Grey Cairns of Camster

Highland, United Kingdom

The Grey Cairns of Camster are two large Neolithic chambered cairns in the Highland region of Scotland. They are among the oldest buildings in Scotland, dating to about 5,000 years ago. The cairns demonstrate the complexity of Neolithic architecture, with central burial chambers accessed through narrow passages from the outside. They were excavated and restored by Historic Scotland in the late 20th century and are open to the public.

The cairns, which are considered to be examples of the Orkney-Cromarty type of chambered cairn, were constructed in the third or fourth millennium BC in a desolate stretch of boggy peat-covered moorland in the Flow Country of Caithness. They consist of two structures standing 180 m apart, known as Camster Round and Camster Long. A third cairn, located about 120 metres away from Camster Round, is not considered to be part of the grouping. Although the surrounding countryside is now inhospitable and sparsely inhabited, during the Stone Age it was fertile farming land and only became covered in peat during the Bronze Age.

Camster Long is a 60 m long cairn with 'horns' at each end. The two chambers appear to have originally been constructed within separate round cairns, which were only later incorporated into a single long cairn for unknown reasons.

Camster Round is, as the name suggests, a circular cairn; it measures 18 metres in diameter by 3.7 metres high. It is virtually intact with a high vaulted chamber at its centre, accessed from a passage 6 metres long and 0.8 metres high at the east-south-east side of the cairn. The passage appears to have been deliberately put out of use by blocking it up with stones piled up to the height of its roof.

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User Reviews

Ros Hussain (10 months ago)
Interesting place in the middle of nowhere. Can even go inside and have a look if you dare...
Vikki Helliwell (11 months ago)
Lovely wee pit stop We had fun climbing into the cairns. Great for kids !!! Very quiet no one was there
Ian Foster (11 months ago)
Conveniently next to a road with a parking area, otherwise in the middle of nowhere, which must go some way to explaining their existence now.
Josh Busbee (13 months ago)
Visited here on Jan. 26 2023 and it was awesome! Extremely remote so be aware of that and bring some snacks and water or eat beforehand. They have been rebuilt but it's cool to go inside. The walkway is very slippery like another review mentioned so be careful not to fall into the somewhat boggy ground. Getting inside is a very tight crawl and kind of muddy and rocky so you might need waterproof pants and kneepads/wrist pads. Definitely bring a headlamp to see inside. Once you're in you can stand up freely. These were the second set of cairns I visited while in Scotland and were definitely worth the long trip!
Anne Muller (2 years ago)
We loved exploring here! The kids could crawl into all 3 tunnels. There are beautiful ponies in the next field and it's just a stunning location
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