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  • Writer's pictureBrooke McKinnell

The Bone caves- Inchnadamph- Scotland

Updated: Apr 5, 2023


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These caves first appeared on my radar during one of my Archaeology lectures. I read about them in a scientific journal whilst studying the Neolithic revolution. As I constantly travel Scotland and adore the West, I had to find and explore them. I have since frequently visited, and even when passing the general area, I will go for a wander here. On one occasion, I took my youngest son and nephew, who were also unexpectedly, engrossed by them. Since then, everyone I have toured here has said they felt a sense of peace and tranquility, and I certainly agree. So let me tell you a little more about my favorite wee Scottish gem.


The Bone Caves at Inchnadamph is a series of interconnected caves located in the northwest Highlands of Scotland, near the village of Inchnadamph. The caves are known for their archaeological and paleontological significance. The caves were formed during the last ice age and are located in a limestone escarpment. Around 13,000 years ago, glaciers covered much of the region. As the glaciers retreated, they left behind large rocks and gravel deposits blocking the caves' entrances, creating a sheltered environment for animals and humans.

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Excavations

Excavations of the Bone Caves in Scotland have been ongoing for over a century, yielding a wealth of information about the area's natural and human history. The geologist William MacGregor carried out the first major excavation of the caves in the early 20th century and discovered the remains of extinct animals, such as the woolly rhinoceros, Irish elk, reindeer, arctic foxes, and wolves. The caves have also revealed evidence of human habitation, including stone tools, fire pits, and other artifacts. The caves are particularly notable for their association with the hunter-gatherers of the Mesolithic period (around 10,000 to 5,000 BCE) and the Bronze Age (around 4,000 to 2,500 BCE). Archaeological excavations at the site have revealed evidence of bone and antler tools, as well as the remains of red deer, roe deer, and wild boar, which were likely hunted by the early inhabitants of the area. These remains provide essential insights into the climate and ecology of the region during the Pleistocene epoch, which lasted from around 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago. The excavations of these Caves have played a crucial role in our understanding of the natural and human history of the area and have helped shed light on the lives and activities of the early inhabitants of Scotland.


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In the 1970s and 80s, further excavations were carried out by a team led by the archaeologist Dr. Richard H. Mercer, who uncovered evidence of prehistoric human occupation in the caves. These excavations revealed stone tools and other artifacts dating back to the Mesolithic and Bronze Age periods, as well as animal bones and remain.
More recent excavations have focused on studying the sedimentary layers within the caves, which contain important information about the climate and environmental conditions in the area over the past several thousand years. Researchers have used techniques such as radiocarbon dating to determine the ages of these sedimentary layers. They have also analyzed the pollen, plant remains, and other materials found within them to reconstruct the local environment and ecology.

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The caves also served as a burial site during the Bronze Age, with several cists (stone-lined graves) discovered in the area. It's believed these graves belonged to individuals who lived in the area during this period. The caves are also a popular destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. They offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape and access to some of Scotland's most remote and unspoiled wilderness areas, with many trails leading to the caves and the surrounding hills. The area offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape, including the nearby Inchnadamph Loch and the surrounding mountains.


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Several Munros (mountains in Scotland over 3,000 feet or 914 meters) are located within a reasonable driving distance from the Bone Caves in Scotland. Here are a few options:

Ben More Assynt - At 998 meters (3,274 ft), Ben More Assynt is the closest Munro to the Bone Caves. It's a challenging climb with steep ascents and rocky terrain, but it offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape.


Conival - Conival is located just north of Ben More Assynt, and at 987 meters (3,238 ft), it's another challenging climb. The ascent can be steep and rocky, but the views from the summit are breathtaking.


Canisp - Canisp is located northwest of the Bone Caves and stands at 847 meters (2,779 ft). It's a less challenging climb than Ben More Assynt or Conival but offers excellent views of the hills and lochs.


Suilven - At 731 meters (2,398 ft), Suilven is one of Scotland's most distinctive and recognizable mountains. The climb is challenging, but the views from the summit are well worth the effort.


Stac Pollaidh - Although not a Munro, Stac Pollaidh is a famous hill walk with stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The ascent is relatively short but steep, and the summit offers excellent views of the surrounding hills and lochs.


Hikers should always be prepared for changing weather conditions and take necessary precautions when venturing into the Scottish hills.

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Bothy stay

A few bothies are located within a reasonable distance from the Bone Caves in Scotland. Bothies are simple, remote buildings that are free to use and provide basic shelter for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.

One option is the Inchnadamph Bothy, located about 5 miles (8 km) north of the Bone Caves. This bothy is in a stunning location by a loch and offers basic amenities such as a fireplace, sleeping platforms, and a kitchen area. It's a popular spot for hikers exploring the nearby hills and mountains.

Another option is the Glencoul Bothy, located about 12 miles (19 km) northwest of the Bone Caves. This bothy is situated on Loch Glencoul and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. It's a bit more remote and challenging to access than the Inchnadamph Bothy but is well worth the effort for those seeking a peaceful and secluded location.

It's important to note that bothies are maintained by volunteers, and visitors are expected to respect the facilities and leave them clean and tidy for the next occupants. Additionally, bothies do not have running water or electricity, so visitors should be prepared to bring their water, food, and other necessities.

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Other places to stay

There are several places to stay near the Bone Caves in Scotland, ranging from basic camping facilities to comfortable lodges and bed and breakfasts. Here are a few options:



Inchnadamph Lodge: This historic lodge is just a few miles from the Bone Caves and offers comfortable, well-equipped rooms and an on-site restaurant. It's a popular choice for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.




The Altnacealgach Motel: This cozy motel is about 9 miles from the Bone Caves and offers comfortable, well-appointed rooms with stunning views of the surrounding hills and mountains. It's a good choice for those seeking more comfort and privacy.




Lochinver Bunkhouse: This budget-friendly hostel is about 18 miles from the Bone Caves and offers comfortable bunk beds in shared dormitory-style rooms. It's a good choice for solo travelers or those on a tight budget.




Glencanisp Lodge: This luxury lodge is about 23 miles from the Bone Caves and offers spacious, well-appointed rooms with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and lochs. It's a good choice for those seeking a more upscale experience.




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Hiking
Distance4.5km / 2.75 milesTime1.5 - 2 hoursAscent210m
for more details, please see;


Overall, the excavations of the Bone Caves have played a crucial role in our understanding of the natural and human history of the area and have helped shed light on the lives and activities of the early inhabitants of Scotland. It is a fantastic day out if you get fair weather. Keep a look out for the deer that roam this area. Please take your rubbish away with you.

Have a great time!


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

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