Stones and Cairns

Glendruidh House Hotel in Inverness - Inner Sanctuary

There are many standing stones throughout the Highlands and they can all induce that uncanny atmosphere of the past.

Read Diana Gabaldon’s books then come and explore the Highlands and the numerous sites of antiquity. Set your imagination free and you too will be transported back in time.

Here at Glendruidh Hotel, many visitors ask which particular standing stones are featured in the books of the well known author, Diana Gabaldon. The answer is nobody knows!

In the stories, the main character ‘Claire’ walks through a stone circle in Scotland and is transported back into history – journeys which take her to the 18th century.

Whilst there are many standing stones across the region, this article describes the fascinating scene at the two nearest sites to the hotel.

The Clava Cairns

Glendruidh House Hotel in Inverness - Clava Cairns

These ancient burial chambers can be found on the outer perimeter of Culloden Battlefield, close to where the last Jacobite rebellion was crushed, although the site has been there for thousands of years.

This is a unique site with other rings of standing stones nearby. The cairn itself is ringed by eleven standing stones, the tallest being nine feet high. The outer ring is 110 feet in diameter.

The entrance passage to the burial chamber is on the southwest and is about twenty feet long by 2 feet wide. When visiting, try to find the cup markings on the innermost stone.

Just before the end of the 20th Century a parcel arrived at the Inverness tourist information centre. On opening the parcel a stone was found with a letter from a Belgian gentleman.

The letter pleaded with the information centre to replace the stone on the Clava Cairns, as he had taken it a couple of years ago as a memento of his holiday in the Highlands.

However, since then, both he and his family had suffered continuous bad luck, so he wanted it returned. The information centre was happy to oblige – I wonder if the Belgian gentleman’s luck has now changed!

Even closer to us, less than half a mile from the hotel, you will find the Druid’s Temple.

Druid’s Temple

Glendruidh House Hotel in Inverness - Druid's Temple

This Clava passage-tomb on Leys Castle estate used to be called ‘Leys’ before 19th Century antiquarians believed the ring to be a druidical sanctuary, and named it Druid’s Temple’.

After the site was abandoned, it was re-used as a cemetery, then a hiding-place, and has been plundered in modern times. It lies in ruins on a north-west facing ridge.

Only five stones of its outer circle still stand. Others lie displaced near them in a ring once about 74ft 4ins (22.7m) across. In 1824, fifteen were erect.

Alexander Thom thought that the tallest pillar in the circle, 9ft 6ins (2.9m) high, standing just to the west of the entrance, had been erected to be in line with the midwinter sunset.

Inside is the tomb, less battered, its kerbed cairn elliptical, 43ft 6ins SSE-NNW by 38ft (13.3 x 11.6m). The grading is imperfect.

The tumbled stones of a passage, unusually aligned south-north, lead to a wrecked chamber. In it there may have been a cist. In 1882 David Cameron reported, ‘I have seen a cist found a few yards beyond the outer circle of Leys. It contained no remains. Another cist was found recently in this circle’.

A proper excavation in 1952 showed that the turf had been stripped from the chamber and rounded white quartz pebbles laid down. A few scraps of cremated bone were all that remained of a single individual…

Another discovery suggested that late in the Bronze Age a valuable part of a tinker’s hoard had been concealed here and never reclaimed.

‘A funicular rod or torc of gold was dug up within the great circle of Leys in 1824. It measured 22 inches (56cm) long and was hooked at both ends’.

This lovely ornament, elegantly twisted and decorated, had been broken and subsequently straightened for remelting. Whoever left it had not returned…

Perhaps some similar misfortune befell the owner of the cache of two brilliant gold bracelets, from the megalithic tomb of Rondossec near Carnac in Brittany, which were also never reclaimed…