Clearing the cairns – Carn Glas, Inverness

In March and August this year, members of the North of Scotland Archaeological Society (NOSAS) worked together with local volunteers to remove thick gorse that had grown up around three interlinking chambered cairns at Carn Glas on Essich Farm, near Inverness. New images were then taken of the site, showing its full layout for the first time in decades.  

The Neolithic cairns are positioned on a saddle-shaped ridge on Essich Moor, overlooking the Moray Firth to the east. The line of monuments, stretching for some 116m, is one of the longest of its kind found in Scotland. The site is first known from a survey plan dating to 1834, which describes the cairns as a collection of stones on the summit of three hillocks. They were not investigated in any detail, however, until 1943, when V Gordon Childe recorded them as part of his wartime survey of military training areas. 

Recently, the growth of gorse and the insertion of a hide into one of the chambers showed that the significance of the site was being neglected, which encouraged NOSAS to uncover the prehistoric remains once more. This took about 30 people-days to do, and highlights the value of voluntary work in enhancing monuments. The success of the project is shown by drone photographs subsequently taken by Andy Hickie, revealing the prominent location of the cairn looking down the Moray Firth. 

Subsequent image-processing by Andy provided the remarkable false-colour picture (above), revealing the narrow cairn linking the three monuments and a possible horned entrance at the end of the southern chamber. Whether there was a similar forecourt at the north end that has been robbed out is uncertain.

Text: Jonathan Wordsworth / Images: Andy Hickie