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


Clava Cairn


I guess it takes a pretty special site to follow such a gem as nearby Torbreck and - arguably - surpass it. There are a myriad factors to be taken into account, of course... all of them subjective. But, for me, Tordarroch not only rises to the challenge, but leaves it trailing in its wake with the arrogance of a megalithic Eric Cantona, so to speak. Yeah, this is one slumbering giant of a monument, if ever there was one. Needless to say, however, I very nearly don't get an audience..... having not purchased an OS map (and thus relying on a scribbled representation of the immediate locality) I struggle to orientate myself and somehow all but convince myself that Tordarroch and Mains of Gask are actually one and the same! Muppet. Well, there can't be two monuments that special so near to each other, can there? Er, yes. There can. In Strathnairn.

Look for the signpost to the church (of something or other - sorry I honestly can't recall) just north of Milton of Farr on the B851. Pass this whitewashed (ha!) building and park near a grey 5-bar gate a little beyond, on the left. To your right will be a red gate (currently featuring a 'bull in field' sign) with a pylon visible in the field beyond. Go through this red gate and, hugging the right hand field boundary to avoid any bull-related shite, the monument will soon be yours. It is worth the effort.

At first, however, this traveller is somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stones - both upright and fallen - to be seen here. What is going on? Burl, naturally, has the answers:-

"Even in ruin, this Clava ring-cairn is impressive. The big stone circle [yeah!] is in fair condition... with seven of perhaps eleven original stones standing... inside is a badly-ruined ring-cairn, a long arc of kerbstones fallen at the south and wide gaps at the east and north....Little remains of the cairn itself.... A large kerbstone, fallen outwards....has over thirty cupmarks on what would have been its inner face..."

So, large stone circle, ring cairn.... and rock art. Is there a reason not to come to Tordarroch? Well, the attitude of the landowner might be considered one for those of a nervous disposition. The monument is badly churned up by cattle, yet he has the temerity to insist visitors do not enter due to 'lambing' long since concluded. Short term profit more important than local heritage, perhaps? No, Tordarroch cannot be allowed to drift into obscurity... if only to ensure its survival people need to visit this dishevelled, battered beauty of a clava. Several of the circle stones remind me of Lewissian Gneiss in respect of their grain and texture.... and surely there can be no finer compliment? The kerb is thick set, featuring radial orthostats..... and then there is the fabulous cupmarked slab.

Yeah, I almost missed out on Tordarroch..... sure, that would have saved me yet another soaking. But it would also have cost me much, much more in terms of those intangible 'things' I believe we need to 'top up' on now and again in order to keep a perspective on life, you know?
10th August 2011ce
Edited 12th August 2011ce

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