5m north of Lybster on the A9 – sign posted. Historic Scotland site.
The road taking you from the A9 to Camster is a bit like ‘the road to nowhere’.
This is certainly a remote area but, of course, that’s what gives it its charm. It was no surprise that we didn’t pass a single person or vehicle on the way to the cairns.
The grey stones of the cairns stand out against the green grass and their bulk is easily seen from the road (on the left) – you would have trouble not spotting them!
Upon parking Sophie and Dafydd excitedly put on their head lights and we walked out across the wooden board walk towards the first cairn – the one on the left. When we arrived at the cairn the metal gate at the entrance was closed but thankfully not locked. Sophie insisted on taking the lead and Dafydd followed her. I took up the rear. Although the children found no trouble in accessing the chamber I found ‘waddling’ a bit of a struggle – I must be getting old!
We then continued along the boardwalk to the larger cairn which has two low and narrow entrance passages. This is the cairn which also has the reconstructed horned forecourt – which is rather splendid. I must admit that I also found it far from easy ‘waddling’ along these passages but with Sophie’s ‘help’ I eventually managed it. It would probably have been much easier to have simply crawled along the passage ways but that would have been a rather muddy experience!
As with all intact burial chambers (and caves for that matter) once inside and sat in quiet isolation the place takes on a ‘timeless’ characteristic. Time seems to stop.
These are cracking site to visit and comes highly recommended. The highest compliment I can give the cairns is that it wouldn’t look out of place in Orkney.
This is a ‘must see’ if you find yourself in the far north east of Scotland.
We visited this site on the way down from Orkney and were glad to turn off the A9 for a bit of a break. The site was spectacular in the summer sunshine and was very accessible being less than five minutes walk from the road. Luckily we were the only ones there and managed to explore and take some great pics without anyone else arriving. I don't know whether we were just lucky or whether the remoteness of the place keeps people away. I'm sure it would be swarming if it were better known. The raised platform at the front of the picture was, according to Historic Scotland, used for ritual purposes. The proximity of the ancestors no doubt added to the significance of the location. Although part of this site has been reconstructed this did not detract from it at all.
A crawl into the interior of the cairn provided all the atmosphere and sense of otherworldliness you hope for in sites like this.
Moth had spotted this one in TMA but I had completely overlooked it. But we were so close we had to swing by. I had no expectations whatsoever. I thought maybe they were just another couple of unassuming cairns. But noooooo! These are Mighty Rock Monsters! And there are two of them.
The main one is a long - really long!- cairn made of piles of stones and with rather neat edges that stretches on for about 50 metres I guessed, possibly even more. At the 'top' end it even has a horned forecourt effect. As I approached on the polite wooden walkways that take you over the boggy ground, I saw that the passage entrances to the long cairn (there are two entrances) had nasty iron gates on them. It didn't look promising. However, they were only shut rather than locked (presumably to keep animals out), so I bent over and shuffled in towards the huge interior chamber, built in the style typical of round these parts and on parts of Orkney, with neat flat stones, delicate corbelling and vertical stalls.
A round cairn, build in the same way, of piles of grey stones stands about 500ms away and is equally as nice, but much smaller.
Why isn't this fantastic place better-known?!
I wanted to get off the paths and look for some standing stones marked on the map just to the south, but I had noticed that on virtually every tussock or bush was a large, fuzzy, brown caterpillar. Caterpillars freak me out, so I was unable to. In fact the more I looked, the more caterpillars I saw. I trod carefully back to the car.
Grey Cairns of Camster, Caithness
On a beautiful Saturday morning we stopped off here, well, made a detour really, on our drive from Orkney to Killin. The long cairn of these two is real huge- apparently about 60 metres long. It's unusual to see cairns that have been denuded of their coverings like this, but they look great nonetheless. There's wooden walkways from the car parking area across the soggy marsh- which is just as well cos all I've got on my feet are my Vans! There are two entrances in the long cairn, both of which are a bit of a stoop. Not as much of a stoop as the round cairn entrance though which was another mucky knees job.
It wasn't just the sheep that were flocking around these - there were plenty of folk who'd made it a stop-off as they toured the area.
I was keeping an eye out for the ice cream van as we tip-toed over the boggy marsh with the help of the trouser-saving wooden walkways to inspect the mounds.
They've been lovingly restored which to my mind takes away little of their mystery. It allows you to clamber inside and get a real feel for them - even my Mum couldn't resist it.
We ventured into the one with the tallest passage - it being wet underfoot and lacking in swimwear. The narrow passageway led into a wider chamber where it was actually possible to stand. Light filtered through the clear ceiling making it possible to see exactly what was inside.
It was like a stone igloo with a large, flat stone leaning backwards on the outer wall. I felt like we could have sat and leant against it for a time looking out through the tunnell.
However, sense got the better of us and we crawled back out to the warmth of the car. Who says modern life is rubbish!
ameilai Pannet, archaeologist sets out her paper on the Grey Cairns of Camster starting as follows - The Neolithic archaeology of Caithness is little known to most people outside northern Scotland, despite the wealth of evidence that litters the landscapes. This is no doubt a consequence of the relative lack of archaeological investigation in the area since the 19th Century when distinguished antiquarians such as Anderson and Rhind carried out ground-breaking excavations of many chambered cairns and Brochs. Here in lies the irony; the centre of antiquarian exploration is now considered by many as peripheral to studies of British Prehistory (Mercer 1992). That said, however, fieldwork carried out by Henshall, Corcoran and Masters, amongst others, has provided an invaluable corpus of data from which we can move forward and try to bring Caithness in line with the rest of British archaeology.......more
About 1 mile further north of the famous Grey Cairns of Camster.
Just keep heading up the road and you will see the standing stones on your right.
My O/S map shows three standing stones but I could only spot 2 of them amid the tall spiky grass – both of which are visible from the road although not obvious.
The adjacent wind turbines dominate the area.
Whilst searching around for the ‘missing’ stone I was constantly surrounded by a mass of flies. Perhaps they were after the salt in my sweat on this hot, sticky day. Or perhaps I just smelt!
I was planning on having a look at the nearby broch but unfortunately ran out of time.
‘Three small stone slabs stand in heather moorland immediately E of the minor road from Watten to Lybster. The southernmost stands immediately E of the road and measures 0.8m in height by 0.22m in thickness – there is an O/S bench-mark on its SSE face. The second stone, which also stands immediately E of the road, measures 0.5m in height and 0.4m in thickness. The northernmost stone measures 0.8m in height by 0.25m in thickness’.
Three fairly small stones - CANMORE thinks one of them might just be a random boulder rather than part of a setting with the two definite megaliths.
The stones are near the road and in a very empty bit of flat moor, but they're low enough to be easily missed when the heather is thick.
"Small stones in flat featureless moor" sounds pretty dull, but it's a lovely site!
This stone row is just a few hundred yards from the Grey Cairns of Camster. According to CANMORE there are actually six rows here but they're disappearing under the peat. I found two of the rows. A couple of stones are maybe a metre proud of the peat. Others have only a few centimetres showing.
Don't go hunting in wet weather or you may get sucked into the bog and never seen again!!