The Callanish Stones (or "Callanish I", Clachan Chalanais or Tursachan Chalanais in Scottish Gaelic) are an arrangement of standing stones placed in a cruciform pattern with a central stone circle. They were erected in the late Neolithic era, and were a focus for ritual activity during the Bronze Age. They are near the village of Callanish (Gaelic: Calanais) on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland.
The stone circle at the centre of the Callanish Stones
Shown within Outer Hebrides
|Alternative name||Callanish I|
|Type||Stone circle and rows|
|Periods||Neolithic, Bronze Age|
Numerous other ritual sites lie within a few kilometres. These include at least three other circles, several arcs, alignments and single stones; many visible from the main site. The most impressive – Callanish II and Callanish III – lie just over a kilometre southeast of the main Callanish Stones, and originally consisted of circles of stones at least eight in number. The existence of other monuments in the area implies that Callanish was an active focus for prehistoric religious activity for at least 1500 years. (see Callanish III, Callanish IV, Callanish VIII and Callanish X).
The Callanish Stones are managed by Historic Environment Scotland. There is The Calanais Stones Visitor Centre operated by Urras Nan Tursachan (The Standing Stones Trust).
The Callanish Stones consist of a stone circle of thirteen stones with a monolith near the middle. Five rows of standing stones connect to this circle. Two long rows of stones running almost parallel to each other from the stone circle to the north-northeast form a kind of avenue. In addition, there are shorter rows of stones to the west-southwest, south and east-northeast. The stones are all of the same rock type, namely the local Lewisian gneiss. Within the stone circle is a chambered tomb to the east of the central stone.
The central monolith stands 0.8 metres west of the true centre of the stone circle. The stone is 4.8 metres high, 1.5 metres wide and 0.3 metres thick. The largest sides of the stone are almost perfectly oriented to the north and south. The monolith has the shape of a ship's rudder and probably weighs about seven tonnes.
The stone circle consists of thirteen stones and has a diameter of 11.4 metres. The stone circle is not a perfect circle, but is a ring with a flattened east side (13.4 metres north-south by 12 metres east-west). The stones have an average height of three metres. The ring covers an area of 124 square metres. This is quite small compared to similar circles, including the nearby Callanish II which is 2.5 times as large.
The avenue connects to the stone circle from the north-northeast. The avenue is 83.2 metres long. The avenue has 19 stones remaining: nine stones are on the eastern side, ten on the western side. The largest stone is 3.5 metres high and stands on the western end of the row. The two rows are not exactly parallel to each other but fan out: at the north end the rows are 6.7 metres apart, while the distance between the rows is 6 metres at the south end. From the circle the height of the stones decreases towards the middle of the avenue; from there the height increases again. The stones of the eastern side of the avenue have only three-quarters of the height of the stones on the western side.
As well as the two stone rows of the avenue, there are three stone rows connecting to the circle. One comes from the east-northeast, one from the south, and one from the west-southwest. The east-northeast row today consists of five stones and is 23.2 metres long. The southern row consists of five stones and is 27.2 metres long. The west-southwest row consists of four stones and is 13 metres long.
None of the stone rows is aimed at the centre of the stone circle. The east-northeast row is aligned to a point 2 metres south of the centre; the south row points to 1 metre west of the centre and the west-southwest row points to 1 metre south of the centre.
Between the central and the eastern monolith of the stone circle is a chambered tomb 6.4 metres long. This was built later than the stone circle and is squashed in between the eastern stones and the central monolith.
There is another stone cairn just on the northeast side of the stone circle. It has been reduced to ground-level and the outline can barely be traced. It is not necessarily an original part of the site.
There were limited excavations in 1980–81 which provided some information on the development of the site. The first traces of human activity are indicated by a broad ditch (no longer visible above ground) which appears to have belonged to some structure or enclosure. This may have been ritual, but could instead have been domestic. In the centuries around 3000 BC, however, the site was turned over to agriculture, which obliterated most of the earlier traces. After this, the site was allowed to grass over for a time.
The stone circle was set up between 2900 and 2600 BC. It is not clear whether the stone alignments were constructed at the same time as the circle, or later. Some time after the erection of the stones, a small chambered tomb was inserted into the eastern part of the stone circle. The many pottery fragments found indicate that the tomb was used for several centuries. These pottery fragments included not only the local Hebridean pots, but numerous sherds of beaker vessels (dating to around 2000–1700 BC) and sherds of grooved ware.
