It doesn’t seem like we did a lot today, but boy am I tired anyway.
Our first of two stops was at Clava Cairns, just outside of Inverness and not far from Culloden. We did both of those the last time we were here, but did not make it to Clava. Now, this is a bit out of the way from where we intended this trip to focus, but there is a reason for that.
The Cairns are surrounded by standing stones, and have been dated as old as 4,000 years. Now this pre-dates the Picts, but the Picts are believed to have used the Kerb Cairn for their own cremations. So to my mind this still falls within our sub-theme of Pictish Stones.
There are four cairns — three large and one small — and the three large are surrounded by circles of standing stones. The stones and entries to two of the cairns are aligned with the midwinter sunset.
The central ring cairn has no identifiable entry point, but is open in the centre and has three cobble paths linking the outer edge of the ring to the standing stones that encircle it. It is believed this ring cairn might have been used as a temple when the outer cairns were used to house the dead when they were originally built.
While fire is believed to have been an important element of the ceremonies of the ancient people’s who built these monuments, it is not believed that cremations were done here. Cremations were not yet practiced, but would be in much later times, and it is believed that the Picts may have placed cremated remains in the Ring Cairn.
The fourth, smaller cairn previously mentioned is the Kerb Cairn, and it was made about a thousand years after the three larger cairns. This is when newcomers to the area started reusing the cairns for their own burials. It is in this Cairn that there appears to be evidence of the Pictish cremation burial, which occurred in about 500-600 AD.
And yes, of course this stop was partially influenced by Outlander. Craig Na Dun was based on the Clava Cairn Stones.
Our second stop was a surprise for Dan, and the real reason we went so far out of our way today. I booked us a two-hour introductory archery session at Bowhunter Archery. Yes, I did!
This was a fantastic experience that Dan and I enjoyed very much. We spent the first hour with Andy teaching us proper technique and practicing it until we got it reasonably correct.
We used recurve bows, we were taught how to string them, and we were kitted out with forearm protectors and quivers.
Andy first taught us how to target shoot, which involves using pins on the bows as sights to aim for the target. He explained that teaching target shooting technique is usually the easiest for beginners to learn and develop the proper technique. The technique involves pulling the string to the chin, and then a little more until it touches the tip of your nose.
It took three quarters of an hour of doing adequately before Andy suggested I try bow hunting instead, which means don’t use the pins, just aim from the tip of the arrow and pull to your cheekbone instead of your chin. He said most people don’t start out with bow hunting. It turns out I’m naturally inclined to bow hunting, because there was a noticeable improvement once I started using the technique.
The second hour was spent on the wilderness course they have set up in the forest. It was sort of like mini-golf for archery. You go around to different targets on uneven ground and with trees and bushes in somewhat distracting places. It tests your ability to gauge distances and where you need to aim to hit the target.
The end of the course was at the 3D site. They’ve got lizards, alligators, pigs, wolves, dinosaurs, and deer placed throughout the area for you to shoot at. We finished with a mini competition between Dan and I that we ended up tying. He got one kill shot and one wound shot to my three wound shots.
I may not have mentioned this, but despite Dan recently having purchased a recurve bow and arrows neither of us had actually ever used it. After today’s experience I think we’ll be calling our local archery club…
A couple hour drive back to Ballater followed by a short nap before supper at Clachan Grill brings us to the end of our day.
Adelle and Dan