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Carn Richard

Chambered Cairn

<b>Carn Richard</b>Posted by GLADMANImage © Robert Gladstone
Also known as:
  • Carn Tigh Nan Coileach

Nearest Town:Dornoch (43km S)
OS Ref (GB):   NC83483217 / Sheet: 17
Latitude:58° 15' 46.4" N
Longitude:   3° 59' 10.37" W

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Those of us with a penchant for the perusal of OS maps during the dark winter evenings - and no doubt others - will have noticed that some prehistoric monuments have been accorded the distinction of an association with person(s) thought worthy of perpetual remembrance by the local community; an assurance policy against the collective memory of such notables being lost within the misty annuals of time by irrevocably linking them to immutable features in the landscape. I guess, in many ways, this practice is also a subliminal comment upon the relative value society places - or rather used to place - upon the monuments themselves. I mean it is clearly self evident that only the best cairn would be thought worthy of someone of the stature of Arthur, isn't it? Trouble is such practices didn't always work, the monument, somewhat ironically, retaining all the kudos whilst its human patron faded to obscurity. And then oblivion... Consider Carn Richard.

Awaking to an unfeasibly blue sky within Glen Loth, my camp of no consequence in relation to the elegant, stratified fa├žade of Ben Uarie soaring, towering above, I scan the map for places to visit and hopefully occupy the forthcoming day. The bleary eyes rest for a moment upon the moniker 'Carn Richard', subconsciously attracted by the association with some bloke formerly bearing such name. Any ideas? Nevertheless I decide it's worth a look. Indeed, seeing as past generations went to the trouble of selecting and subsequently maintaining such a name within local group consciousness, it would be rude not to pay a visit.

The B877 heads west(ish) from the A897 at Kinbrace whereby, having crossed the Bannock Burn, a large, circular sheepfold will soon be seen below to the left. Spotting a dry stone structure of some description upon the hillside to the immediate north I park up and go have a look. As usual it is soon clear that I've put two and two together to get five.... I've actually stumbled upon the rather fine remains of the Harvieston settlement, not exactly a problem. The great chambered cairn itself stands a little way uphill to the approx. north-west, the intervening hillside featuring numerous additional small cairns and 'humps 'n bumps'.

Sitting overlooking the River Helmsdale a little to the north-west of its confluence with the aforementioned Bannock Burn the positioning of Carn Richard is classic, archetypal of a chambered cairn in fact with the broad, sinuous course of the river indicative of fertility itself. Yeah, a good place to rest out eternity. It is a substantial monument, slumbering away in obscurity within a landscape seemingly beyond the effects of time. What's more there's a nice, big slab lying within - a capstone or chamber lintel, perhaps? - whichever the perfect perch to rest up for a few hours and, well, not do a great deal, to be honest. According to the inevitable Audrey Henshall [1963] the monument is:

"a short horned, chambered cairn... still standing 10' to 12' high on the south... diameters are 58' E-W by 62' N-S but the precise edge is difficult to trace".

The views up and down the valley are excellent, the profile of Ben Uarie adding some cognition to the skyline horizon. In fact I could happily laze here in the sun all day... if it wasn't for the (arguably) incomparable treasures of Strath of Kildonan waiting for me, their unseen presence tugging at my consciousness like a Jack Russell upon a leash. Clearly there's only one way that's gonna end.

Nevertheless, even in such company, this is a first class site. Thank you for the prompt, Richard. Whoever you were.
27th June 2015ce
Edited 9th September 2015ce