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Carn Glas, Achvraid

Chambered Cairn


Blimey, this was a turn-up for the books. And no mistake. Following a violent night - meteorologically speaking - spent beside Loch Ceo Glas, the site catches my not-so-refreshed morning eye scanning the map as I munch my Cocopops, despite not featuring on my scrawled 'to see' list. The criteria are succinct. Quite near the road, probably not much left but worth a quick look as I head toward Dingwall way, perhaps? Yeah, let's go for it. How was I to know that it, in my opinion, probably rates a close second to the great Balnuaran of Clava in any local comparison of sites.... only featuring oodles and oodles more vibe? But there you are.

'General Wade's Military Road' - a tangible and, for me, somewhat unwelcome reminder of the more recent history of these Isles - makes short work of the journey across Drumashie Moor to Essich undertaken 'neath leaden, threatening skies soon to dispense a violent allocation of hail. Very appropriate. Here a much more 'serpentine' stretch of tarmacadum climbs away to the south toward power pylons, the latter striding across the landscape with the purposeful, almost otherworldly assurance denied the earthfast route bound to the contours of the earth. Note the power lines .... I was able to park roadside, without issue, a little way beforehand near multiple field gates and a small lake... that'll be a 'lakelet', then. The left hand gate was open, so in I ventured to find the terrain very boggy due to the presence of a little stream. Hence, in retrospect, it's probably better to stick to the higher ground to your left en-route to the cairns which crown the narrow north-south ridge to the approx west. Negotiating a barbed-wire fence - the farmer, who had earlier been tending his sheep, had unfortunately buggered off by now so I couldn't have a chat - and having ascended the very large cairn standing before me... the penny suddenly drops as to the magnitude of what we have here. Yeah, two more substantial chambered cairns set in linear progression to the north.

According to the splendid A S Henshall (1963) this wondrous trio of monuments are of 'Orkney-Cromarty' type, the first encountered, the southern, measuring 124 ft long by 94 ft wide. In common with its neighbours this cairn features the trashed, yet still pretty substantial remains of a rectangular chamber, albeit with some embedded barbed-wire... so watch out for that. The centre cairn, possessing arguably the most decent chamber of the three, measures '76ft by 47ft'. The final monument occupying the northern end of the ridge is (currently) heavily overgrown by gorse and other such painful, prickly stuff, ensuring its chamber is pretty hard to define. Henshall gives the dimensions as '120ft north to south and 57ft across the chamber'. So there you are, pretty impressive once again, then. An additional point of interest concerns the fact that although 'the areas between the cairns are turf-covered.... there is a low neck of cairn material below the turf connecting the cairns proper'. In other words the three cairns could well have been regarded as one 'super long cairn' some 380ft in length!! As I recall a similar thing was said to have occured at Camster, further north in Caithness. Whatever, there is a lot of cairn material here.

I wander, or rather clamber and stumble, along the length of the monument and gaze at the surrounding hills and small nearby loch trying to rationalise how such a massive monument with such overwhelming vibe could escape our attention for so long? Returning to the southern cairn I partake of lunch, the early morning hail having moved on with the strong, prevailing wind to be superseded by washes of light. It is quite bizarre how such a seemingly bleak, inhospitable landscape seen through eyes shielded against driving hail can suddenly seem so utterly magical, so beguiling when the sun does its nuclear thing.

Note: upon returning to Essex I determine the reason this excellent site had not featured on TMA before. Yeah, that doyen of Scottish chambered cairns, Greywether, had mistakenly posted an image of the site to another Carn Glas at Kilroy. Probably the only error he ever made.
30th June 2013ce
Edited 30th June 2013ce

Comments (1)

This was on our list last Spring, but we never quite made it (the weather turned to sleet and any pretence at warmth or waterproofing was futile, so we crept downhill to see Aldourie instead).

Looks worth a better attempt next time.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
30th June 2013ce
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