Understanding Significant Features

Clava Cairns. Sunset. The winter solstice.

Taking advantage of some sunny winter weather, we were able to get a first hand view of the sunset aligning with the narrow entrance passages to the cairns.


Clava Cairns Inverness Sunset on Winter Solstice


Built in the Neolithic period, 2000 BC these structures are a 4000 year old observatory. They allow ancient civilisations to study the passage of the sun throughout the year, marking important dates in the calendar.

For visitors to the site, the effect has been compromised by Victorians, who that that is would a good idea to plant trees around the site. For most of the year the site has a pleasant and atmospheric feel, but on the most important date of the year, the trees obscure the sunset. A classic case of the site owner having an idea for improving the site, without properly understanding the sites significant features and how their actions would impact on them.

You may not own a property as historically important as Clava Cairns, but you can still learn some important lessons;

  1. Recognise the important features of your property. This requires an in depth understanding of history and architecture.
  2. Understand how to work with these features. Present them well and they will add character and value to your property. Misunderstand them and you will miss this opportunity.
  3. Assess the impact that and changes to your property could have on these features and adapt your plans accordingly.

Taking time to understand the understand features of your historic property is important. It will help you to add value to your property, repairing the mistakes of the past and avoid new work that could further undermine it.


MAAC studio are accredited conservation architects and principal designers working with traditional buildings throughout Scotland. 

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