The Grey Cairns of Camster

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Lybster, Scotland

The Grey Cairns of Camster Lybster Reviews

sarahelaine sarahela…
648 reviews
The Grey Cairns of Camster Jul 31, 2010
The Grey Cairns of Camster sound like something that would rise out of the mists to greet a Tolkein character, probably on some improbably bleak hillside.

You know something? They look like something that would rise out of the mists to greet a Tolkein character. They are on a bleak hillside. It was slightly misty. It’s only that Tolkein characters don’t roll up in modern cars bickering about whether the weather is closing in or not. It would have been a very different book if they had.

Well, we came unto the Grey Cairns, and lo, they were not what we were expecting. We were expecting a small pile of stones – that’s what a cairn is in most of Scotland. Not these ones. The Grey Cairns are prehistoric burial cairns, 5000 years old and still brooding on their hillsides. They are incredibly well preserved, although one has been restored. The other one is almost untouched. Grey, round stone mounds that were already ancient when the Vikings came, already ancient and half forgotten when the brochs were built.

There are low stone openings in the ancient mounds, with modern gates held shut with a screw that you can open, and crawl into the heart. The entrance tunnel is long and low, so that any adult will have to go on hands and knees, and the middle is just high enough to stand in. well, in the single mound it is. It is the slightly restored one, and has a glass part in the roof (which is modern, obviously) to allow in light. I didn’t explore the larger mounds, because I didn’t have a torch with me, and the ground was damp and I didn’t want to get my trousers… OK. It was spooky, OK? I was half expecting Barrow Wights or Pictish spirits to come after me. Certainly not with my bum sticking out of a burial mound at the time. I’ll come back some time with a torch, and preferably the sort of knife that glows when evil approaches. It’s that kind of place.

That said, in the first mound, the quality of the stone work is incredible. I'm sure it;s even better in the second. It’s really amazing to think of these cairns being 5000 years old, as almost all the stone work is. They have a strange atmosphere and are really mysterious. I can only assume they survived so long and so intact because the locals were every bit as creeped out and impressed as I was.

Entrance is free.
Long, better preserved mound
The cairn I climbed into
5000 year old stonework
2 / 2 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
davidx says:
I knew nothing about this. Thanks
Posted on: Aug 21, 2010
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