King Schaw's Grave

Ancient, Ruins
An ancient burial site hiding myths and legends as well as prehistoric remains

About King Schaw's Grave

Follow the forestry road about 800 metres till the road angles to the left and a grassy firebreak goes straight ahead. Follow the firebreak which can be soft and wet unless the weather has been dry. The cist is about 150 metres along the firebreak, to the left.

Until recently the site was hidden away in tall conifers, planted in the 1960s. These were felled in 2005 revealing a commanding view of the surrounding country from here. Surely this was considered when our forebears came to choose the site as a last resting place for the remains of someone very important to them.

The cist (stone chest), now all that remains to be seen of the funerary site, was the first part to be laid down. The dead person's remains were placed inside the chest. The body may first have been exposed to the air and other natural forces and the bones gathered together; or possibly it was bound up tightly into a foetal position some time after death. "Grave goods", like favourite weapons or beakers for food or drink, might have been laid beside it, but there's no record of this. Then the massive lid was heaved into position, and a great cairn was built about it. Cists of this kind have been found all over Britain, usually surrounded by cairns, but so far this is Eskdale's only confirmed example.

The tradition is that a battle between the Picts and Scots was fought near by, and that, fleeing, the Pictish King was drowned in the deep pool known since as the "King Pool", at the junction of the Black and White Esks. A tantalising tradition - but unfortunately it will not bear examination. Pictish history records no King Schaw.

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