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

Carn Liath

Long Cairn


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

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