Sacred geography – Picts – Stone circles 03 - Corrimony
Type of Spiritual Experience
Corrimony is a small village at the western end of Glenurquhart, in Inverness-shire, in the Highlands of Scotland, now within Highland council area. It is 13 km west of Drumnadrochit, and 32 km south-west of Inverness. Corrimony is famous for Mony's Stone and the chambered cairn, part of the Clava group of cairns, dating back 4,000 years. The cairn is surrounded by 11 standing stones.
From Stones of wonder
As one of the small group of Clava type monuments (see Clava site itself), Corrimony has the usual ring of stones surrounding a cairn, which is revetted by a ring of kerbstones. A straight passage which uniquely has part of its roofing still in place leads into a circular central chamber, 3.5 metres in diameter, now open to the sky. Above the large basal blocks inside the chamber the walling rises in rough drystone, with about 12 surviving courses of oversailing stones. This technique of roofing a vault is called corbelling. A massive cupmarked slab, which is likely to have completed the roof of the chamber, now lies to one side on top of the cairn.
A description of the experience
Corrimony Chambered Cairn: by Fiona Lang - Wednesday, 21 November 2012
There are days that are made for exploring, and this was one of them. Waking up confused, caught in a tangle of dreams twined with long-forgotten memories, I found myself longing to escape down roads never travelled, heading to places never seen. And on that impulse I drove, dazzled by the autumn sun, until I came to the shores of the deepest, darkest body of water I could find – Loch Ness. And from there (after some moody staring into the whipping wind) to a place I’d been wanting to see ever since I knew it existed - Corrimony Chambered Cairn.
Situated 8 miles from Loch Ness, this ancient burial site is a gem. Built by neolithic farmers in the 3rd millenium BC, it consists of a passage grave surrounded by a kerb of slabs and 11 standing stones - all of them wonderfully crooked, weathered and strange.
The entrance passage is aligned South West, meaning that the rays of the setting sun travel down it at the Midwinter Solstice. Similar cairns at Clava, a few miles east of Inverness, were built with the same alignment. In total there are nearly 50 cairns of this kind in the North East of Scotland. What was in the minds of the people who built them no one knows for sure, but it's possible that they had a belief in some form of journey for the spirits of their dead.
Archaeological evidence suggests that these sites were collectively used by communities for cremations, serving more as shrines to the dead than as tombs. When Corrimony Cairn was excavated in 1952, traces of just one set of remains were found - an adult, probably female, lying in a foetal position and facing down the passage towards the entrance.
The entrance passage is short and not overly restrictive, but it's eerie all the same. It echoed with an unnerving hollowness under my hands and knees as I crawled through. The cropping of the sheep in an adjacent field merged with the slow dripping of water from the cairn to become shuffling footsteps following behind.
The crows called their warnings, but inside I felt safer than I’d expected. I was protected, not trapped - the walls are intact only to head-height, the roof having long since collapsed.
Part of what is believed to be the original capstone, huge and decorated with cup marks, lies near the top of the cairn.
I wish now that I had also thought to climb up the outside of the cairn to look into the chamber from above, as it seems that other people do so. I erred on the side of good manners though. The place seemed untouchable in its magic, and worthy of more respect.
My heart was lighter on the journey home. I was singing as I drove through drifting leaves, between blood-red banks of autumn Beech. The ghost that had been hanging just out of sight in the corner of my mind was gone. I had taken it to an appropriate place, and left it there.
The source of the experiencePicts
Concepts, symbols and science items
SymbolsCup and rings
Science ItemsSacred geography
Sacred geography - ancient trees
Sacred geography - barrows
Sacred geography - blind springs
Sacred geography - crack or crevice
Sacred geography - enclosures and camps
Sacred geography - henges
Sacred geography - ley lines
Sacred geography - mapping the spiritual onto the physical
Sacred geography - mark stones
Activities and commonsteps
Cup Marks on Capstone