Cragabus Chambered Cairn
Cragabus Chambered Cairn
Just off the minor road leading from Port Ellen to the Oa Peninsula stands the remains of a Neolithic chambered cairn, erected between 3500-3000 BC. The cairn lies on the slope of Creag Mhor, a low hill to the south of the road. Much of the cairn has been destroyed by a track to the south that once led to a quarry.
The cairn is covered with turf and there is no obvious sign of material used to cover the tomb. The design is what is called by archaeologists a Clyde type, a style used throughout south western Scotland. This type of cairn is roughly trapezoidal, with a semi-circular forecourt at one end, fronted by large stones called portal stones. It usually lacks a passage, and the galleried grave chamber is divided into separate compartments by vertical slabs. In the case of Cragabus the cairn was aligned on an east-west axis with the chamber at the east end.
About 3m (10 feet) east of the chambered cairn is a large standing stone, measuring about 1.8m / 7 feet high. Historical records show that the ground level has risen over the last 2 centuries, so the stone was probably mich taller, probably as much as 3.5m, or about 12 feet. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland suggests that the standing stone was one of a pair of portal stones. That would suggest that the cairn stretched at least 26 feet long, and had 4-5 compartments.
One one compartment has survived. It is just over 16 feet long, about 3.5 feet wide, and the same in depth. When the compartment was excavated a jumble of bones was found, grouped in the sides and corners of the cist. The rest of the chamber was filled with stones. Archaeologists found pieces of beaker pottery, pebbles, and flint flakes. In the central section they found animal bones, including ox, sheep, and pig, with burnt bones and flakes of flint. The finds are now held by the National Museum Scotland.
The main chamber originally had transverse stone slabs, dividing it into at least 3 compartments. Two of these transverse slabs are missing, but 2 others remain, and stand to the full height of the chamber. Interestingly, 2 of the slabs overlap, but the other 2 simply butt against each other.
It is fascinating to see what is just part of a much larger chambered cairn and imagine how it would have looked when first built.

Parking is an issue for Cragabus. I managed to pull off the road a distance from the site and walked back to it, but just be aware that it can be an issue.

Because Islay is an island the 'nearest accommodation' properties listed below may not be on Islay itself but on the Scottish mainland. The best source we have found for accommodation on the island is Isle of, a dedicated local website offering a wonderful mix of local information, history, activities, and accommodation information.

About Cragabus Chambered Cairn
Address: Port Ellen, Argyll and Bute, Scotland
Attraction Type: Prehistoric Site
Location: On the minor road from Port Ellen to the Oa peninsula. Immediately south of the road at Lower Cragabus. Accessible at any time.
Location map
OS: NR329451
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest

Carraig Fhada Lighthouse - 1.3 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Kilbride Standing Stone - 3.6 miles (Prehistoric Site) Heritage Rating

American Monument - 4.3 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Dunyvaig Castle - 4.8 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Kildalton Cross - 8.7 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Nerabus Chapel and Carved Stones - 8.8 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Bowmore Round Church - 9 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Museum of Islay Life - 9.6 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

Nearest Accommodation to Cragabus Chambered Cairn:

Nearby accommodation is calculated 'as the crow flies' from Cragabus Chambered Cairn. 'Nearest' may involve a long drive up and down glens or, if you are near the coast, may include a ferry ride! Please check the property map to make sure the location is right for you.

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    Nearest Tourist Information Centre ('as the crow flies')

Bowmore (Isle of Islay)
Tourist Information Centre
The Square
Isle of Islay
Argyll and Bute
PA43 7JP
Tel: 01496 810 254