Ri Cruin Cairn, or rather what is left of it, stands in the midst of an attractive copse of trees about three hundred yards south of a minor road offering a pull off area close to the signpost directing visitors to the cairn. It is close to a number of other ancient monuments, especially Temple Wood and the Nether Largie Standing Stones, and many visitors will come here as part of a tour of Kilmartin Glen's many attractions.
The path is well defined and easily passible, though we suspect it could get boggy after wet weather: the surrounding fields are certainly very wet. You enter the copse of trees via a low ladder of stones beyond a narrow stream, and here you are presented with an arc of stones with a large capstone at its centre. If you project its shape to the circular, then it was probably about 19m in diameter when originally constructed.
This is all that remains of a cairn which might originally have stood up to 3m in height. It was originally build some 4,000 years ago as the burial for a single individual, whose grave, in the form of a stone cist, lay at the centre of the cairn. Two further burials took place here after the cairn was constructed, one just outside the "kerb" of stones which originally defined its outer edge.
Re Cruin Cairn has been excavated on three occasions, in 1870, 1929 and 1936. Even before antiquarians first arrived on the scene in 1870, the site has been badly disturbed by gravel extraction and the construction here of a kiln. Pretty much everything you see today is a reconstruction of an assumed earlier state left here by the archaeologists who undertook the final excavation in 1936.
In 1870 burned bone was found in the central cist, and other possible human remains were found in one of the outer cists. Excavation of one of the outer cists unearthed a beautifully carved stone which appears to show a depiction of a halberd, a high status weapon. The original of this was lost in a fire at Poltalloch House, where it was stored, but a cast is held by the National Museums of Scotland. Meanwhile, one of the stones in place in the cist on the far side of the cairn as you enter carries carvings thought to show stone axe heads. The light needs to be exactly right for these to show up, and it wasn't when we visited.