The Clava Cairns are situated near the River Nairn, not far from Culloden battlefield outside Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland. The site consists of three cairns, two are passage burial cairns and the other is a ring type cairn. Each cairn is surrounded by a circle of standing stones, and none of them now have a roof on. The age of the cairns has been estimated at 1500 to 2000BC.
The north-eastern cairn, the first one reached from the main entrance to the site, is a passage cairn, with 11 standing stones. The standing stones are irregularly spaced, probably partly due to the fact that some of the stones were reset in the 19th century. On the west is a square standing stone. The ring is approximately 110 feet in diameter, with the cairn being about 10 feet in height and 55 feet in diameter. The chamber has a diameter of 12-13 feet. This cairn was excavated in 1828, when bones and pottery were found. The passage into the first cairn slopes slightly downward, and on entering the round chamber I experienced a strong feeling of dizziness and disorientation, with what can best be described as "wobbly legs". I dismissed this as simply a brief dizzy spell, until entering the third cairn (see later).
The second cairn is a ring type cairn, to enter it you would have to clamber over the stones, however as a sign points out on the way in, the more people stand on it the more it will wear away so I resisted the temptation to climb over (unlike the party of American tourists who arrived as we were leaving). The stone circle surrounding this cairn is 100 feet wide. The cairn is 3 feet high and 55 feet n diameter, and the inner burial chamber is 12 feet. There are four raised paths radiating out from the cairn, forming a cross - each one terminates with a stone. One of the outer standing stones surrounding this cairn has a cup mark and an unusual pattern weathered in the stone. This cairn was excavated in 1857, when flint flakes were found.
The third cairn is another passage cairn with an outer stone circle measuring 100 feet in diameter. The circle now has a road passing through it - one stone is positioned outside the fence separating the cairns from the road and another stone can be seen in a field opposite the side. The cairn is 52 feet in diameter and the inner chamber is 12 feet in diameter, the cairn is 7 feet high. This cairn was excavated in 1858, when a few bones were found. On entering the inner chamber, I felt exactly the same dizzy feeling as I felt when I entered the first cairn, starting in the same place in relation to the first cairn. I was unable to sit and see if any other "feelings" were associated with this dizziness as I was at the time showing another tourist where the cup marks were to be found on the cairn.
The site has been examined by Professor Alexander Thorn, who discovered that both entrance passages are exactly aligned, the alignment passing through two of the stones surrounding the central non-aligned ring cairn. The alignment points to the midwinter sun's setting position suggesting an astronomical function.