Cairnpapple Hill

Bathgate, United Kingdom

Cairnpapple Hill is a hill with a dominating position in central lowland Scotland with views from coast to coast. It was used and re-used as a major ritual site over about 4000 years. Probably around 3000 BC a Class II henge was constructed with the hilltop being surrounded by a bank outside a ditch about 4 m wide cut over 1 m into the rock, with wide entrances from north and south. Inside this an egg-shaped setting of 24 uprights (thought to have been timber posts, or possibly standing stones) enclosed an inner setting of similar uprights.

Some time later a Bronze Age ritual added a small stone and clay cairn just off centre inside the monument, with a 2 m high standing stone to the east and a setting of smaller stones. Also aligned to this cairn were sockets for three upright stones at the centre of an arc of seven small pits, six of which contained cremated bones and two contained remains of bone skewer pins. Under the cairn traces were found of at least one burial, with wooden objects (perhaps a mask and club) and beaker people style pottery which indicates a date around 2000 BC.

This cairn was later covered by a second much larger cairn about 15 m across and several yards (metres) high, with a kerb of massive stone slabs, which incorporated Bronze Age burial cists, one of which contained a food vessel pot. Subsequently, more stone was brought in to increase this cairn to about 30 m diameter, enclosing two cremation burials in inverted urns and now covering the original ditch and bank, making the whole site a tomb monument. Lastly, inside the ditch to the east four graves considered Iron Age are now thought to be early Christian because of their east-west alignment, and are dated to around 500 to 1000.

The site is open to the public April to September and has a small visitor centre. The 1940s excavations have been partly covered by a concrete dome replicating the second cairn (although the dome is much higher than the cairn) so that visitors can go inside what was once a solid cairn and see the reconstructed graves, and outside this the surrounding post holes and graves are marked by being filled with colour-coded gravel like an archaeological plan, with the red gravel indicating upright pits, and the white gravel denoting the alleged Christian burials. The current display attempts to show all the main phases of the site at the same time.



Your name


Bathgate, United Kingdom
See all sites in Bathgate

More Information


4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

N R (12 months ago)
Pretty cool to see, but expensive for not much return. Unfortunately the mound was covered with a concrete dome in the late 40's - meaning it is a monument of the early Neolithic (c. 3800 BC) through to the early Christian era - then the 50's! Cairnpapple was a centre of worship and burial for over 3000 years. First the burial ground, then a henge of 24 large stones, and then an enormous cairn; in all five phases of ritual burial and cremations, with concentric rings of pits, ditching and banking. Excavated 1947
Lita L (15 months ago)
Nice. Awesome 360 views. It was freezing ?. Worth the walk to the top. Not able to see into the cairn as it's only open in summer
Sharp Pam (15 months ago)
Fabulous views. The shop inside wasn't open but you can view outside. Quite a lot of steps up. A small parking layby at the bottom. Not well signposted from other roads but is easy once you get there.
Alex Thomas (2 years ago)
Amazing,5,500 years of history burial crypts and remains of a henge, small visitor centre with very helpful attendant related lots of facts to us, preserved crypt amazing, not to be missed.
DariWithanaye (2 years ago)
I visited many years ago and enjoyed a wander round, wasn't much to see. I returned a couple of years ago and it was fenced off with payment required to go in? It is not worth paying to see, it's not that well maintained and nothing has been added to make it worth the money so my advice is you go to the boundary fence and enjoy the surrounding views. There's only a layby at the roadside for maybe three cars so it's hit or miss getting parked. I want to give it more stars but as far as travelling a long distance and monetary value, its not a priority. Top Point just along the road is free with better views.
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Doune Castle

Doune Castle was originally built in the thirteenth century, then probably damaged in the Scottish Wars of Independence, before being rebuilt in its present form in the late 14th century by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany (c. 1340–1420), the son of King Robert II of Scots, and Regent of Scotland from 1388 until his death. Duke Robert"s stronghold has survived relatively unchanged and complete, and the whole castle was traditionally thought of as the result of a single period of construction at this time. The castle passed to the crown in 1425, when Albany"s son was executed, and was used as a royal hunting lodge and dower house.

In the later 16th century, Doune became the property of the Earls of Moray. The castle saw military action during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and Glencairn"s rising in the mid-17th century, and during the Jacobite risings of the late 17th century and 18th century.