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Dumfries & Galloway

Cairnholy Chambered Cairns, an ancient place of worship and burial dating back to before 4000BC. There are 8 to 10 cairns in close area, plus several stone circles nearby. Here we are mostly looking at Cairnholy number One and Two, which are about 150m apart,  but have general information on some of the others, and links to find out more.

Cairnholy I, is in a fantastic position high above Wigtown Bay. Views over a sparkling Blue Sea, with views across Wigtown Bay to the Machars and the Isle of Man on the horizon. The area is encircled by hills to the west, north and east but open to the sea in the south.

Cairnholy II is further up the track near a farm house and barn.


Images were taken on film camera and scanned.

Cairnholy I was a Chambered cairn (NX 517 538)

This is a Clyde-type chambered cairn with an impressive curved facade of eight tall uprights reaching to 3m in height.  A closing stone, now fallen, was in front of the entrance. The cairn measures 43m x 10m, and has been robbed of most of its material. The chamber is built with an inner and outer compartment, the inner one built as a box, inaccessible from the outer one.

The site was excavated in 1949 and among the objects found in the outer compartment were part of an axe of jadeite, a rare green stone imported from the Alps and a leaf-shaped arrowhead. The axe is kept in the Royal Museum of Scotland, in Edinburgh. The acid soil conditions have dissolved the bones.

Some 150m up the lane is another chambered cairn .....

Cairnholy II another Chambered cairn (NX 518 540)  

This Clyde-type chambered cairn measures about 21m x 12m and is not as elaborate.  A 2.9m tall portal stone flanks the entrance, the second stone is broken. In front of the entrance there is a closing stone. The double chamber survives almost intact. It consists of slab-lined inner and outer compartments, a large capstone survives over the inner chamber.

Cairn Holy II is said to be the tomb of the mythical King Galdus. Even today small rituals are carried out on the site with people leaving flowers and candles.

Excavation in 1949 produced a leaf-shaped arrowhead, a flint knife and Beaker pottery. The finds are now in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland in Edinburgh. From here Burl suggests you can walk to the two nearby circles.

This is said to be the burial place of King Galdus, as is Torhouse stone circle. Galdus is/was a mythical Scottish king, see Torhouse stone circle for more details.

Both of the following extracts come from, Legends of Galloway by James Denniston (1825), cp294.

An alternative theory has the English bishop Thomas losing a battle here:  "The Bishop was interred near where he fell, on the top of a small knoll in front of the farm house; the grave is hewn out of the solid rock to a considerable depth, and its aperture is covered with a flat stone of more than two tons weight, and has given name to the farm on which it stands, (Cairn-holy); and another farm about a mile farther up the glen, still bears the name of "Claughred," (Cleugh-raid,) it being in the line of the contending armies."

One edition of the legend calls him Prior instead of Bishop; but as Whithorn was a Bishoprick, and the seat of the Bishops of Galloway, we have given the latter the preference[..]
[..]It has been asserted by many, and among these some whose antiquarian researches entitle them to respect, that this was the burial place of "King Galdus," or "Aldus MacGaldus," a sovereign who made some noise in the fabulous era of our history, and who, it is alleged, fell in a bloody battle fought against the Picts. But against this we would object the posthumous ubiquity of "King Galdus," whose place of sepulture has been the Standing Stones of Torhouse, in the parish of Wigtown.. [and] a cairn on the farm of Glenquicken in the parish of Kirkmabreck.


See also

Our section on stone circles

The discussion on the purpose of stone circles

Planning Grid


CairnHoly, Carsluith, nr. Gatehouse of Fleet,
Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland

Grid Reference:

NX518539  (Sheet: 83)

Map Link:


Getting there:

9km ENE of Gatehouse Of Fleet. Just NW from Ravenshall on the A75 along the coast is a right turn signed to the cairns with a parking area beside the first site.


Through gate to cairn one, up the drive to cairn two


There is parking for a few cars at Cairnholy I


None, unless you stay at the farmhouse B&B

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Cairns, and views, there are a number of other cairns and some stone circles that can also be reached from here.

What to take:

walking boots, grass underfoot

Nature highlights:

Owls have been seen hunting from nearby woods in evenings.

Best Times to Visit:




nr. Gatehouse of Fleet,

Dumfries & Galloway









Opening times:

Open all the time



Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions: None
Special Needs Access:  
Special Needs Facilities:  
Children Facilities:  
Dogs Allowed:  

Other useful websites:

Local farmhouse B&B http://www.cairnholy.co.uk/index.html



CIN Page Ref:


Date Updated: 02/08

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