Around 1500–1000 BC the complex fell out of use and was despoiled by the later Bronze Age farmers. Fragments of pots appear to have been cast out of the chamber. This may have been just ordinary agriculture, but it may conceivably have been ritual cleansing. There appears to have been a later rebuilding of the tomb, but this may have been for domestic use as there is no evidence for any later ritual use of the monument. Between 1000 BC and 500 BC the stones were covered by a thick layer of turf. It is estimated that the place was abandoned around 800 BC. Only in 1857 was the overlying 1.5 metres of peat removed.
The first written reference to the stones was by Lewis native John Morisone, who around 1680 wrote that the stones were men "converted into stone by ane Inchanter" and set up in a ring "for devotione". Sometime around 1695 Martin Martin visited the site and was told by the local people that "it was a place appointed for worship in the time of heathenism, and that the chief druid or priest stood near the big stone in the centre, from whence he addressed himself to the people that surrounded him." In his 1726 work on the druids, John Toland specifically identified Diodorus Siculus' Hyperborea with Lewis, and the "spherical temple" mentioned by Diodorus with the Callanish Stones. In 1743, William Stukeley described the stone circle as a druid circle and the avenue like a serpent. In 1819, geologist John MacCulloch published the first accurate description. In 1846, the Danish historian J. J. A. Worsaae made a sketch and plan of the Callanish Stones.
In 1857 peat to a depth of five feet (1.5 metres) was cleared away, under the orders of the proprietor of Lewis, James Matheson, revealing the chambered tomb and the true height of the stones. In 1885 the Callanish Stones were taken into state care.
Alexander Thom and Gerald Hawkins suggested that the stones were a prehistoric lunar observatory. Others have proposed a relationship between the stones, the moon and the Clisham range on Harris. Critics of these theories argue that several alignments are likely to exist purely by chance in any such structure, and many factors such as the weathering and displacement of the stones over the millennia mean there can be no certainty of any alignments, original or otherwise.
According to one tradition, the Callanish Stones were petrified giants who would not convert to Christianity. In the 17th century the people of Lewis were calling the stones fir bhrèige ("false men"). Another legend is that early on midsummer morning an entity known as the "Shining One" walks the length of the avenue, his coming heralded by the call of the cuckoo.
There are many other sites nearby; not all are now visible. There was, for instance, a timber circle 0.5 km south at Loch Roag.
Amhuinnsuidhe Castle is a large private country house on the Isle of Harris, one of the Western Isles of Scotland.
The house was completed in 1867 for the 7th Earl of Dunmore, the then owner of the island, and was originally named Fincastle. Amhuinnsuidhe was designed in the Scottish baronial style by architect David Bryce. In 2003 Amhuinnsuidhe Castle Estate purchased the castle and the fishing rights, while the North Harris Estate was transferred into community ownership. The castle is now operated as a venue for shooting parties and other events.Arnol
Arnol (Scottish Gaelic: Àrnol) is a small village typical of many settlements of the west coast of the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Arnol is within the parish of Barvas, and is situated on the A858.Once a thriving township with over forty crofts, it now has a population of about 100 and supports a much lower number of active crofters. It is the location of the Blackhouse Museum, owned by Historic Environment Scotland.Barra Airport
Barra Airport (Scottish Gaelic: Port-adhair Bharraigh) (IATA: BRR, ICAO: EGPR) (also known as Barra Eoligarry Airport) is a short-runway airport (or STOLport) situated in the wide shallow bay of Traigh Mhòr at the northern tip of the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. The airport is unique, being the only one in the world where scheduled flights use a beach as the runway. The airport is operated by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited, which owns most of the regional airports in mainland Scotland and the outlying islands. Barra Airport opened in 1936.Callanish
Callanish (Scottish Gaelic: Calanais) is a village (township) on the west side of the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides (Western Isles), Scotland. Callanish is within the parish of Uig. A linear settlement with a jetty, it is on a headland jutting into Loch Roag, a sea loch 13 miles west of Stornoway. Callanish is situated alongside the A858, between Breasclete and Garynahine.The Callanish Stones, a cross-shaped setting of standing stones erected around 3000 BC, are one of the most spectacular megalithic monuments in Scotland. A modern visitor centre provides information about the main circle and other lesser monuments nearby.Callanish IV
The Callanish IV stone circle (Scottish Gaelic: Ceann Hulavig) is one of many megalithic structures around the better-known (and larger) Calanais I on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides (Western Isles), Scotland.Eilean Chearstaidh
Eilean Kearstay (Scottish Gaelic: Eilean Chearstaigh) is an uninhabited island in Loch Roag in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.
