Great Close Hill cairn

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Historical Environment Record No:
Malham Moor
OS Grid Reference:
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Great Close Hill cairn MYD4067 (c) YDNPA, 2023

Great Close Hill cairn MYD4067 (c) YDNPA, 2023

Great Close Hill has a dominating presence to the south-east of Malham Tarn. Its summit is crowned by a large round stone cairn approximately 17 metres in diameter and 1.7 metres high, now mostly covered with grass. This cairn was partly excavated in 1936 but there is conflicting evidence about what was found. One source records multiple burials with iron knives, but another suggests there were no grave goods. It is possible that, in a similar fashion to Seaty Hill Cairn which lies two-thirds of a mile to the south, this burial mound has its origins in the 2nd Millennium BC and was re-used later during the Iron Age. The form and location certainly fit with known Bronze Age types of round cairn. On its south side, running at an angle and not touching the cairn, is a linear feature of low boulders about 10 metres long. This does not appear to form part of any field enclosure, and may well be an integral site feature, constructed for religious and ritual reasons associated with the hill itself and the burial mound. Linear features like this have been found in association with cairns elsewhere in the area.

Throughout prehistory the hill would have been surrounded by water and marsh on three sides, as Great Close Mire was only drained in the modern period. The Malham Tarn area has attracted people for millennia and thousands of Mesolithic period flints have been found around the old shoreline in the shadow of Great Close Hill. The hill’s semi-isolation and prominent curves, in addition to its position close to one of the few natural lakes in the Yorkshire Dales, may have added to the cultural significance of the place. Along its base lies the limestone cliff and extensive scree slopes known as Great Close Scar, and this also adds to the special atmosphere. The combination of distinctive topographic features would have endowed Great Close Hill with special importance for prehistoric communities, and provides a cultural context for the creation of the large, prominent burial cairn.

The circular stone enclosure which now covers the summit cairn is a result of illicit disturbance in the 1990’s.Visitors are urged not to add stones to it or move any material, as this may disturb the prehistoric structures beneath. The cairn is a Scheduled Monument, and protected by law. It is an offence to disturb the site.

View of Great Close Hill cairn MYD4067 (c) YDNPA, 2023

View of Great Close Hill cairn MYD4067 (c) YDNPA, 2023


A. Raistrick and P.F. Holmes 1962 ‘Archaeology of Malham Moor’ Field Studies vol.1


Great Close Hill is in open Access Land close to Malham Tarn, where there are several places to park. The cairn can be reached from the north-west side where the Pennine Way skirts Malham Tarn or from the other side of the hill, where a public bridleway runs from Street Gate to Middle House. 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 showing the location of the cairn.

Public Transport Details

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


It is a steep climb up to the top of the hill and the ground is rough. Access tracks on both sides are well surfaced but may be wet and muddy in parts. There are gates but no stiles.