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5000-year-old burial chamber at Camster Cairns 'used as toilet'

By Gordon Calder

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The Camster Cairns have been closed since March due to Covid-19. Picture: Willie Mackay
The Camster Cairns have been closed since March due to Covid-19. Picture: Willie Mackay

The use of a 5000-year-old Caithness burial chamber as a public toilet has been described as "deplorable and unacceptable" by Caithness civic leader, Willie Mackay.

He hit out after Historic Environment Scotland, which cares for the Grey Cairns of Camster, near Lybster, confirmed it happened despite the site being locked.

A spokeswoman said: "We are aware of one incident of someone using the site as a toilet and would remind members of the public to be responsible when visiting historic scheduled monuments and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code."

She added: "The Grey Cairns of Camster were closed in March, along with the rest of our properties in care, due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Due to physical distancing not being possible inside the cairns we have not yet been able to reopen them and have secured the gates and installed closure signs on site.

"The Neolithic cairns are over 5000 years old and are among the oldest stone monuments in Scotland."

The news angered Mr Mackay, who described such behaviour as "deplorable and unacceptable".

He said signs have been installed at the lay-by near the site and on the two iron gates leading to the cairns.

Mr Mackay, a Wick and east Caithness Highland councillor, said: "I intend to contact Historic Environment Scotland for an explanation. If it is the case that some people have been inappropriately using these cairns and creating a health danger for others then that is disgusting.

"We want visitors to come and enjoy the Camster Cairns and I hope this current closure can be resolved as soon as possible and the site can open once more."

The monument consists of a long cairn and a round cairn. The former has two internal chambers and the latter a single chamber with three compartments.

The Camster Cairns are located five miles north of Lybster and are a popular attraction with local people and visitors.

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