Corrimony Cairn

At the head of Glen Urquhart, Loch Ness, The Highlands of Scotland.

OS Ref (GB): NH383303 - Sheet: 26

This monument was built about four thousand years ago and its remains are remarkably well preserved. It is a kind of chambered tomb known as a 'passage grave'. The term is appropriate as the main features of the original monument would have been a high central chamber which was completely roofed over, and a low passage communicating with the outside world. Originally the cairn, 15m across was bounded by a ring of kerbstones but these seem to have been buried as the structure collapsed.

The chamber was originally a domed or corbelled structure in which successive courses of walling sloped inwards towards the centre.


It was probably topped with a large stone slab whose remains can be found on top of the cairn today. This slab was decorated with a series of abstract designs known as 'cup marks'. Unusually, part of the passage still remains intact. It was spanned by large stone lintels and you can only enter it by crawling. When the use of the tomb was over a low wall was built to block the passage and the entire cairn was enclosed by a stone circle, today the circle consists of eleven stones 21m in diameter.

Stuart Piggot excavated the site in 1952, at which time it was discovered that four of the eleven standing stones in the circle were replacements. When the ditch was dug between the site and the road, intruding stones were moved inwards towards the cairn, whilst another stone, which looks as though it has it has wafered into three pieces through erosion, was actually re-erected in this bizarre manner some time before 1874. Also, two circle stones were set up south of the entrance in 1882. But this was actually a piece of antiquarian fancy, for these were not circle stone at all, having originated as capstones in the roof of the long chamber. Piggott's excavation also revealed a crouched buriel, though this was discovered in outline only, having been removed with the general debris during the swift 'excavations' of the late 19th century.


Passage graves like Corrimony are found around the inner Moray Firth. They may occur singly or in larger cemeteries together with monuments of other kinds (as may be the case here). They are known as 'Clava Cairns' after the well-preserved examples at Balnuaran of Clava near Culloden.

Personal Notes: September 2007. The cows next to the small waterlogged carpark stare at me with large brown hungry eyes, its a little disconcerting. Others have written of how peaceful Corrimony Cairn is, and I'm inclined to agree with them. In bright autumnal sunshine we walk about the stones alone and with our own thoughts. With nobody around I take the opportunity to scramble up ontop of the monment (very naughty) and examine the pock-marked cap stone, it is the first time that i've seen 'cup-marks'. We crawl through the passageway and into the inner chamber open to the sky and examine the corbeling construction of its walls. I walk once more clockwise about the cairn and touch each of the eleven standing stones. A couple with two small white terrier dogs arrive and we exchange hello's before leaving them to the peaceful solitude that we enjoyed.