The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian


Chambered Cairn


Two ancient cairns grace the hillside that sweeps down to the River Helmsdale to the south-east of the fine broch at Kilphedir. Not that anyone, save the curious Citizen Cairn'd in possession of OS map, would be aware of this arresting fact .... since they are so obscure and reclusive as to render Howard Hughes a real live wire in comparison. Yeah, Nature has now more-or-less completely embraced her artificial charges, peerlessly camouflaged them within heather to such an extent as to ensure I wander past, oblivious, before retrospectively realising my error.

To be fair it is the sense of location... hard won experience, if you like... which gives the game away and not excellent map work (that'll be the day), an area of relatively level ground proffering a truly superb panorama of Strath of Kildonan to the approx east, one I accept utterly and without reservation. Hey, the cairns should be here... this is where I'd have put them. And indeed they are.

The better preserved (NC99581867) is - according to field notes of the inevitable Audrey Henshall (1963) - "roughly circular... measuring about 56ft NW-SE by 51ft transversely and 4 or 5ft high". Several large orthostats strongly suggest the monument was chambered and "orientated NW-SE and entered from the SE." Not bad at all.

The internal detail of the larger, companion monument located at NC99551870 is less clear, but nonetheless also indicative to me of a chambered cairn. Again according to Audrey it is "about 70ft by 55ft and 3ft high. Parts of a boulder kerb or possibly two concentric kerbs together with several large earthfast slabs, are visible".

Needless to say visitors should take the opportunity to visit the fine broch looming above to the north-west, not to mention numerous hut circles. My suggestion, nay recommendation, would be to ascend directly to the ancient fortification from the south and subsequently drop in on the cairns on the way back down to the road, emerging near the lodge. However since I had already visited the broch several years previously I instead simply hang out for a while and enjoy the view. There is really only the one owing to the nature of the topography. But suffice to say it is enough.
21st July 2015ce
Edited 22nd July 2015ce

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