Callanish Stone Circle, Isle of Lewis, Western Isles
The Callanish Stones are the jewel in the crown of the Outer Hebrides, comparable in their complexity with Stonehenge. But no busy road or large car park here. You are free to wander round the site at leisure and get close up to the stones.
The impressive stone circle and the long avenue of stones leading up to it are situated on a ridge of land overlooking a sea loch on the west side of Lewis. They are the centre piece of an extensive ritual landscape which spreads across the surrounding area and from the circle you can look out towards some of the other stone circles and standing stones, as well as to distant hills whose skyline would have been significant at certain times of the lunar cycle.
The circle is cruciform in shape, with a long avenue of stones leading to it from the north. Single rows of stones radiate out to the south, east and west.
The stones are Lewisian gneiss, the rock that most of the Outer Hebrides is made from and the oldest rock in the British Isles. It is often characterised by bands of grey, white and black, often swirling to make beautiful patterns and there is no doubt that the impressive monoliths here were individually selected and cut so that every stone has its own character.
The tallest stone is the central monolith which is 5m high. Between this and the edge of the circle there is a small chambered tomb which was inserted not long after the circle was built.
Built in the Neolithic period, sometime around 2900 – 2600BC, Callanish pre-dates Stonehenge but is contemporary with sites on Orkney.
We will never know for sure what such a complex site was primarily used for but the monuments must have been an important part of the lives and landscape of the Neolithic and Bronze Age people who used them. A place where they came together for ceremonies, to perform rituals and observe lunar and solar events, perhaps using the stones to mark out significant times of the year.
The remains of a 200 year old corn drying kiln close to the stone circle.
The stone settings that form the Callanish complex are numbered and Callanish II and Callanish III are two circles that are easy to get to and worth visiting.