Map with: Google Map, or OS Explorer Map from

Other Sites Within 500m

Bone Cave  Badger Cave  Foxes' Den  Creag nan Uamh [Overview]  Creag nan Uamh Bone Cave [5]  Otter Hole  Creag nan Uamh Bone Cave [6]  Lower Otter Hole  Lower Lower Otter Hole  Eagle Cave  Eye Hole  Mole Hole  Rana Hole  Rana/Claonaite System  Cairn Cave  2 m Hole 

 Go to the Main Scottish Cave and Mine Database Search Page

Reindeer Cave

Assynt, Alt Nan Uamh, Sutherland.

NGR:NC 26821 16998
WGS84:58.10798, -4.94084
Length:45 m
Vert. Range:4 m
Altitude:305 m
Tags:Cave, Archaeo, SSSI, SAM

A large north facing cave entrance at the foot of Creag nan Uamh (Crag of the Caves) at the top of a steep slope of scree and glacial deposits. A walkers path (signposted for tourists as 4 km from the car park - 2 km to get there, 2 km to get back). The bone caves are numbered from west to east so Reindeer Cave is the second from the west.

This is the longest of the Creag nan Uamh caves. The entrance is similar to that of Badger Cave, a 4 to 5 m diameter phreatic tube containing sediments which leads after 12 m to an inner chamber which can be entered by a 2.7 m shaft. Low down near the floor at the entrance a narrow squeeze leads to Bone Cave. To the right of the shaft, a narrow fissure (or tube) also leads to the inner chamber. A human skeleton was found in this fissure in 1926. Further right, a skull was found buried in the floor deposits.

A reassessment of a large number of reindeer antler fragments comprising part of an arctic fauna excavated in the 1920s from Reindeer Cave indicates that at least 480 separate animals are represented, all of the antlers were naturally shed, and the majority were from young animals. 47% were identified as being from female animals. The provenance of these peculiar remains is discussed, and it is suggested that humans may have deliberately collected the shed antlers and cached them in the cave: this may have occurred as early as 10,000-8,500 years B.P. [Lawson & Bonsall]

Of the man-made items found in the cave a 'bone pi' did not have sufficient protein to test and is considered too simple a tool to be diagnostic for dating. An antler 'knife handle' dates to the early medieval or Viking period. An iron knife blade (not related to the handle) was dismissed as too recent. A walrus ivory 'pin' has been radio-carbon dated to the Pictish period (but due to the marine diet of the walrus there could be a 'marine reservoir effect and the actual date could be 400-500 years earlier). The radio-carbon dates on the human remains (5585-4961 cal BP) clearly place them in the Neolithic. No grave goods were found.

Reindeer Cave consists of a 4m wide, 2.5 m high, 10m long outer chamber connected to a larger inner chamber by either a tight (0.5m diameter) horizontal upper tube or a wider lower passage (which drops about 1.5 m from the back of the outer chamber to a sand or sediment filled hole where it is possible to scramble up into the inner chamber). A low narrow squeeze leads east into Bone Cave (Bone Cave [3]) The inner chamber is approximately 2.5 m high and 5 m wide irregularly shaped but roughly linear trending southwest and tapering as it lowers 25-30 m further into the cliff. The floor is mainly sand is sediment mixed with loose rocks rising steeply at the entrance and more gently further in. The connections to the outer chamber are at the north end of the inner chamber and there is a crawling height passage to the west (this becomes too low and tight but trends towards Badger Cave (Bone Cave [1]).

The second chamber was revealed by the excavations in 1927. A polar bear skull and a northern lynx skull were discovered by the excavators. After 35 m of crawling the present end of the cave is reached. Recent surveys have shown that the deposits in the inner chamber are at least 6 m thick and must conceal a chamber of considerable proportions.

There is a good example of a solutional pocket several metres high in the right hand wall.

Alternate Names: Creag nan Uamh Bone Cave [2], Inchnadamph Bone Cave [2]

Notes: The Bone Caves (including Reindeer Cave are a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Digging is not permitted without the written permission of Historic Environment Scotland, Nature Scot (previously Scottish Natural Heritage) AND the local landowner.

The caves at Creag nan Uamh came to the scientific attention of the Geological Survey in 1885 when John Horne and Benjamin Peach excavated Bone Cave. Badger Cave and Reindeer Cave wer excavated in 1926-7 by James Cree, John Graham Callender and James Ritchie, after James Cree found a bear tooth and pieces of reindeer antler on the surface in Reindeer Cave during a visit in 1925.

Felis lynx is (to my knowledge) only recorded in Scotland at Borallie Cave (dug by Colin Coventry) and Reindeer Cave on the Creag nan Uamh. Both specimens have radiocarbon dates... [Tim Lawson]

Inner chamber, Reindeer Cave: 1,770 +/- 80 yrs BP (1,682 +/- 80 cal BP)... the most recent date for this species in Britain which previously was thought to have become extinct sometime in the mid-Holocene (i.e. last 11,000 years) - ref... A.C. Kitchener & C. Bonsall (1997), Quaternary Newsletter 83, 1-11.

See also Creag nan Uamh Bone Caves. Narrow passage connects Reindeer Cave and Bone Cave.

Hydrographic Feeds: Now dry, previously Allt na Claonaite

Hydrographic Resurgences: previously Allt nan Uamh

Links and Resources:

This entry was last updated: 2023-02-02 18:21:57

Errors or omissions in this information? Submit corrections/additions/comments for this entry to the registrars.

All database content Copyright 2024 Grampian Speleological Group.
Web Registry software by Matt Voysey.