- Clava Cairns - Passage Tombs, Ring Cairn and Stone Circles | 2024 Archive

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Clava Cairns - Highland, Scotland
Passage Tombs, Ring Cairn and Stone Circles
National Grid Reference: NH 757 444

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How To Get There

From Inverness take the A9(T) south heading for Aviemore. About a mile outside of the city you'll need to take a turn onto the B9006, signed for the Culloden battlefield. Head past the Culloden visitor centre and take the first road to the right. About a hundred yards further on you'll come to a crossroads with the B851, continue straight to follow the road that you are on. You'll head down hill and then cross a bridge over the River Nairn. Turn right and the site is to the right of the road. There is ample parking space.

Entrance of the NE Passage Tomb

There a quite a lot of photographs on this page, lots of interesting features to show! I apologise for the amount of time this page will take to load into your browser, just start reading and hopefully the images will be loaded soon.

This is another site that I remember from childhood holidays to Scotland. As a kid I'd visited the battlefield at Culloden, and seen the cairn there (built to commemorate the battle), but not the Clava Cairns about a mile to the SE from there.

The site is quite complex, comprising of two passage graves, a ring cairn, a kirb circle and stone circles surrounding each of the cairns. The cairns are stretched in a line roughly NE to SW. Throughout travels in this area you might well come across other passage graves described as "Clava type", the passage graves here define a pattern in burial practice that spread over the region. This type of tomb is distinguished by a large mound of boulders forming the cairn, a straight narrow passage leading to the circular burial chamber roughly at the centre of the cairn. They are also often surrounded by a stone circle. See Corrimony for another example of a Clava type tomb on these pages. These tombs date to around 3000BC.

NE passage grave showing circle stones.

At the NE end of the line is the passage grave shown in the photograph at the top of the page, surrounded by a circle of eleven stones. Take time to walk around the cairns here slowly so that you don't miss anything. There are quite a few cup marks to be seen here. One of the more spectacularly cup marked stones can be found around the back of the NE cairn helping to make up the kirb circle around the boulders (photograph below). This cairn is 10 feet tall and 55 feet in diameter, the passage to the burial chamber is 20 feet long. Originally the burial chamber (which is now open the sky) would have had a corbelled roof.

Cup marked stone at the rear of the NE cairn.

Following the line of monuments to the SW you come next to a ring cairn surrounded by a stone circle. The cairn is around 60 feet in diameter and has some unusual protuberances which are probably best described as "causeways". These are around 6 feet wide and maybe 20 feet long (a guess, I didn't measure them). Each of these causeways, to the east, southeast and northwest ends at a circle stone as can be seen in the picture below.

Just to the west of the ring cairn is a small kerb circle which can easily be missed while gazing at the main structures at this site. It is only around 12 feet in diameter.

Ring cairn showing "causeway".

Finally there is the southwestern passage grave, a slightly smaller copy of the example to the northeast. Both tombs have their entrance passages aligned to the southwest, the direction of the mid-winter sunset. There are more cup marks to be seen in this cairn.

Southwestern passage grave.


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This prehistoric site has been rescued for historical reasons by History X's archive