Grey Cairns of Camster

Camster Cairns

Head back 5,000 years to one of the oldest monuments in Scotland, the Camster Cairns. Located in the far northern reaches of the Scottish Highlands, the Grey Cairns of Camster offer an incredible look into the burial rituals of Neolithic humans. It’s a superb location for history buffs who want to learn more about Scotland’s burial chambers.

This blog covers everything you need to know about the Camster Grey Cairns, from its immense history to how to get there and the top attractions to look forward to while you’re there.

History of the Grey Cairns of Camster

Gray Cairns of Camster History

While the modern long cairn and round cairn are recreations of historians’ best guesses at what the cairns would have looked like, the original appearance of the cairns is not fully known. Speculation is that they were initially sometime 5,000 years ago, in the early 4th millennium.

The Cairns are considered an exciting place for visitors and specialists, and extensive excavations of the sight were undertaken in the 1860s. Joseph Anderson and Robert Shearer undertook the dissection of these cairns and many others in the area. Many other archaeologists investigated the remains of the cairn and found some unique historical items.

Burnt human remains, broken pottery, and flint tools are some of the few fantastic artefacts found here. In 1981, the recreation of the Camster Cairns was finally concluded and are the unique attractions that you can see here today. Historic Environment Scotland now manages the site.

How to Get to Camster Cairns

The Camster Cairns are located in the Caithness region of Scotland, which sits in the far northern reaches of the country. That said, you can easily reach the site by driving from the closest major city (Inverness) or public transit. Here’s how you can quickly get the Cairns:

By Car

Camster Cairns is around a two-hour drive from Inverness, but the route is incredibly scenic. The route takes you along the picturesque eastern coastline of Scotland, past many attractions like the Invergordon Museum, Brora Heritage Centre, and more. Here is the quickest route:

  • From Inverness, head north along the A9. For most of the journey, you will be travelling along the stunning coastline on the A9, so put on some music and get comfortable.
  • At Latberon, transfer from the A9 to A99 until you reach Occumster.
  • From Occumster, take the unmarked road directly north, and you’ll begin to see signs for the Cairns.

There is free parking available on-site, close to the Camster Cairns.

By Transit

While you can also take public transit to reach the Grey Cairns of Camster, there is no direct route to the attraction. Instead, you can take a bus to the closest town (Lybster) and hire a car or walk to the Cairns.

  • From Inverness, catch the X99 Scrabster from Bus Stance 3.
  • You’ll want to ride the bus for around 40 stops, arriving at the primary school in Lybster.
  • Lybster is about six miles from Camster Cairns, so you can embark on a two-hour hike or ride a bike for around 30 minutes. It’s recommended that you travel with a car.

Attractions at the Grey Cairns of Camster

Once you’ve made the journey through the Highlands, the Grey Cairns of Camster await! Here are the fantastic attractions you can look forward to during your visit.

Learn about Neolithic Era Funeral Practices

Learn about Neolithic Funerals

Both Camster Cairns hold an immense wealth of knowledge about the funeral practices and burial rituals of the Neolithic era. The long and round cairn are intricately built with narrow passages leading to the two internal chambers. The long cairn is the more thoroughly excavated burial cairn, which allows visitors to explore the interior.

Camster Long Cairn

The long cairn is an immense historical burial chamber that has been recreated in meticulous detail to resemble what it would have looked like 5,000 years ago. While there were originally two burial chambers, they were combined into a single chamber at one point. There is a metal gate that you can unlock, which leads to a narrow passage into the long cairn.

The internal chambers are small and narrow, and upright slabs make up the central chamber. It was here, in the central chamber, where excavations in the 1800s discovered two skeletons placed in a sitting position.

Camster Round Cairn

The round cairns are far more exciting and mysterious than the two cairns. While no passage is available into this cairn, the separate round cairns can still be seen on-site. When the round cairns were excavated, the floor of the cairns was filled with black earth and burnt bones — eerie, right?

What’s more mysterious is that human bones were found here without leg bones, which was highly peculiar.

Explore the Scottish Highlands

Explore the Scottish Highlands

Once you’ve had your fill of the Camster Cairn pods, then explore the fantastic attractions of the Scottish Highlands. From the Camster Cairns, there are a few things to look forward to, including the towns of John o’Groats and Thurso, which offer passage to the Isles of Orkney and Shetland.

If you want to learn more about the Highland’s history, other sites like the Caithness Broch Centre and Old Keiss Castle are nearby.

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