Conistone Old Pasture Cairn

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Historical Environment Record No:
Conistone with Kilnsey
OS Grid Reference:
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Conistone Old Pasture cairn MYD4025 (c) YDNPA, 2023

Conistone Old Pasture cairn MYD4025 (c) YDNPA, 2023

This cairn, also known as Capstick Back Pasture cairn, was partially excavated in 1892 and 1893 by Ernest Speight and the Upper Wharfedale Exploration Committee. This was the first of several excavations they undertook in the Grassington area and a short description of the work survives. The cairn, a mound of earth, limestone boulders and stones, is approximately 18 metres across and a metre and a half high. The excavators located a kerb of limestone blocks surrounding the mound and this is still partly visible today. According to Speight the main burial was set in a central rectangular grave and laid on its left side with bent legs. This grave included evidence of at least one other burial, which may have predated the more intact crouched skeleton. Partial human remains were found elsewhere within the cairn, as well as a collection of burnt animal bones identified at the time as belonging to a remarkable array of creatures: ox, sheep or goat, stag, pig, dog, fox and rat. Other artefacts found included fragments of pottery covered in chevron marks, a bone comb and a jet button or pendant. They are housed in the Craven Museum, Skipton.

The cairn is of interest for other reasons. A long and substantial prehistoric earth and stone bank focuses on the burial cairn. It can be picked up where it traverses the Dales Way path near the 19th century lime kiln and followed north east to the cairn. After a short gap in the dip it climbs the far hillside to the east and finishes beneath a limestone scar. The cairn has been constructed very close to one of the few places in this part of Wharfedale where surface water accumulates on a regular basis, at the bottom of the dip lying just to the east. Limestone is a very permeable rock, and the rare watering places the geology provides would have had considerable cultural significance to prehistoric people, beyond their importance for practical needs. According to its excavator, Speight, who was a professional geologist, the cairn was placed upon a hillock where two mineralised veins meet, another geological occurrence which may have had a cultural significance to the people who constructed the original cairn. The cairn is a Scheduled Monument, and protected by law. It is an offence to disturb the site.

Source: Speight E.E. (1894) ‘Upper Wharfedale Exploration Committee First Annual Report Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological and Polytechnic Society (1893) New Series X11, part 5, 374-84, Leeds


From the Grassington National Park car park (charge) walk into the market place and up the road on the left hand side. At the cross roads by the Town Hall turn left on Chapel Street. Just before Town Head farm turn right up a track labeled Dales Way Footpath. Follow the Dales Way Footpath for a mile and a half, crossing Lea Green and travelling further north until a large restored 19th century lime kiln is seen immediately on the left of the path. The prehistoric boundary bank crosses the path at this point and Capstick Back Pasture cairn can be found 100 metres along its length to the east. For further details on Access Land see the Countryside Access website Select OS grid reference on the home page and type in the grid reference listed above. This will give you a printable map of the area, as well as details concerning access. Public rights of way are unaffected by changes in access status.

Public Transport Details

Nearest town/village: Conistone and Grassington. Call Traveline on 0870 608 2 608 to plan your journey. After the welcome message key in 885 for North Yorkshire information.


The path is generally good with no steep sections, but can be uneven and rough in places. There is a shallow stream to cross above Town Head farm near Grassington and occasional stiles.