Corrimony Chambered Cairn

Written by Chris Thornton | 30th of August 2023
Corrimony Chambered Cairn

Hot off our visit to Plodda Falls, Corrimony Chambered Cairn in Glen Urquhart was next on my visit list on my 40th birthday trip around central Scotland. I loved visiting Clava Cairns with my wife Janette late last year, and I was interested in visiting another remarkably well-preserved cairn and seeing how it compared to the cairns at Inverness.

The site of this chambered cairn is easy to access via the A831; we came from the north and turned right down a minor single-track road, crossing a small metal bridge. This is a pleasant drive, passing fields, farmhouses and tree-lined roads. Frequent passing places allowed us to let oncoming traffic pass.

Corrimony Chambered Cairn Car Park

Continuing along this minor single-track road, we came upon the dedicated parking area for the cairn. The gravelled car park is fairly big, and we had no problems parking. Information boards exist in the far left corner.

Car park for Corrimony Chambered Cairn.
The car park a short distance from Corrimony Cairn.

From the car park, you must continue on foot a short distance to the fenced-off enclosure for the cairn. Approaching the cairn, it already looks impressive with glimpses of the standing stones and the central mass of stones. A small gate and bridge give access.

Distant view of Corrimony Cairn and stone circle.
View of the cairn from the road.
 
Entrance gate, info board and bridge.
Access gate, info board and bridge.

A Cairn with Standing Stones

The first thing that hit me about this cairn was how well it was preserved, all of the standing stones were still erect, and the passage roof to the small central chamber was still wholly intact... compared to Clava Cairns, where no passage roofs survive today.

Cairn with stone circle
Signage.

Under the Passage Roof

To my surprise Janette scooted down through the entrance passage and into the central chamber; she must have felt adventurous this day! I crawled through myself, a slightly unpleasant and claustrophobic experience, but worth going in to see the central chamber, which was about 3.6 metres in diameter and showcases some great dry stone walling in the interior—large boulders at the base act as a foundation, with smaller stones forming the walls.

Janette crawling into the central chamber.
Janette was first inside!

Large stone kerb near the entrance.
Entrance to Corrimony Cairn.
 
A single crouched burial was found beneath the cobbled floor.
Looking in towards the central chamber.
 
The ceiling was originally corbelled inwards.
Image of the interior chambers dry stone walling.
 
Exit from the central chamber.
Entrance to the central chamber from inside out.
 
Roof passage
Looking through the passage back towards the entrance.
 
Janette emerging from the passage entrance.
Janette emerges!

The Stone Circle

Leaving the centre, we walked around the perimeter of this roughly square site, looking at each standing stone. I touched each one for luck, but sadly none has been granted yet. I love an ancient stone circle; the example here is beautifully preserved.

Eleven standing stones exist about 4 metres from the main central kerb of the Corrimony Cairn stones, ranging from 1.5 m to 1.7 m in height. They are not the largest standing stones to be found in Scotland, but to be still standing in their original positions after 4000 years is amazing to me.

Seemingly you can walk on the cairn itself, but it didn't seem right to due to its fragile nature.

Split stone at Corrimony Cairn.
Split stone, standing stone.
 
Cairn Corrimony
Wide angle shot showing cairn and stone circle.

History of Corrimony Chambered Cairn

Believe it or not, this site is over 4000 years old and is thought to date from the Bronze Age around 2000 BC. The cairn is about 15 metres in diameter, with the edges marked with kerb stones which have been pushed out due to the pressure from the central mass of stones. The stones used in its construction seem to be water-worn (likely taken from the nearby River Enrick) and well-rounded; larger stones work as roof lintels for the passage roof.

It's said that thousands of pieces of sparkling quartz were found all over the cairn, I wonder if this was to make it sparkle in certain conditions.

Cup Marked Stone

A large two-tonne cup-marked stone exists on the top of the cairn and was the original capstone covering the central chamber. Prehistoric rock art can be seen on this capstone in the form of cup marks.

Cup marks on the cap stone.
The large cap stone that once covered the central chamber.

What was Corrimony Chambered Cairn used for?

Like all of the Clava-type cairns, this burial site is for important individuals during the bronze age; evidence of only one burial was found.

1952 Excavation

Stuart Piggot, an English archeologist partially excavated the cairn in 1952 and presented his findings between 1964 and 1969, the most amazing find being the outline of a crouched woman in the burial chamber. A bone pin was also found in the entrance passageway, no other grave goods were found.

The body would have decayed away long ago due to the acidic nature of the soil here, but tests on the grave outlined showed it high in phosphorus, likely from the decomposed bone.

A cobbled floor was said to have been found between the cairn and the northwest standing stones.

1955 - Public Guardianship

Corrimony chambered cairn is taken into guardianship on the 22nd of July 1955.

1964 - Consolidation works

Work takes place to make the cairn a little safer for visitors. Bronze support bars are added to the passage roof and mortar to the upper-level walls.

1994 - A Scheduled Monument

The cairn and site become a nationally important scheduled monument.

Modern-day

Scottish charity, Historic Environment Scotland is currently in control of this important site. The cairn is well maintained with cut grass, perimeter fence, bridge and information boards.

A clava type cairn.
Side view of the stone cairn.

Corrimony Nature Reserve

The cairn is situated in the beautiful Corrimony Nature Reserve, a haven for wildlife in the expansive moorland and sections Caledonian forest.

Some rare birds can be seen here, including:

  • Black grouse

  • Capercaillie

  • Crested tit

  • Golden eagle

  • Greenshank

  • Scottish crossbill

There are extensive plans to replant much of the lost Caledonian Forest here, with 750 hectares of trees scheduled to be planted over the next ten years.

Where is Corrimony Chambered Cairn?

The largest town to Corrimony Chambered Cairn is Drumnadrochit to the east, and the smaller village of Cannich lies to the west. It's about a 15-minute drive from Drumnadrochit on the A831 to get to Glen Urquhart.

Take a left turn from the A831 along a minor road until you reach the cairn car park on the left. The cairn is a short walk from the car park.

How old is Corrimony Chambered Cairn

Corrimony Chambered Cairn is over 4000 years old.

Corrimony Chambered Cairn signage.
Signage.

What can be seen near Corrimony Chambered Cairn?

There are so many beautiful sites in this area of Scotland; we only scratched the surface during our recent stay at Tomich Hotel.

The Danish Prince

A legend exists around Corrimony Chambered Cairn of a Danish Prince named Mony. He fled to the cairn after his Viking raiding party was defeated near Drumnadrochit. His body is said to have been buried nearby.

Videos from Corrimony Chambered Cairn

Here are a couple of videos taken at the cairn, one of the interior and one of the entrance and grounds.

Central chamber video.
 
Video of cairn grounds.

Conclusion

Corrimony Chambered Cairn was an excellent stop while we were in this neck of the woods, and we highly recommend you check it out for one of the best examples of Clava-type burial cairns in the Highlands of Scotland.

Our bellies were now rumbling after visiting Plodda Falls and this beautiful cairn, so we left to get lunch at Cafe Eighty2 in Drumnadrochit.

Corrimony Chambered Cairn location map

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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