The Clava Cairns—or the Prehistoric Burial Cairns of Balnuaran of Clava—are all that remains of what was once a much larger Bronze Age burial complex. Dating back 4,000 years, the evocative cemetery site retains original features, including passage graves, standing stones, and ring cairns (stone circles).
Two parts of the Clava Cairns complex can be visited: the Balnuaran of Clava, which features two passage graves, a kerb ring cairn, standing stones, and a central ring cairn; and Milton of Clava to the southwest, with its ruins of a medieval chapel and a cairn. Visitors will find information boards at the site explaining the significance and symbolism of the ancient stone mounds.
The cairns make for a common stop on guided day trips from Inverness and Invergordon, most of which include round-trip transport and visits to other famous Highland sites, such as Loch Ness, Cawdor Castle, and Culloden Battlefield—the site of a major Jacobite defeat—which is just a 5-minute drive from the Clava Cairns.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Clava Cairns is a must-see for history buffs.
- The area around the cairns can become muddy after rain, so wear sturdy footwear.
- Bring rain gear in case of a downpour, as the open-air site is exposed.
- The surface around the cairns is uneven and may be difficult for wheelchair users to navigate.
How to Get There
The Clava Cairns are located about seven miles (11 kilometers) east of Inverness, and are not served by public transport. From the Culloden Battlefield, the cairns are just a 5-minute drive or 30-minute walk away. Parking is available at the site.
When to Get There
Because of their off-the-beaten-track location, the Clava Cairns do not attract big crowds. If you want to have the site all to yourself, go early in the morning.
The Mystery and Intrigues of the Clava Cairns
As with many prehistoric burial sites, the Clava Cairns remain somewhat of a mystery. Historians can only theorize about their purpose or meaning. The cairns’ alignment suggest midwinter sunset was an important time for those who built it, but it’s not known exactly why it was so significant. With the sheer amount of effort necessary to arrange the stones for each grave, historians also believe the cairns may have housed important members of society.