Corrimony Chambered Cairn & RSPB Nature Reserve

Corrimony Chambered Cairn, Photo Jim McAuleyVisitors to Strathglass will find a trip to Corrimony very worthwhile. It gives you the chance to explore an ancient chambered cairn, dating back over 4000 years, and visit an RSPB Nature Reserve, home to an increasing population of Black Grouse.

Corrimony is located in nearby Glenurquhart, about five miles from Cannich along the A831 to Drumnadrochit and Loch Ness - it is well signposted. Turning off the A831 you take the unlisted road for roughly a mile to the car park. The Corrimony Cairn is only a few minutes walk away. To visit the RSPB Nature Reserve you carry on past the Cairn following the waymarkers. From the carpark to Loch Comhnard and back is a round trip of about 8 miles.

The Corrimony Cairn is a passage grave of the Clava type dating from the 3rd Millenium BC. The type is derived from the cairns at Balnuaran of Clava found close to the battlefield of Culloden. These set the standard for cairns of this period and region. The "passage-grave" consists of a central chamber within a larger cairn accessed by a narrow passage. Standing stones encircle the cairn. This particular cairn is remarkably well preserved with the roof still in place over the passageway through which it is possible to pass - albeit on hands & knees.

Corrimony Chambered Cairn, Photo Jim McAuleyAnother interesting feature at Corrimony is the presence of a large cup-marked slab which would have formed part of the roof. This type of cairn is associated with both cremations and traditional burials. When the cairn was excavated in 1952, there was evidence of a single burial though the remains had deteriorated in the acid soil so that only a dark stain was visible.

There appears to be 12 (or is it 11?) standing stones encircling the cairn, though it has been suggested that a number of these were added in the not so distant past, possibly using material from the cairn itself. The orientation of the cairn towards the south-west, perhaps indicates the builders' interest in simple astronomy. This may have been linked with religious or ritual beliefs. There are no restrictions on access to the Corrimony Cairn as the site is open all year.

The RSPB acquired the land for its nature reserve from the Forestry Commission in 1997. In line with restoration plans for the Caledonian Pinewood, RSPB recognised the opportunity for assisting with conservation particularly with the Black Grouse in mind. Numbers of Black Grouse had seriously declined over the previous thirty years for a variety of reasons.

Black Grouse, Photo RSPBLoss of natural habitat through over grazing, strikes on deer fencing, changing weather patterns and an increase in predators are some of the reasons the decline had been so rapid. Of the UK population, some 75% can be found in Scotland. The RSPB organise special Black Grouse 'Safaris' where visitors have the opportunity to view the birds at close quarters. Contact the RSPB direct for full details.

The reserve caters for a variety of bird life, some resident while others only visit at certain times of year. Habitats include open moorland, conifer plantations and native woodland together with loch, bogs and heath. The number of species you might see within the reserve is quite extensive - osprey, whooper swan, pink-footed goose, black-throated diver, flycatchers, bullfinches and crossbill to name a few. Again there are no restrictions of access to the RSPB Nature Reserve - open all year.