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Thursday, 17 June 2021

Balnauran of Clava

Each year thousands of people flock to the site of the 1746 Culloden massacre but the attraction of a killing field completely eludes me. Just over a mile away, down a very narrow, twisty little road with occasional passing places, is somewhere far more special.

Normally known as Clava Cairns, what's visible to most visitors are three massive cairns, one ring type and two are passage cairns, and the timeline of the structures is contemporary with Skara Brae and [later] Stonehenge. If you venture into the picnic area the remains of a further circle can be made out, and a ten minute walk down the road leads to what's known as the Milton of Clava and generally called the 4th cairn. Archaeologists believe there would have been a line of seven or eight cairns so it is reasonable to assume that one lies buried under the generous carpark, and the others are hidden under the farmhouse and associated buildings that you walk past between the main site and Milton. In the same way as early archaeologists did incalculable damage when excavating sites, we've done just as much by building homes and farms. But sighing and wishing things were different does not bring back that which has been lost.

I don't know if my pictures can do this site justice, but you can read about it online, Google returns many results. Balnauran is referred to as a "site type" which means that the 50 or so similar structures in north-east Scotland are all called Clava cairns, which confuses most people because this location is generally referred to as Clava (perhaps because Balnauran takes up more room on road signs 😜). I have not yet tracked down the location of all of the others, but I'm working on it. I can feel a 'project' coming on !















For me, some places cannot be accurately described, dissected or written about in significant detail. Balnurnan is one of those sites - it is ancient and magical, the sense of time in the rocks is palpable. It is a cemetery, the final resting place for the loved and revered and it still feels sacred. The day I spent in this amazing place was the highlight of my entire trip.


For those who don't waste as much time firtling around archaeology sites as I do, you might find this link interesting. If you would like more depth than Google provides ("oh look, it's a location from Outlander") then http://scholar.google.co.uk is always a good place to start.

When you are done with marvelling at the building abilities of our ancient ancestors you can walk half a mile down the lane in the opposite direction and see the Nairn (or Culloden) Viaduct, opened 123 years ago and still carrying trains. A sense of scale is impossible from this little photo but the central arch which straddles the River Nairn is 100 foot wide (that's 30 metres for our younger viewers!)










13 comments:

  1. They are really interesting - love the rock formation. It would be so interesting to travel back in time to find out where they got the ideas from to build these things.

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    1. Thanks Viv. I must make more effort next time I am in 'your' part of Scotland because there are a large number of wonderful sites in Dumfries & Galloway which I have not yet visited.

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    2. Have you been to the Kirkmadrine stones near Sandhead - lovely peaceful place?

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    3. No, I haven't been to Kirkmadrine although I pass the road sign very often. They are a bit more recent than I am interested in.

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  2. My friend Janet calls me a heathen for not liking archaeology but the only interest I have in places like this are the photo opportunities they provide. I once went round Pompeii and came back with a shed load of photos but very little knowledge of the city! I like the first and second views and the complete stone circle looks good but I wouldn't want to spend all day there. I'm glad you enjoyed it anyway :)

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    1. Hi Eunice, perhaps you could tell Janet that you ARE interested in archaeology - the research you do on many of your blog posts shows that beyond any doubt. It is just that you prefer your history more recent that the periods she considers archaeological.

      Archaeology is only history we are still digging up . . .

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    2. I love your last sentence, it made me smile :)

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  3. I can see it's a fascinating place to visit. I agree about the damage done building homes and farms on these ancient sites much the same as now when developers are building large housing estates on beautiful greenfield sites with no care for the impact on wildlife.

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    1. I agree completely Eileen. Every town has brownfield sites, I don't think ANY development should be allowed on greenfield locations until all other sites have been reused.

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  4. A fascinating place to visit, I'm going to check out that link now. And that viaduct is very impressive. X

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    1. Thanks Jules, it was a great place to visit and I am looking forward to seeing how many more I can find in the same area :-)

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  5. I think my comment went into a black hole - so here goes ---I went to Clava Cairns in 2005, and I enjoyed your post it brought back memories. I did walk to the Milton of Clava. I don't live in the UK any more, but when I visit I always try and visit somewhere I've not been before. Last time it was Avebury. I hope you have some more interesting trips planned.

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    1. Hi Jean - not a black hole, just comment moderation for older posts.

      Glad my visit brought back some memories for you.

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Thank you for leaving comments, I love receiving them; sometimes they are the only way I know I am not talking to myself . . . 😊