An unusual stone setting on the Isle of Lewis
Following on from my last post about Callanish Stones, this is a little group of standing stones on the nearby island of Great Bernera. They are not in the immediate vicinity of the Callanish Stones and its neighbouring stone settings but they are designated as Callanish VIII and are just over 3 miles away as the crow flies – or if you were to cross Loch Roag by boat.
Going by car they seem much further away, as the road to Great Bernera has to wind its way inland round the long tendrils of Loch Roag. The drive is well worth it for the scenery on the way and then the chance to cross over onto another island. Each of the smaller inhabited islands of the Outer Hebrides has its own unique character, even though nowadays they are all joined to the larger islands by bridges or causeways.
In 1953 a bridge was built to link the island with the rest of Lewis and these stones sit just above this rather striking white bridge. They aren’t very prominent from the road but once you walk up to them and experience their setting in the landscape you can appreciate why they were built here. They stand like sentinels keeping watch over the deep waters of the sound, with views along the sea lochs to the east and west and to the distant hills.
It is certainly an unusual stone setting and its position is unusual too, being set on the edge of a 12m high cliff above the water and with a steep hillside rising above it.
There are 3 tall standing stones and 2 small ones, all facing south, although there is evidence that there were orignally 4 or 5 large stones, rather than just the 3 standing today. Quite a number of packing stones can be seen at the base of some of them and these have since been cemented into place.
The part of the site where the western stone stands had been built up to form a level platform and then the ground was covered in cobbles. Excavations found that the cobbles extended to the cliff edge, where a retaining wall had been built.
Although it is thought that the site was most likely used to witness solar and lunar events, I can’t help thinking of the stones as a family group looking out across the water. Looking down on them from the hill above they seem to take on human-like form, particularly as each stone gets its own character from the way it has been cut and the way the Lewisian gneiss gives it its own unique patterns.