Balnuaran of Clava

Balnuaran of Clava

The Scottish Highlands
Scotland, United Kingdom. - (OS Ref. Sheet 27, NH757444)


We had left the sadness of the battlefield of Culloden and arrived at Balnuaran of Clava just as a crowded minibus was leaving. Momentarily we had this wounderfully evocative site to ourselves; situated as it is in a wooded grove. Within the 'artificial' boundry walls are three Bronze age cairns and a later Kerb Cairn, but, the complex extends well beyond these walls with lumps, bumps and standing stones noticeable in adjoining fields - the short walk to Milton of Clava is a must.

"The monuments here were built between three and four thousand years ago.


The oldest are a circular walled enclosure - the central 'ring-cairn' and 'two passage graves'. The latest was a ring of boulders that enclosed a grave, the 'kerb cairn'. Such Bronze Age monuments are a feature of the inner Moray Firth and as these are the best preserved examples, they are known as 'Clava cairns'.


Recent excavations and research here have revealed a startling new complexity to the construction of these cairns.

Our attention has been drawn to the characteristics of the architecture. These reflect the easteem in which the builders held the light of the sun and the colour, shape and texture of stones. It was discovered that each tomb was short lived and may have housed very few bodies - possibly only one - and that these were not accompanied by any offerings that survive today. As a tomb went out of use it was surrounded by a ring of standing stones. In around 1000BC the cemetary was reused and further monuments were constructed.


What you are able to see now was originally part of a much larger cemetary which extended eastwards toeards the Nairn Viaduct.


In the 1870's the monuments were interpreted as druids' temples and, in keeping with Victorian romanticism, the owner planted a grove of trees enclosing the three largest monuments. In the opposite direction, are the remains of part of another cemetery which can be visited at Milton of Clava.


Another 'Clava Cairn' may be visited at Corrimony, to the west of Loch Ness."


-from the Historic Scotland Information Board