As evidenced by the astronomical alignment of many groups of standing stones the Highlands has long been a place where people gazed at the heavens for meaning or inspiration. Due to its extremely low levels of light pollution the north coast has in recent years built an enviable reputation as one of the best places in Europe for stargazing and chasing a sighting of the Northern Lights. The appeal of the Highlands is well documented, but unknown to many, when the sun goes down then a whole new set of attractions reveal themselves.
Clava Cairns is a well-preserved Bronze Age cemetery near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. For many years, it played second fiddle to its more famous neighbour, Culloden Battlefield. That all changed in 2014, with the release of the TV dramatization of Diana Gabaldon’s popular Outlander novel. Clava Cairns became a bucket list destination overnight, after it was suggested that Outlander’s fictitious stone circle, Craigh na Dun was inspired by the site.
As (True) Highlanders we are shaped by many things. Our shared history, traditions and culture have, for better or worse, played a large part in defining who we really are. On the eve of Imbolc as we gaze behind us and consider the rituals of the past, it’s only natural to consider whether these ancient traditions have a place in the modern world. Students of history commonly remark about how they study the past in order to better understand the present, so, if we look at Imbolc, what does it tell us about where we are now?