Giants' Graves, Arran


This evening, I am posting information on the so-called Giants' Grave feature which sits above Whiting Bay in the S.E.of the Isle of Arran which in turn lies off Scotland's west coast. 

Giants' Graves

Information on the Giants' Graves

To the casual visitor the site appears to be no more than a disorganised collection of large rocks sitting on the landscape.However, this appearance is due to the passage of time (about 5000 years) combined with looting. 

In fact the rocks are the remains of two Neolithic chambered tombs.They are situated within 40 metres of each other, and stand on a ridge 120 metres above the sea in a clearing in a forest, overlooking Whiting Bay.

The Giants' Grave North site is a cairn which has been much robbed, but with edges still well-defined. The main axis of the cairn is north–south, the north end being wider with a concave facade.The chamber is 6 metres long, and around 1 metre wide.[It was excavated in 1902, and among the artifacts recovered were pottery shards, flint knives, and leaf-shaped arrowheads.

The Giants' Grave South site sits at right angles to the larger northern cairn.[The main axis is east–west, and the entrance was at the west end. The chamber is about 4 metres long, and over 1 metre wide. Excavations in 1902 only revealed soil and stones. However in 1961-2 further exploration produced nine sherds of a round-based vessel, and fragments of burnt bone.

Artist's impression of site when in use during the Neolithic era.

Giants' Graves

 Image of site

 Giants' Graves

More information on Arran during the Neolithic period. 

Firstly, readers should be aware that stone monuments as illustrated (from the Neolithic period) were not constructed by ancestors of current, indigenous populations of the British Isles but by darker, olive-skinned peoples who disappeared at about the same time as arrival of lighter skinned peoples from what is now the Ukraine and Russia.This population change occurred  between 2450 BC and 2000 BC. It is the lighter skinned peoples which form the ancestral core of today's populations.

Secondly, there occurred a significant climate change around 1000 BC which resulted in a slightly cooler and wetter environment leading to an accumulation of peat.This change probably contributed to an adverse affect on farming practices, particularly crop growing, which in turn may have led to population movements.

During the Neolithic period Arran appears to have been home to a thriving population as evidenced by:

  • The extensive, Machrie Moor site.
  • The recent discovery of a huge Neolithic cursus.  This monument may date back as far as 3500BC and is of a type among the first that was built by farmers in Neolithic Britain.
  • Trading links with the mainland, about 100 miles away, as reported in this post of a similar site in Galloway.This would have entailed dangerous sea crossings in dug out canoes. 


As implied above, the apparently ad-hoc collection of rocks forming the Giants' Graves site actually belies a considerable and sophisticated population with extensive project management skills.

More information

For more information on the prehistoric period and other facets of Scotland for tourists please refer Visitors’ Guide to Scotland, ISBN 978-1-9161332-0-4. This book is also available via Kindle.





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