Clava Cairns is the site of an exceptionally well preserved group of prehistoric burial cairns that were built about 4,000 years ago. The Bronze Age cemetery complex comprises of passage graves, ring cairns, kerb cairn, standing stones in a beautiful setting and the remains of a chapel of unknown date.
The site's usage
The cemetery was used in two periods. Around 2000 BC a row of large cairns was built, three of which can be seen today and there may once have been two more. A thousand years later the cemetery was reused. New burials were placed in some of the existing cairns and three smaller monuments were built including a 'kerb cairn'. Traces of a smaller cemetery can also be seen at Milton of Clava, a short distance up the valley to the west. The cairns at Balnuaran of Clava extended along a gravel terrace raised above the River Nairn. Excavations have found evidence for farming on the site before any of these monuments were built. The settlement was directly replaced by the cairns and it even seems possible that some of the material used to build them had been taken from demolished houses.
Excavations at the site
The site was excavated in part during the 1990s by Professor Bradley and his team from Reading University. In addition to the finds underground, a thorough survey of the upstanding remains revealed hitherto unnoticed connections between the colour and texture of the building materials, the architecture of the monuments and their known relationship with the rising and setting sun.
No traces of the bodies which would have been placed within the cairns survive. We know from other cairns of this type, most notably Corrimony
in Glen Urquhart, that probably only one body would have been placed within the central chamber.
Publication Visitor's Guide to Balnuaran of Clava [pdf, 1.8 kb]
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Region – North and Grampian
6m East of Inverness. Signposted from the B9091, 300 yards East of Culloden Battlefield.
Grid reference - NH 752 439.
Tel: 01667 460 232.