The Round Cairn, Grey Cairns of Camster, Caithness

The two Grey Cairns of Camster (The Round and Long Cairns) are among the oldest stone monuments in Scotland. They were built over 5,000 years ago. Even before their excavation and restoration by Historic Scotland in the later 20th century they were two of the best preserved burial tombs surviving from the neolithic period anywhere in Britain. Their location – on a windswept moor in the heart of the Caithness ‘Flow Country’ – probably ensured their survival from the ravages of later farmers. But before the deep blanket of peat covered Caithness during the Bronze Age, this corner of the British Isles was good farming land. The two great mounds were where some of those farmers were laid to rest.

The Round Cairn is the smaller of the two, measuring 18m in diameter and rising to a height of 4m. A low, narrow doorway leads from a curving forecourt along a cramped passage into the burial chamber at its centre. The chamber itself is surprisingly roomy. Inside, you can stand to full height and admire the structural sophistication of those neolithic builders. Pairs of large upright slabs divide the chamber into three distinct compartments, and the walls are cleverly corbelled on the inside to support the roof.