Scotland Day 25: Clava Cairns and Cawdor Castle

Birds sighted: Coal tit, buzzard, pheasant, Mute swan, chaffinch, pied wagtail
Mammals: Very large pigs, glowing red deer

A bucolic scene near the Clava Cairns

Clava Cairns

Standing Stone

Our destination today was Cawdor Castle. Originally it was Clava Cairns and Cawdor Castle but we decided against going to the cairns the night before. So what happens? I take the wrong exit off the A9 and we end up at Clava Cairns anyway. Some things are just meant to be.

Clava Cairns

Cairn and standing stones

A very old tree standing watch over the cairns

Cup marks

The Clava Cairns, or Bulnaraun of Clava, is one of the best preserved burial sites in the British Isles. The site consists of three cairns, two with passageways that align to the Midwinter sunset. They date between 1500 BC to 2000 BC. To read more about the cairns visit: Traveler Two and I spent a lot of time wandering around this site and many interesting and arcane things were discovered.

Large standing stone with cup mark

Detail of the above stone, I liked how the cup mark was echoed in the shape of the lichens.

Standing stones

Cawdor Castle

We then visited Cawdor Castle. Walking to the entry way was an interesting experience. The walkway is lined with huge old trees that are positively riddled with jackdaws, all making their odd metallic sonar-like calls. The noise, as you walk under the trees, is impressive. and sound like the trees are barking and shrilling greetings to one and all.

Cawdor from the back

The Castle dates back to the 15th century. Originally a tower house, it has undergone much expansion over the centuries. It is still lived in, part of the year anyway, by the Dowager Countess Cawdor, and as such, it has a real lived in feeling that sets it apart from other castles we have toured. The room descriptions, written by the Countess, are rather amusing with references to “furious aunts” and techniques to rid ones home of “the smell of haggis.” The castle is best known for its connection to William Shakespeare’s MacBeth, whom Shakespeare made Thane of Cawdor. The castle is surrounded by gardens and a huge wood crisscrossed by walking trails. This Traveler highly recommends the woods walks. The trees are something to see.

One magnificent old tree

Traveler Two showing just how big the trees in the forest really are.


Too soon it was time to return the rental car to Inverness. We had pizza at Pizza Express. The best thing I can say about the pizza was that it was limp.


We boarded the late train to Edinburgh. The train trip really enforced the fact that there are few things in this world as beautiful as the sky in Scotland. As we chugged along down the tracks, past mountain and forest, the ever-changing clouds and shades of the evening light made for an awe-inspiring trip. Red deer lined the peaks. In sunlight their coats glowed bright gold.

And then it was back to 7 St. Mary’s, Old Town, Edinburgh and all its old ghosts.

Leave me a comment if you know what flower this is because I don't....

I'm assuming this is a member of the thistle family...

In the trees