Was tourist cursed by sacred Highland site?
It is a sacred Bronze Age site just outside Inverness with many reporting a deep, mysterious feel on setting foot on the land.
Around 4,000 years old, the Clava Cairns is a collection of prehistoric burial monuments and the remains of a medieval chapel.
It is considered a fantastic example of the distant history of The Highlands and illustrates the sun and moon worship of the day.
But for one Belgian tourist, his visit to Clava Cairns proved too powerful after claiming a stone he took from the site had cursed his family.
The man became so disturbed by events that he posted the souvenir back to Scotland and was received at the tourist office in Inverness.
In an anonymous letter following his visit in 2000 he said that, since returning home with the stone, his daughter had broken her leg, his wife had become very ill, and he had lost his job and broken his arm.
He said in a letter: ‘I know you will probably be laughing at me, but while you are laughing could you please take this stone back to Clava Cairns?”
There is no doubt that Clava Cairns is regarded with superstition locally with the tourist guide who received the package from Belgium admitting its not the kind of place you may want to find yourself at night.
The 26 cairns are the only cairns in mainland Britain that are surrounded by stone circles and kerbstones.
Passages that bore into the centre of the Cairn have been aligned to allow light from the rising and setting midsummer full moon to enter the chambers.
Some of the stones have been positioned in line with other major astronomical events, such as the Equinox.
Although human bone fragments have been found at Clava Cairns, it is not thought the cairns themselves were used for burials.
Instead, it is believed that rituals using the dead were carried out there.
An report to Highland Council on the astronomical importance of the stones said: “The cairns were not used for the general disposal of the dead, but that the dead were required by some ritual determined by an astronomical even such as the rising southern extremes of the sun and moon.”
Evidence of several Bronze Age settlement have been found around Inverness and further afield through the Highlands.
This year, a facial reconstruction was completed of a young woman who died more than 3,700 years ago.
The woman’s bones, including a skull and teeth, were discovered at Achavanich in Caithness, during the 1980s.
Now known as Ava, believed to be in her late teens or early 20s when she died, is thought to have been part of much wider European group known as the Beaker people.