Although it is believed that this area was inhabited by hunter-gatherers
as long as 8,000 years ago, the earliest remaining physical evidence of prehistoric
peoples in the area dates to approximately 3,500B.C. There are many cairns,
probably used for burial, in the Inverness district dating back to this period,
of which the most interesting to visit are named Clava type Cairns after the
particularly good example
at Balnuaran of Clava near Culloden Battlefield just 10 minutes drive from Clach
Mhuilinn. This particular type of Cairn features a chamber reached by a low
passage from the outside. The whole was roofed over and built up into a large
mound of stones.
Outside this mound is a surrounding stone circle of standing
stones, graded in size with the tallest at the south-south-western point. This
orientation is common to these cairns and circles and is thought to be important
as the point at which the winter sun sets and therefore a date marker. Around
the cairns, particularly at
the entrance may be seen cup-marked stones. These are stones which
are marked with shallow depressions made by working a small stone round and
round. At Clava there are two passage graves each with a circle of standing
stones around it and a ring cairn with a standing stone circle. Clava has quite
an eerie atmosphere about it.
Another good example of the Clava type cairns is situated at
Corriemony in Glen Urquhart which is between Loch Ness and
Glen Affric. The cairn is approximately 50 feet (44 m.) across and its surrounding
stone circle is 77 feet (68 m.) across. The passage points to the south-west.
Although Aberdeenshire is rich in stone circles, there is only
one near Inverness which is well hidden in the woods at Torbreck on the eastern
side of Loch Ness. It is small, only 17 feet (15 m.) in diameter, with stones
graded in height to the tallest at 7 feet (2 m.) at the south-western point.
There are also a number of similar looking ring cairns in various sites.
The other most notable evidence of prehistoric people in this
area is in several vitrified forts dating back to the Iron Age between about
650 BC and 350 AD. In these defensive structures the massive stone walls have
been in parts vitrified which requires temperatures of about 1200°C. Whether
this was achieved on purpose or accidentally is not known but was possible done
by burning of the timbers which interlaced the walls for structural purposes.
The best example is at Craig Phadraig, three miles to the west of the town centre
and reached from a small car park by a clearly marked, steep path. It isnt
easy to find many remains but the view is superb!