The Secrets of Scoor Cave

romhc Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Scoor Cave, decorated with fascinating symbols, is situated at the head of a narrow inlet on the rocky shore of the south coast of the Ross of Mull, about 550m SSW of Scoor. It is a bit difficult to find as there is no clear path and the going is a bit steep and muddy, but the effort is well worth it. The location is dramatic, and the cave is covered in carvings

The cave measures 4m in width at the mouth by 15m in depth; the maximum height of the roof is about 8m. Both walls of the cave are profusely decorated with symbols, which are found at heights of from 0.4m to 1.8m above the floor.

About sixty of the markings are small circular or oval depressions, which make no formal pattern, sometimes occurring in groups and at other times singly along each wall; about half of them are cup-shaped, measuring on average 50mm in diameter and 10mm in depth, and are indistinguishable from prehistoric cup-markings; many of the others, however, are conical rather than hemispherical in section, measuring up to 90mm across and 50mm in depth, and in some cases appear to have been enlarged, if not actually made, in comparatively recent times.

The remainder of the symbols comprise a motif closely resembling a small labyrinth device, a trident and some eighteen linear incised crosses, including plain Latin and Greek crosses, crosses with expanded, barred or bifid terminals, and ringed crosses.

The crosses are generally similar to those found in the Nuns' Cave further east along the coast, and may reflect occupation of the cave in the Early Christian Period, probably in the late 6th - 9th centuries. No parallel has been found for the trident motif but it probably belongs to the later, rather than to the earlier, series of carvings.

Most of the loose stones that constitute the floor of the cave have fallen from the walls in comparatively recent times, no doubt destroying other symbols in the process, and it is likely that the original floor-level was at least 0.5m lower than the present one. Local sources state that below the layer of fallen rock, the cave floor is made up of shell midden.


The Ross of Mull is an extraordinary microcosm of all that draws visitors to the Hebridean Islands. The scenery, as you travel along the single-track road from the ferry at Craignure is breath-taking. You experience in the many walks in the area a true sense of wilderness; the secret bays with their beaches of silvery sand, the abundance of wildlife and the innumerable marks on the landscape of the lives of past generations and communities long gone. The Ross of Mull is a compelling place for anyone fascinated by history and the ancient way of life of the Gaelic people.

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