Fact Check

Mysterious 'Pyramid' Was Caught on Camera Atop Scottish Mountain?

"Portal alert," someone posted.

Published Sep 4, 2023

 (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)
Image Via Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons
A video shared to X (formally Twitter) in August 2023 genuinely showed a “pyramid” on top of a mountain in Scotland.

While the video indeed showed a structure in the shape of a pyramid in Scotland, the formation is actually a 19th-century cairn (i.e. human-made heap of stones). It was built by Queen Victoria to honor her late husband, Prince Albert. It's located on top of Craig an Lurachain, a mountain summit in the county of Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

A video that featured what appeared to be a massive pyramid atop a mountain in Scotland was posted to X (formally Twitter) on Aug. 22, 2023, amassing more than 199,000 views. During the 23-second clip, the narrator said, "There's a pyramid on top of a mountain in Scotland, and I didn't know this existed. Look at the size of that bad boy!" 

(Twitter user @illuminatibot)

The video was first posted to TikTok in 2021 and included the text overlay, "portal alert."

Despite a conspiratorial undertone among some replies to the footage, the underlying claim was true; The video authentically depicted a pyramid-like structure atop a mountain in Scotland and was not the product of digital manipulation.

However, that fact deserved some caveats. The structure is a cairn — that is, a human-made mound of stones (in this case, in the form of a pyramid) often used in Scottish culture to memorialize the deceased.

By doing a simple Google search for "Scotland pyramid," we learned the structure was one of 11 Balmoral stone cairns near the Balmoral Castle in central Scotland's Aberdeenshire county. The baronial-style mansion serves as a summer home for the royal family and is open for public tours. 

The cairn is a roughly 20-minute walk from the castle, sitting atop the Craig an Lurachain mountain summit.

The structure was built by Queen Victoria to honor her late husband, Prince Albert, after he died in 1861. According to the Royal Collection Trust, which oversees properties and items owned by royal residencies, Victoria commissioned and dedicated the memorial cairn from "his broken hearted widow." The structure is about 35 feet tall, as Victoria wrote in her journal, so "it could be seen all down the valley."

A photograph of the cairn in 1864, three years after it was erected. (Royal Collection Trust)

Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (full name Prince Franz August Karl Albert Emanuel) was the cousin of Queen Victoria. It is widely believed that he died of typhoid fever after 21 years of marriage (though his cause of death is still contested by some people). Albert was known for his role in building the Balmoral Castle, according to The Royal Family official website.

To learn more about the cairn, Snopes contacted the Royal Collection Trust. That agency referred us to the Balmoral Castle estate, which oversees the property, and we are waiting for a response.

We also contacted the Historic Environment Scotland, a government agency, and that organization referred us to the Canmore National Record of the History Environment, an online archive of over 300,000 historical places in Scotland. The archive listed the in-question site as "Balmoral Estates, Prince Albert's Cairn," with the following "architecture notes":

Granite pyramid with inscribed date 21st August 1862. Inset panel inscribed 'To the Beloved Memory of Prince Albert, the Great and Good Prince Consort, Erected by his Broken-hearted Widow, VICTORIA. R.'.

Snopes also looked through images of the cairn published online by the tourism-promotion website, Visit Aberdeenshire Scotland. A side-by-side comparison of a still frame from the TikTok video to the website's official photos showed a nearly identical view:

The image on the left depicts an image published by Visit Aberdeenshire Scotland, and the right-side image is a screenshot from the viral TikTok video. (Screenshot/Visit Aberdeenshire Scotland)

For additional views of the structure and its surrounding area, Snopes also conducted a geolocation search using Google Maps. By plugging in "Prince Albert's Pyramid" and selecting a satellite view of the map, we virtually explored the location using "street view images." (Anyone can do that by dropping the orange, human-shaped figure onto the cairn's map location.) Below is a screenshot taken from Google Maps, showing 18 geolocations captured by visitors of the site:

(Screenshot/Google Maps)

We took that screenshot and ran it through a reverse-image search. By doing so, we found a nearly identical view of the cairn that was captured in 2014 and available via Wikimedia Commons as of Aug. 31, 2023: 

(Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Also, by doing that reverse-image search, our newsroom located another video of the cairn posted to TikTok by the tour-guide company Visit Scotland Tours in 2021. The clip, which lasts about two minutes, showed the structure from the same angle as the video that's popular on social media and mentioned above.

@visitscotlandtours #scotland #pyramid #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #scottishtiktok #hike #explore #bucketlist #vacation #travel #daytrip #scottish #ufo #bucketlisttravel #fy ♬ original sound - VisitScotlandTours



Balmoral Castle & Estate. https://www.balmoralcastle.com/. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

Balmoral Estates, Prince Albert's Cairn | Canmore. https://canmore.org.uk/site/120845/balmoral-estates-prince-alberts-cairn. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

"Discover the Balmoral Cairns in Aberdeenshire." VisitAberdeenshire, https://visitabdn.com/listing/balmoral-cairns. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

"Doctors Still Argue about This Prince's Early Death." PBS NewsHour, 15 Dec. 2017, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/156-years-after-prince-alberts-death-we-still-dont-know-exactly-why-he-died.

Drow69. English:  Cairn or Pyramid Commissioned by Queen Victoria for Prince Consort Albert, Balmoral Estate, Ballanter, Scotland. 5 May 2014. Own work, Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cairn_for_Prince_Albert_Balmoral.JPG.

"Home | Visit Scotland Tours | Driver Guide | Private Tours." Visit Scotland Tours, https://www.visitscotlandtours.co.uk. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

"Https://Twitter.Com/Iluminatibot/Status/1694061940811690003." X (Formerly Twitter), https://twitter.com/iluminatibot/status/1694061940811690003. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

"Prince Albert's Pyramid · Aberdeenshire, United Kingdom." Prince Albert's Pyramid · Aberdeenshire, United Kingdom, https://www.google.com/maps/place/Prince+Albert%E2%80%99s+Pyramid/@57.0261098,-3.2239142,502m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m6!3m5!1s0x4885dd184191b969:0xb988a64ab6486330!8m2!3d57.0261069!4d-3.2213446!16s%2Fg%2F11h1g8q950?entry=ttu. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

"Reve Kalell on TikTok." TikTok, https://www.tiktok.com/@r33vo.mov/video/6922264143416397061. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

Scotland Pyramid - Google Search. https://www.google.com/search?q=Scotland+pyramid&sca_esv=560380137&ei=omnqZIusMpKZptQP_ZKEmA0&ved=0ahUKEwiLhYPTnfuAAxWSjIkEHX0JAdMQ4dUDCBA&uact=5&oq=Scotland+pyramid&gs_lp=Egxnd3Mtd2l6LXNlcnAiEFNjb3RsYW5kIHB5cmFtaWRI5w1QAFiADXAAeAGQAQCYAQCgAQCqAQC4AQPIAQD4AQHiAwQYACBBiAYB&sclient=gws-wiz-serp. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

The Albert Cairn, Barlmoral and The Free West Church, Aberdeen. https://www.rct.uk/collection/themes/exhibitions/george-washington-wilson-queen-victorias-photographer-in-scotland/th-0. Accessed 31 Aug. 2023.

Madison Dapcevich is a freelance contributor for Snopes.