Visiting Clava Cairns near Culloden – standing stones with an Outlander connection
Thinking of visiting the Clava Cairns? Here’s how we got on…
Remember how I said I never touch standing stones if I can possibly help it? Because, well, Outlander, basically? Well, I lied, folks: I totally touch the standing stones, every chance I get:
And yet, here I am typing this post on my computer, while simultaneously working my way through a bag of Doritos Terry has causally left on my desk. I am blatantly NOT in the 18th century right now, and, I dunno, it’s just… I’m starting to think Outlander might not be totally accurate in its depiction of what happens when you touch these things, you know? Food for thought, folks: food for thought…
Anyway, this particular standing stone is part of the Clava Cairns bronze age cemetery complex, near Inverness, and they’re roughly 4,000 years old now, which is the kind of little fact that never fails to send a quick shiver down my spine, even without the whole “time travel” thing.
Most visitors to the Scottish Highlands travel this way to see the much better known Culloden battlefield, which is nearby. As it happens, Terry and I went to Culloden, too, but I’m just going to level with you here: we didn’t actually get out of the car. Because it was FREEZING. And Max was sleeping in the back. And this is the reality of travel with a toddler, really: it’s fun, sure, but it sometimes means you can’t fit in every single thing, and, when it came down to it, we decided we’d rather see the cairns than the battlefield, so we drove on, and found this waiting for us:
Clava Cairns, near Inverness
It’s impossible to do justice to this site with photos, unfortunately, because it’s only really when you’re standing right next to one of the cairns that you realise just how huge they are, and how much work must have gone into their creation, all those years ago. It was quite humbling, really: I mean, here we are, still struggling to finish our stair remodel, over two months into the project, but Bronze Age man was all, “Sure, we’ll just rattle up some giant burial cairns for you, no worries. Would you like some standing stones with that?” Or something like that, I’m sure.
There are three cairns in total at the site, plus the standing stones, which are rumoured to have inspired the fictional Craigne na Dun in Outlander. (Be aware, though, that these stones weren’t used as a filming location for the show: I’ve read that there have been some issues with tourists turning up there thinking they’re going to find Sam Heughan wandering around in a kilt, but no: the stones used in Outlander aren’t actually real – if they were, I’d have been to see them by now, obviously.)
Although the weather was cold and drizzly during our visit, that was actually in our favour, as it meant we got the site totally to ourselves: sadly, though, the cold wind and grumpy baby forced us back to the car a little earlier than we’d have liked, but if you have a bit more time on your hands, and are in the Inverness area, I’d definitely recommend a visit.