On February 4th, my partner Raven and I visited Clava Cairns near Culloden. We drove there, and parked up at the carpark on the site, which only had a couple of other vehicles. I was surprised that there was anyone else there at all on such a cold and frosty Monday afternoon; the carpark was iced over with compacted snow for the most part, and while it wasn't utterly freezing, it was cold enough not to melt the settled snow particularly fast, and even in what is a sheltered valley there was as a certain chill - perhaps the damp air from the river that runs under the viaduct further along. [The viaduct is pretty impressive, similar to the Glenfinian Viaduct made famous in Harry Potter, and it too has a railway crossing a valley, but this one is pink rather than grey; I will give it its own post].
There's what appears to be a small cairn in the carpark, just outside the boundary to the main complex of cairns. As it's not listed on the maps, and it's not in the enclave, I think it might just be a pile of rocks from levelling a flattish plot to make the carpark, or maybe an 19thC folly addition, or even stones removed in the 19thC excavations of the cairns; basically I don't know what it is at all.
|Frozen meltwater in a depression. Photograph taken by myself.|
|Raven and I; cooperative selfie.|
|The setting sun makes for a beautiful light over the cairns.|
Reflected sunlight on ice.
Photograph by myself.
|Sunlight streaming through the trees across where the snow has melted.|
|Near-to-carpark cairn. My photo.|
A cleft stone - was it split by time and ice, or is it a pair?
Photograph taken by myself.
Scarf to keep my ears warm.
Selfie by the larger cairn.
|The far cairn, aligned with the sunset. Photo by myself.|
In South East England, where I grew up, there was a theory relating the placement of barrows to either be prominent on the brows of hills, or to be near rivers, and while I think the builders of the cairns at Clava may have been culturally different, the cairns are hardly on a hilltop, but they are in a valley with the River Nairn flowing through - but I'm not an archaeologist (yet... I'm doing my second undergraduate degree part-time, studying joint History & Archaeology), and it is something I would have to read up on. There's been some interesting papers on the placement of chambered cairns on the Isles, but I don't know about the mainland. Definitely something I need to look into.
|Frosty ground. Photograph by Raven.|
The Cairns are very popular in recent years due to the success of the show 'Outlander', as apparently there is some connection to the series. I haven't watched much of it, and the opening scene with early 20thC 'Druids' was filmed on a set on a hillock with foam stones, and Clava Cairns is apparently not the site mentioned in the books (a better candidate for that would be the stones that remain of the cairn at Dunain, which I mentioned in my previous blog entry about Ostara), so I'm not sure what the exact connection is, but it's something to do with magical standing stones as part of the time-travel in the story, from what I gather. They've actually become too popular, and have been damaged by people climbing on the stones, and on the cairns, dislodging parts of the rock walls of the cairns. Large coaches and heavy traffic have also caused an access issue for the garage that runs recovery/road-side assistance from a little further down the road - and therefore for the clients they were off to rescue from mechanical trouble. If visiting during busy season, I would suggest parking elsewhere and walking down, as it is a pretty and pleasant walk (there are also several B&Bs, chalets, etc. nearby for accommodation.).
|A rather rectangular stone. Photo taken by myself.|
|Raven. Photo by me.|
|Snow in the dying light; photograph by Raven|
|We made a tiny snowman made from two snowballs with twigs for arms.|
[My apologies for the formatting errors with the pictures; the blogging wizard keeps putting breaks/paragraphs where I don't want them, even when I remove them in the HTML editor...]