Next to Brochs souterrains are pretty cool (in both meanings of the word) and this one, as Rhiannon suggests is superb. We had been trying to get around to a visit for a couple of years and as the photos suggest we managed to take a peek.
I believe it is possible to walk from Kingussie but we took the lazy option and took the farm track off the A9 and parked at a place suggested by the homemade P for parking sign.
It’s a short walk following the track and across a field to the site. The souterrain is much as described, crescent shaped and quite large. Unfortunately the middle section has collapsed and been robbed away, a shame but this does permit a closer examination of the construction method.
At the time of our visit (November) the backdrop to the site was a snow covered Cairngorm, this site is well worth a look.
This typed compilation of information about the souterrain comes from the Highland HER. It seems that the names of the clans responsible for bad behaviour / revenge are fairly loose. I guess it depends on the ancestry of who's telling the tale.
An excerpt from a booklet written in the 1970s says:
The cave [..] is thought to have formed a refuge for persecuted worshippers at various times in its history. There is also an old legend that it was built by giants while giantesses carried the soil to the River Spey in their aprons.
Again there's the curious assertion that the cave was only discovered in the Victorian era, yet it's simultaneously stated it was used after the Jacobite rising of 1745! Remember, things do not really exist until a Victorian man belonging to an Intellectual Society has looked at things Properly.
The photos on the Megalithic Portal suggest this place is rather superb. Far from being discovered in 1835 (as the Canmore record suggests), this souterrain must surely have been known for long before that? The story is a bit wordy but bear with me.
In the time of the later Jameses, a noted freebooter of the name of Cumming, with his eleven sons, was the scourge of Strathspey and the more distant glens of Perthshire, and long baffled the feeble efforts of the law.
An artificial cave, the retreat of the band, is still entire, and is known locally as "Uamh Mor," the great cave or den. It is cut in the face of a green hill, about a mile and a half east from Kingussie [...]. The cave is crescent-shaped, and about fifty feet from end to end; and, as the soil is friable, it must have been formed with great difficulty.
At the centre, the width is about six feet, and the height about seven; but towards the western end, both height and breadth contract so much that, at the mouth, the space will only admit, by crawling eel-like, one man at a time. A few feet from this narrow entrance, the passage has been guarded by a strong door; and the boles built in the walls show that the bar must have been a tree of at least three feet in circumference: at the eastern end, the cave widens to a breadth of eight or nine feet, adn the roof is of about an equal height, so that a somewhat spacious chamber is formed. The walls of the cave are of large stones, rudely built together; the roof consists of a series of large flagstones stretching from wall to wall; and the floor is of earth or clay. To the centre of the cave there is a second entrance, by a flight of steps, that seems to have been concealed by a trap-door.
Cumming and his eleven sons were all, according to tradition, tall and powerful men; and the cave was formed by them in the night time; the earth, as it was thrown out, being carefully carried down the hill and cast into a deep dark pool of the Spey. The stones for the walls and the roof were brought from a higher part of the hill; and such was the strength of the sons, it is said, that only two of them were required to carry one of the great flagstones down the hill.
To save you from the waffling, I'll summarise. The murderous Cummings finally wound up a Macpherson enough that he vowed to rumble them. He pretends to be a gravely ill beggar to gain admittance to the bothy (it's not explained how he actually knows about the bothy). He notices the old women are baking far more bannocks than they can eat and realises they're being transferred to the cave below. He dashes to Perth to call the authorities. The authorities haul them out one at a time and don't even bother with a trial, they just despatch them there and then. Which seems rather unfair. But there is an afterword:
This is the story told by tradition, and I give it without attempting to prove its truth. I have, however, visited the cave; and the story was told to me as I sat within the dark, grave-like, chamber.
I may add that, to this day, according to the belief of the district, the descendants of the Macpherson who betrayed the Cummings are troubled with the disease, the pains of which were feigned by their predecessor.