bryce recovered were a flake of flint and a piece of pitchstone – a stone occurring naturally only on Arran but extensively used elsewhere on the Scottish mainland for making stone tools.
One of the two chambered tombs at Cairnholy
, in Galloway (also in Historic Scotland’s care), also contained a piece of pitchstone. Any bones interred at Carn Ban were probably dissolved by the acidic soil long ago.
- The walk – an invigorating hike up through the forest from the little car park.
- The silence – enjoy a rare moment of peace, while pondering the rituals carried out in the forecourt by our Neolithic ancestors 4,000 years ago.