Sheriff Hill Cairn

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Sheriff Hill cairn MYD3798 (c) YDNPA 2023

Sheriff Hill cairn MYD3798 (c) YDNPA 2023

Sheriff Hill round cairn is in a spectacular location close to the edge of Malham Cove. It lies on the eastern side of the Cove, at the far end of the broad upper terrace and is edged on two sides by a shallow limestone cliff, which lets out onto another terrace and Malham Cove itself. It is the only large cairn found in close association with this prominent topographic feature. From the cairn there are extensive views to the south, overlooking the Craven lowlands as far as Pendle Hill in Lancashire. The profiles of Sharphaw and Roughaw near Gargrave also stand out against the horizon. It is likely that the extraordinary location had immense cultural significance to the people who constructed this cairn.

As can be seen from its remains, the cairn has had a chequered history in modern times and only part of it survives. At the time of the parliamentary enclosures in the mid 19th century the cairn became a source of walling stone, and the limestone terrace on which it stands was also used as a quarry. The wall which now cuts it off from the rest of Malham Cove probably includes stones taken from the cairn. This was a common fate for numerous prehistoric stone structures and many burial mounds in the Dales. Stoney Raise cairn in Wensleydale and Lea Green cairn near Grassington are twoother cairns which were partially destroyed through being used as a source of walling stone during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when miles and miles of field boundaries were built in the Pennine uplands.

View of Sheriff Hill cairn MYD3798 (c) YDNPA 2023

View of Sheriff Hill cairn MYD3798 (c) YDNPA 2023

The remains of Sheriff Hill cairn were excavated at this time and it seems human bones and an iron spearhead were discovered. During further excavation in 1955 pottery was found which has subsequently been dated to the middle of the Bronze Age. The fragments include part of a small cinerary collared urn, an unusual item known as an ‘incense cup’, less than 3 inches (7cm) long, and some ‘food vessel’ ware from the centre of the mound. The excavators found that the cairn was built entirely of stone and surrounded by a kerb of larger stones. It is a Scheduled Monument, and protected by law. It is an offence to disturb the site.


A. Raistrick and P.F. Holmes 1962 ‘Archaeology of Malham Moor’ Field Studies vol.1.part 4; 8-10.


The cairn is situated in open Access Land. It can be approached either from the top of Malham Cove or from the lane which runs up on the east side of the Cove. For the former, from the centre of Malham follow directions to the Cove and take the footpath to the top. Cross the top of the Cove, taking care over the limestone pavement, and take the footpath which carries on over a ladder stile in an easterly direction. 200 metres ahead right by the path is the corner of a field. The remains of the cairn can be viewed from here just over the wall. The path continues and comes out on the Malham Rakes road , half a mile from Malham on the east side. If you come from this direction, take the path signposted Malham Cove, and you will pass the cairn after about 450 metres. 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.


A steep climb up to the Cove, whether you chose the footpath or the road. There are ladder stiles on the way and the path can be rough and muddy. The limestone pavement at the top of the Cove can be very slippery in wet weather.