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Carn Liath

Long Cairn

<b>Carn Liath</b>Posted by strathspeyImage © Graham Grant
Also known as:
  • Carn Liath, Morangie Forest

Nearest Town:Tain (5km NE)
OS Ref (GB):   NH72987980 / Sheet: 21
Latitude:57° 47' 23.61" N
Longitude:   4° 8' 12.58" W

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Having spent a good portion of the previous day completely - and I mean completely - lost within Speyside forestry whilst attempting to locate the Granish clava, perhaps undertaking another, more substantial forestry trek wasn't the most inviting prospect in the world. But then it is said that you need to get straight back on the horse after a fall.... or else you might never ride again. So, armed with a brand new 1:25K OS map, eyes focussed upon every twist and turn of the track represented upon it, off we go. Into the trees. Yeah, The Cure's 'A Forest' isn't exactly the most helpful song to have upon the brain at such a time... but I guess it's appropriate.

In retrospect the walk is not as difficult as I fear. From the large car park at Glen Aldie, a little south-west of Tain, a waymarked 'Burnside walk' (blue colour-coded posts) will get the traveller as far as a footbridge beside a ford, a little downstream from a small weir. Cross this (the bridge, that is.. assuming you don't want wet feet) and follow a dry stone wall for a short distance before veering right, then left, to gain a main forestry track heading approx north. Take the next left, then fork right and, ignoring any turnoffs, keep heading west towards (eventually) a deep gulley cradling the Allt Clachach, the route marked by occasional 'green-coded' posts. Nearing this - note a post bearing a green cycle motif - a green track (lots of green in these woods, as you might expect) veers steeply downhill, curving around to the left (east). Passing a couple of drystone enclosures on the right, advance uphill to your left and - hopefully - the long cairn, set within its forest clearing, will be all yours. And time will stand still. Or at least seem to.

Now I've been wanting to come to this obscure spot, deep within Morangie Forest, ever since seeing Strathspey's images last October. It just looked 'right', you know? Perhaps the most surprising aspect is the steep angle of the hillside upon which the long cairn is located in an approx north-west/south-east alignment... no doubt this accounts for the somewhat unstable nature of the fabric compared to other such monuments. However, despite numerous indentations - and the traces of a building noted by Strathspey - the long cairn appears more or less intact. Canmore gives current dimensions as: '35.0m long, 14.0m wide at the NE end and 8.0m wide at the SW end... (with a).. maximum height of 2.0m near the NE end'.

With no trace of chambers/original internal features, there is not much more to add in terms of physical description. The vibe, however, has to be experienced first hand to be believed. With only a small section of hillside across the valley rising clear of forestry, views are very limited, the atmosphere that of a 'lost world', a 'secret garden' filled with bird song. Not exactly 'silence', then, the feeling that of stumbling upon a private act of the natural world humans once understood - and interacted with, connected with - but now, sadly, no longer do. Or even know how to?

Yeah, despite the threatened rain finally arriving at approx 2.30, I'm glad I came and penetrated the fastness of the forest shrouding this monument from casual onlookers. As Vinny Jones once said, 'It has been emotional, Carn Liath'. Well, perhaps not the last bit.
5th July 2011ce
Edited 5th July 2011ce

As usual I left this monument with more questions than answers!

After a tremendous 5 mile walk through Forestry Commission tracks and some easy OS navigation, this Scheduled Cairn was one that I've wanted to visit for a while.

Lying on an elevated platform in the Morangie Forest, its certainly in a quiet and peaceful spot. A wee bit of a climb from the track through fairly open pine woods leads to this impressive Long Cairn opening out nicely as you puff and pant upwards.

The extant of this monument is fairly impressive. It maintains a regular height/length/breadth throughout. The body of the Cairn is interspersed with at least 15 large,deep and uniform (robber?) holes.

There is also the remains of a very old building wall disecting part of the cairn about midway down its length. Strangely (from my limited knowledge) there is no evidence of this building anywhere else on the cairn. The cairn maintains its shape throughout. What kind of building it could have been on such an elevated slope is a mystery - Although there are the remains of 2 Historic townships and field systems on the floor of the Glen not very far away.

But the strangest mystery to me was a little bunch of (very old) artificial flowers sitting in a little oasis atop the highest part of the monument - it was one of those "what the.......? moments. So totally out of place, I'm still wondering who would have put them there and why.

Forestry Commission plantations seem almost timeless and its easy to forget that up until fairly recently land-use in many of these remote Glens was totally different. These Glens were once the home and workplaces of many families.

But there is something about this cairn that seems to cross the ages. Difficult for me to put into words, but my impression of this Cairn was that it meant something to people until fairly recently.

With every Cairn I visit, I feel I learn a little more, BUT, I also feel there is even more I dont understand!!
strathspey Posted by strathspey
12th October 2010ce
Edited 12th October 2010ce