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

Willie Spratt (22 months ago)
Excellent reproduction of chambered cairns. A little tricky to get inside a couple of them, but worth the effort. Not for the claustrophobic and be prepared to get a bit mucky. Interesting historical insight.
Danielle Matthews (2 years ago)
Well worth a drive out to - you have to literally crawl to get into the Round Cairn but it's worth it if you can. The other cairns are easier to get into. The surrounding scenery is lovely and there's a dedicated spot to park.
Andrew Lawson (2 years ago)
Good stuff, you can crawl into these enclosed cairns. The road is quite iffy. Well worth a look.
Emil Georgiev (2 years ago)
You can feel magic in the air, aside from the ancient vibe from another era... worth a visit! You can even go inside them.
Daphne Muse (2 years ago)
We were very lucky to have this place to ourselves! Even though they are mostly reconstructed, the Cairns of Camster are incredibly impressive and crawling into them really seems to take you back in time. Definitely bring a flashlight and wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty. You will have to crawl on your hands and knees and the gravel can be pretty sharp. Definitely worth it though!
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