Callanish Stones

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.

Calanais standing stones (2)

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.

Tursachan Chalanais (1)
Looking north – the long avenue of stones leading to the circle

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.

Callanish
Stone row, looking west to Loch Roag

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.

Chambered tomb, Tursachan Chalanais
The chambered tomb with the central monolith behind
Calanais standing stones (3)
The circle with the 5m high centre monolith in the right of the picture

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.

Corn drying kiln, Calanais
The remains of a 200 year old corn drying kiln close to the stone circle.

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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.

Callanish II
Callanish III

Calanais 3 (1)

Calanais 3 (2)
Callanish III

Calanais 3 (3)

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4 thoughts on “Callanish Stones

    1. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, and lots of interesting places to visit, particularly on the west side. In Stornoway there’s the new Museum nan Eilean and the Woodland Centre Cafe, both in the grounds of Lews Castle.

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