The Great Pyramid of Scotland? The odd tale behind the Scots pyramid in the Cairngorms

The Great Pyramid of Giza? More like “giza break” because who can afford flights to Egypt in this economy? Instead, check out this fascinating site in the Scottish Highlands. The Great Pyramid of Giza? More like “giza break” because who can afford flights to Egypt in this economy? Instead, check out this fascinating site in the Scottish Highlands.
The Great Pyramid of Giza? More like “giza break” because who can afford flights to Egypt in this economy? Instead, check out this fascinating site in the Scottish Highlands. | via WikiCommons
For all things pyramid-related most of us would look to countries like Egypt, but Scotland (which somehow always manages to surprise us) has a ‘secret’ pyramid of its own.

Thought of as ‘exclusive to Egypt’ many people don’t know that several countries, in fact, have pyramids. According to the Travel Earth magazine, “Sudan, Mexico, Italy, Iraq, Peru” among others have such monuments and - last but not least - Scotland, where one can be found in the stoic Scottish Highlands.

Nestled in the forests of the Cairngorms National Park, famed for its historic Scottish castles, one wouldn’t expect to find such ancient architecture. Nevertheless, if you are swinging by the illustrious Balmoral Castle while exploring the Aberdeenshire rural countryside, then you must add this site to your adventure bucket list.

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It is both picturesque and historically fascinating as it has ties to the royal family.

Here is everything we know about this monument known locally as the ‘Secret Scottish Pyramid’ including its history, location, and the best time to visit for tourists and photographers.

What is the Secret Scottish Pyramid?

The pyramid is known as a cairn; a word we regularly see on Scottish maps which in Scots Gaelic refers to a heap of stones. Built using granite, it is one of eleven cairns which can be found within the Balmoral estate in the heart of Royal Deeside. Most were erected by Queen Victoria.

With respect to its location and royal heritage, the monument is broadly known as the Balmoral Pyramid or Prince Albert’s Cairn (the Prince consort who married Queen Victoria in 1840.) All the cairns are said to commemorate British royal family members and events in their lives.

Prince Albert’s Cairn, however, is the largest and most popular for visitors as it sits atop a hill with incredible views over the Cairngorms National Park.

According to the Royal Collection Trust: “It stands at a height of 35 feet and so, as Victoria wrote in her journal, 'it could be seen all down the valley'.” According to the Royal Collection Trust: “It stands at a height of 35 feet and so, as Victoria wrote in her journal, 'it could be seen all down the valley'.”
According to the Royal Collection Trust: “It stands at a height of 35 feet and so, as Victoria wrote in her journal, 'it could be seen all down the valley'.” | Rab Lawrence on Flickr

Why is there a pyramid in Scotland?

The cairn was built by Queen Victoria in 1862 following the death of her beloved Prince Albert the year prior. According to Hidden Scotland: “When Albert died suddenly in 1861, Victoria retreated to the secluded privacy of Balmoral to mourn.

“Though she would eventually return to London, the estate cairns remained a symbol of both celebration and desolation; an immovable memory to those the Queen had loved and lost.”

The inscription on his cairn reads: “To the beloved memory of Albert the great and good Prince Consort. Erected by his broken hearted widow Victoria R. 21st August 1862.

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Following her first visit to this scenic Scottish countryside in 1842, Albert purchased the Balmoral estate a decade later after renting it for several years. Thus, this location was sentimentally chosen. The remaining ten cairns within the Balmoral Estate pay tribute to the marriages of Queen Victoria’s offspring.

Prince Albert’s Cairn was erected by Queen Victoria a year following his death. Nestled in the Balmoral estate, this section of the Scottish countryside held fond memories for the royal couple. Prince Albert’s Cairn was erected by Queen Victoria a year following his death. Nestled in the Balmoral estate, this section of the Scottish countryside held fond memories for the royal couple.
Prince Albert’s Cairn was erected by Queen Victoria a year following his death. Nestled in the Balmoral estate, this section of the Scottish countryside held fond memories for the royal couple. | Rab Lawrence on Flickr

How to get to the Balmoral Pyramid

Prince Albert’s Cairn can be found on Craig Lowrigan hill in Aberdeenshire within the Balmoral Castle estate in Ballater. A short ascent through the woodsy landscape takes you there; approximately two and a half kilometres from the Balmoral Castle car park.

Is the pyramid free to visit? The cairn itself is free to visit all year round. However, the nearby parking is not and prices vary between cars and motorhomes so check online in advance.

As seen in this photograph, the view from Prince Albert’s Cairn is nothing short of breathtaking and in this instance the photographer has enjoyed both blue skies and snow-capped mountains. As seen in this photograph, the view from Prince Albert’s Cairn is nothing short of breathtaking and in this instance the photographer has enjoyed both blue skies and snow-capped mountains.
As seen in this photograph, the view from Prince Albert’s Cairn is nothing short of breathtaking and in this instance the photographer has enjoyed both blue skies and snow-capped mountains. | via WikiCommons

When is the best time to visit?

With regards to the Scottish weather (which can be temperamental to say the least) we recommend visiting Prince Albert’s Cairn on a dry day. The walk up to the monument is relatively muddy and steep, so best to avoid any potentially slippery surfaces.

As for what time of the year to visit, the Summer and Autumn months are well-reviewed by most visitors. While we enjoy extra delight, you can pack both a visit to Balmoral Castle and the pyramid in one day.

The colder months have their benefits too, however, as photographers can take advantage of less tourists in the area and enjoy the stunning vistas of the snow-capped mountains nearby.

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