The Clava cairn is a type of Bronze Age circular chamber tomb cairn, named after the group of 3 cairns at Balnuaran of Clava, to the east of Inverness. There are about 50 cairns of this type in an area round about Inverness.

At Balnuaran of Clava itself there is a group of three Bronze Age cairns which lie close together in a line running north east to south west. The tombs at either end are of the passage grave sub-type. The central cairn is of the ring cairn sub-type, and uniquely has stone paths or causeways forming 'rays' radiating out from the platform round the kerbs to three of the standing stones. The cairns incorporate cup and ring mark stones, carved before they were built into the structures. The kerb stones are graded in size and selected for colour, so that the stones are larger and redder to the south west, and smaller and whiter to the north east. All these elements seem to have been constructed as one operation and indicate a complex design rather than ad hoc additions.

The ring round the northern Balnuaran of Clava cairn was measured and analysed by Professor Alexander Thom. He found that the ring was slightly egg-shaped with a complex geometry of circles and ellipses which could be set out around a central triangle, using sizes which are close to whole multiples of what he called the Megalithic yard. While the geometry of the shape is generally accepted, the Megalithic Yard is more controversial.



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User Reviews

Sam March (2 months ago)
Really cool to see the ruins of these tombs. The information boards were good, although each one seemed to be surrounded by a huge puddle. Would recommend to the history enthusiasts.
Andy Lawson (2 months ago)
Ancient site. Well worth a look. Probably the best stone circles, standing stones, and cairns in all of the world. Look for the cup ring carvings. There are at least four separate stones with these. A fine place. Make this a must see on your list but please don't remove any stones. They are cursed. You will suffer terrible bad luck if these are removed. No joke. Also please do not climb on hos as it is still an ancient protected monument.
Eric T. (9 months ago)
Cool to experience this 4000 year old ritual ruin. One of the few in the immediate area that I'm aware of, so a good spot to visit if you don't necessarily have the time to tour the Islands or further north, where these types of findings are more plentiful.
Zachary Gaber (10 months ago)
Clava Cairns deserves to be better known as truly astounding remnants of the regional Bronze Age. I tried to do some research on this site before I went and I found very little information on-line that wasn't about its association with a television show when this is a location that should be among the more famous prehistoric sites in Britain. It is an astounding site with three massive stone cairns, each surrounded by rings of small standing stones. The cairns are very impressive and it is a truly inspiring, mysterious site.
Bradford (13 months ago)
Fantastic cairns site with good detailed plaques. One of the plaques is missing, and I can't see it in the images. Shame about that, but worth a quick visit if you're close and interested in the mysterious neolithic past.
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Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.