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Barpa Langass

Barpa Langass
North Uist
Barpa Langass is a Neolithic chambered cairn, which now survives as a massive pile of stone. It is located on a hill overlooking a dramatic landscape of barren peatland. The cairn is roughly 16 feet high, and around 82 feet across. The inner chamber is still accessible. From the east side of the tomb the narrow  passage leads to a wide chamber. It is difficult to judge the original appearance of the cairn, but it has been suggested that it had a more bun like appearance with outer facing stones and an earthen top portion. This great cairn is the only chambered cairn in the Western Isles with its chamber still roofed over.  During excavation in 1911 traces of burnt burials, beaker shards, an arrowhead and a disc of mica (maybe a pendant) were found. On the south side of the same hill is Pobull Fhinn an ancient stone circle.

At the time the cairn was built the Western Isles had a much milder climate, the peat bogs were not yet formed, and the landscape would have been more like southern scrubland and woodland. It would have been capable of providing pasture for grazing animals.  Barpa Langass stands on the north side of Beinn Langais, and just half a mile from the stone circle of Pobull Fhinn  To find this grand cairn travel to North Uist and it is signposted off the A867 Lochmaddy-Clachan road.

Photos by Dean Hoffman and Beth Maxwell Boyle


The cairn is located on North Uist, near Loch Langass in the Western Isles of Scotland.  It is simple and pleasant to take the ferry from Leverburgh, on Harris, to Newtonferry ( Also known as Otternish. This can cause some confusion, as Caledonian Macbrayne, the ferry company, refers to it as Otternish, while most maps call it Newtonferry.)  From the ferry, it is about a ten mile drive to the site which is off the A867 Lochmaddy-Clachan road. From the road it's about half a mile uphill on a pebble path to the Barpa Langass burial chamber. There is no charge to view the cairn and no toilets or facilities on site.

Archaeology Notes

North Uist, Barpa Langass
Alternative Names: Bharpa Langass; Ben Langass
Type of Site: Chambered Cairn
NMRS Number: NF86NW 6
Map reference: NF 8376 6573
Parish: North Uist
Council: Western Isles
Former District: Western Isles
Former Region: Western Isles Islands Area

(NF 8381 6571) Barpa Langass (NR)
OS 6" map, Inverness-shire, 2nd ed., (1904)

Barpa Langass is a cairn 14ft high and edged by a peristalith 80ft in diameter of which 14 stones can be seen. On the E side there is a funnel-shaped forecourt within which is a mass of cairn material removed during attempts to find the passage. The latter is intact except for the outer few feet, and leads into an oval chamber 13ft 3ins long by 6ft wide, roofed with three lintels.

E Beveridge (1911) found evidence of burnt burials, sherds and wood ash in debris removed from the interior. In the late 19th century a second chamber was said to be attainable by a passage from the N side.

Finds, in the NMAS, include Beaker and IA, or later, shreds, a few flints, a barbed and tanged arrowhead, and burnt bone (presumably human).
A S Henshall 1972; E Beveridge 1911; V G Childe 1940.

This chambered cairn is as described and planned by Henshall. Nothing was seen of the second chamber.

Surveyed at 1/10,560.
Visited by OS (J T T) 10 June 1965.

References from

Anon (1885 )
Sailing Directions for the W coast of Scotland,
Armit, I (1998 i)
Scotland's hidden history,
Stroud, Gloucestershire, 36-8,
Armit, I (1996 )
The archaeology of Skye and the Western Isles,
Edinburgh, 70-5, 95,
Beveridge, E (1911 )
North Uist: its archaeology and topography, with notes upon the early history of the Outer Hebrides,
Edinburgh, 246-8,
Childe, V G (1940 )
Prehistoric communities of the British Isles,
London and Edinburgh, 70,
Feachem, R W (1963 b)
A guide to prehistoric Scotland,
London, 49-50, 1st
Fojut, Pringle and Walker, N, D and B (2003 )
The ancient monuments of the Western Isles,
Historic Scotland Visitors' Guide, Edinburgh, 10-11, 13, 2nd
Henshall, A S (1972 a)
The chambered tombs of Scotland,
2, Edinburgh, 500-3, UST 6,
Hingley, R (1999 )
'The creation of later prehistoric landscapes and the context of the reuse of Neolithic and earlier Bronze Age monuments in Britain and Ireland',
Bevan, B, Northern exposure: interpretative devolution and the Iron Ages in Britain,, Leicester archaeology monographs no.4, Leicester, 236,
McCullagh, R (1991 h)
'Excavations at Newton, Islay',
Glasgow Archaeol J, 15, 1988-89, 38,
Miers, M (2007 )
The Western Seaboard: an illustrated architectural guide,

Ritchie and Harman, J N G and M (1985 )
Exploring Scotland's heritage: Argyll and the Western Isles,
Exploring Scotland's heritage series, Edinburgh, 150, no. 86,
Ritchie and Harman, [J N] G and M (1996 )
Argyll and the Western Isles,
Exploring Scotland's Heritage series, ed. by Anne Ritchie, Edinburgh, 24, 145-6, 2nd

Photos by Dean Hoffman and Beth Maxwell Boyle
Copyright 2007, All Rights Reserved