The Clava cairns or fully named the Prehistoric Burial Cairns of Balnuaran of Clava, are a group of 3 Bronze age cairns near Inverness, UK. These prehistoric graves are almost unknown, despite being located right next to the Culloden battlefield, which is a famous tourist site. I was studying in the UK in 2017 and fell in love with the Scottish Highlands during my solo travels around the UK, which meant I carefully scoured the internet for every possible bit of beautiful nature sites accessible by foot and public transport.
What I found were sometimes not only natural wonders, but also obscure historical sites, located in beautiful nature and the Clava cairns were one of those. I can confidently state that besides the Fairy glen on the Isle of Skye, the Clava cairns were probably the most out-of-this-world beautiful and magical sight I’d seen in the UK. They were worth every bit of the strenous walk there and it is easy to see why the prehistoric mounds were often attributed to faeries in the olden days.
The Clava cairns are located about a mile away from Culloden down some backwater country roads rising and falling across the rolling Scottish hills. Naturally, there was no public transport there, but since I walk everywhere, I figured I could handle a mile. Well, this was one of those times when I severely underestimated the journey, which took me much longer than the expected hour or so. The road kept twisting, detouring and climbing uphill and since I was wandering around during the winter, the normally marshy ground was extra soggy, hiding random running waters, so I was afraid to cut corners through the wilderness. I got lost twice, taking the wrong forsaken country road and developed a nasty blister on my foot, but since the weather turned unexpectedly sunny I soldiered on. As they say, fortune favours the brave, as I was rewarded with sights beyond words.
It began with a viaduct and an open field full of grazing sheep. Do not ask me where I was, as I have no idea and the phone signal was poor, but as I rounded the corner the viaduct appeared straight out of thin air and the green field conspired with the cloudy sky to create some of the best views ever.
On the way to the Clava cairns
When I finally reached the Clava cairns the sun was out and I stepped straight into faeiry country, there were even some fluffy Highland cows grazing nearby to complete the whole magical picture. The three cairns at the Clava cairns date back to 2000 BC and consist of two passage graves and one central ring cairn, surrounded by standing stones. For a bit more details regarding the construction of the carins, go here.
The Clava cairns themselves
How to get there?
If I had a car, the cairns would have been relatively easy to find, as they exist on Google maps (here), and there are brown named signs marking the way from Culloden and even a short introductory sign about the history at the site. Alas, I had no car, but I think the sight was still more than worth it. 🙂 However, I really do not recommend visiting the cairns on foot, unless you have a lot of will and patience.