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  • Writer's pictureBrooke McKinnell

A Scottish Pictish cave

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

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One of my favorite things to do here in Scotland is to explore the coast. Scotland's coast is home to many fascinating caves that offer a glimpse into the country's geological and cultural history. However, they are often overlooked. The coast is littered with them. I was in my element when I got here. It is geologically marvelous. We had planned to walk to the cave and back again, but the tide hadn’t quite come in yet, so we had a little more time to play with. We continued onto Primrose bay further along the coast. Perfect for anyone who loves to explore, go caving, or even bouldering. So let me tell you a little more about it.

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Above: Known as the ( Troosers) which means trousers

Sculptor's Cave is a historic site located on the northeastern coast of Scotland in the Moray Firth. The cave is famous for its Pictish carvings, made by the ancient Pictish people around 1400 years ago.

The cave is located near Covesea, and it can be accessed by a short walk along the coast. It is believed that the Picts used the cave as a sacred site, and the carvings are thought to represent essential figures from Pictish mythology. In addition to the carvings, the cave contains evidence of human habitation dating back to the Bronze Age and more recent uses, such as a smugglers' hideout.

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The Sculptor's Cave is a fascinating site for anyone interested in Scottish history and archaeology. However, as it is a protected site, visitors are advised to respect the area and avoid touching or damaging the carvings.

The History of Sculptor’s Cave

The Sculptor's Cave was excavated in 1928-30 by Sylvia Benton and again in 1979 by Ian and Alexandra Shepherd and yielded significant assemblages of Late Bronze Age metalwork, Roman Iron Age artifacts, and human bone. The excavations have revealed evidence of human habitation in the area dating back to the Bronze Age, around 4,000 years ago.

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According to experts, juvenile remains were brought to Sculptor's Cave, near Lossiemouth, Moray, for relatives to mourn them.
“From what we can tell, these were simply people mourning their dead children”.

-Ian Shepherd, Archaeologist

During the Pictish period, the cave was used for ritual and worship. The Picts were known for their distinctive art, and the cave contains many examples of their carvings, including symbols and images that are thought to represent essential figures from Pictish mythology. Some carvings have been dated to the 6th century AD, making them some of the earliest examples of Pictish art.

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In more recent history, the cave has been used for various purposes. During the 18th and 19th centuries, it was a popular location for smugglers who hid contraband goods. In the early 20th century, the cave was also used for military training exercises.

Today, the Sculptor's Cave is a protected site, and access is limited to preserve its archaeological and historical significance. However, it remains an essential site for understanding the history and culture of the Picts. It attracts visitors from around the world who come to marvel at its ancient carvings and natural beauty.

Carvings include a fish, a “V” shape, and a crescent. Archaeologists have speculated that these symbols represent personal or tribal names. It is also possible that they were inscribed to mark the closure of Sculptor's Cave, which was abandoned in the early 5th century.


GPS coordinates: 57.716636,-3.362854, 3 miles west of Lossiemouth
2-mile walk
Elevation 50m
It takes approximately 2-3 hr
No public transport for 1 mile
This is a tough walk and best experienced at low tide. Rocks become submerged n high tide.
Suitable footwear is a must, as some scrambling is required, and there are a lot of slippery rocks.

Afterward, we enjoyed some Cullen skink soup at The Harbour Lights restaurant. It is 11 min (4.6 miles) from the cave via B9040 and well worth the visit.
5 Pitgaveny Quay, Lossiemouth, Moray, IV31 6TW 01343 814622

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©2023 All content on this page is copyrighted/ owned by Brooke the wandering scot @wanderscot

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1 Comment

Apr 05, 2023

I will definitely try this walk and the Cullen skink :)

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