A visit to Cairn of Get, Caithness

The Cairn of Get, also known as Garrywhin, is not far from the Grey Cairns of Camster. Although the roof of this monument has not been restored, it follows similar principles of architectural order.

Cairn of Get is set in heather moorland beneath rocky crags. There are other archaeological sites on the higher ground beyond (Photo: Aaron Watson)

While we have visited Cairn of Get many times before, the archaeo-optics research has led us toconsider chambered sites in new ways.

The chamber of Cairn of Get (Photo: Aaron Watson)

On this visit we were initially struck by the similarity in format between the chamber here and those within the later passage tombs at Balnuaran of Clava near Inverness. Compared to other Caithness sites the chamber at Cairn of Get is broad and almost circular in plan. Tall stones define the division between the passage and the main chamber, creating spaces to either side where an audience could watch the play of light upon the rear wall without casting shadows.

The view along the passage towards the chamber inside Cairn of Get (Photo: Aaron Watson)

We are also interested to think about how light might fall upon the rear walls of the chamber. The two large stones that separate the main chamber from the passage have distinctive curved edges and are defiantly asymmetrical. Looking along the passage, the portal they create frames a flat stone set into the rear wall of the chamber. This has the potential to have acted as a screen upon which projected images would have been clearly visible.