Camster Cairns

(Grey Cairns of Camster)

Camster Cairns, Caithness
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Camster Cairns, Caithness

Located 8 miles (13 km) southwest of Wick, in the Caithness district of Highland Council Area, the Camster Cairns are amongst the best-preserved Neolithic chambered cairns in the British Isles. Known as the Grey Cairns of Camster, they comprise a round cairn, a long cairn and a ruined third cairn lying 200m apart. Built around 3500 BC, the cairns are thought to have been in use as burial chambers and as ritual sites for several hundred years thereafter. Both cairns are of dry-stone construction, the round cairn is 18m (59 feet) in diameter and 3.7m (12 feet) high and the long cairn is 69.5m (228 feet) long and 16.8m (55 feet) wide.

The cairns were excavated in 1865 and pottery, skeletons, burnt bone and flint tools were recovered from the round cairn. There is one central chamber in the round cairn, which retains its original roof, and two burial chambers in the long cairn. Modern excavations were completed on the long cairn in 1980 and its collapsed roof has recently been replaced with fibreglass with sky-lights which allow light into the interior. The walls, which had been plundered to built a nearby sheep-pen, were restored using original materials.

The cairn complex is now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.

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