It lies south east of Great Bernera, just across the water from the headland of Callanish.
In 1990 the island was sold by Prince Robin de la Lanne-Mirrlees to an Australian. It was sold to new owners three years later.Eilean Fladday
Eilean Fladday (also Fladda) is a previously populated, tidal island off Raasay, near Skye, Scotland.Fuaigh Beag
Fuaigh Beag or Vuia Be(a)g is an island in the Outer Hebrides. It is off the west coast of Lewis near Great Bernera in Loch Roag. Its name means "little Fuaigh", and is named in contrast to Fuaigh Mòr nearby.Garynahine
Garynahine (Scottish Gaelic: Gearraidh na h-aibhne) is a settlement on Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Garynahine is situated at a T-junction where roads from Stornoway, Uig and the west side of Lewis all meet. The roads are the A858 and the B8011. Garynahine is within the parish of Uig.Garynahine is the location of some outliers of the Callanish stones ('Ceann Hulavig'), an elliptical ring of five standing stones, 13.3 m x 9.5 m in diameter.
Nearby Garynahine Lodge is situated close to the shores of Loch Roag, which opens on to the Atlantic Ocean. It is part of the
Garynahine Estate, extending to nearly 12,000 acres (49 km2) with approximately 40 freshwater trout lochs.
Located in the village of Garynahine, Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, local weaver/designer John R. MacLean produces double width traditional Harris Tweed, recognised as one of the world's finest fabrics.Hascosay
Hascosay (Old Norse "Hafskotsey") is a small island lying between Yell and Fetlar in the Shetland Islands, Scotland.Holm of Grimbister
Holm of Grimbister is an inhabited tidal islet in the Orkney archipelago of Scotland. Located in the Bay of Firth near Finstown it is connected to Mainland Orkney by a causeway.Jehovahkill
Jehovahkill is the eighth album by Julian Cope, released in 1992. After the critical success of Peggy Suicide (1991), Cope's idea for Jehovakill was to incorporate a krautrock attitude into his music. He began recording the album with musicians Rooster Cosby and Donald Ross Skinner, while co-producing it with the latter. The sessions yielded what Cope considered to be his most sonically experimental material to date. Originally titleing the record Julian H. Cope, he sent an eleven track version to Island Records, who initially rejected its release, but relentfully gave Cope extra recording sessions for the album. During the extra sessions, in which six extra songs were recorded, the album became harder and was retitled Jehovahkill.
Inspired by prehistoric monuments, the album features ancient, pre-Christian heathen and pagan themes, while commenting on "the destructivness of mainstream religion." The theme spread to the packaging, with the album cover depicting the Callanish Stones, a site with a cruciform layout that predates Christ by at least 2,000 years. Musically, the album combines krautrock with a dark folk sound. Upon release, it charted at number 20 on the UK Albums Chart, though Island Records dropped him soon after its release, leading to outrage in the music press. Upon release, the album proved to be one of Cope's biggest critical successes. Select later named it the 36th best album of the 1990s, and NME named it the 95th greatest British album ever. A deluxe edition was released in 2006.Lewis Loom Centre
The Lewis Loom Centre is located in Stornoway, Lewis, in ScotlandReligion in the Outer Hebrides
The Outer Hebrides are a unique religious area in contemporary Scotland and Britain. The northern island (Lewis and Harris) is dominated by Calvinist 'free churches', and has been described as "the last bastion of Sabbath observance in the UK". It is also home to a unique form of Gaelic psalm singing known as precenting. The southern islands of South Uist and Barra are the last remnants of native pre-Reformation Scottish Catholicism. Barra was once dubbed "the island the Reformation did not reach".The Outer Hebrides are also home to some of Britain's most important pre-Christian religious sites. The most significant is the Callanish Stones on the isle of Lewis, which are notable megalithic sites dating back some 5000 years - older than Stonehenge.Soay, Inner Hebrides
Soay (Scottish Gaelic: Sòdhaigh, pronounced [ˈs̪ɔː.aj]) is an inhabited island just off the coast of Skye, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Soay has a population of 3.Tarner Island
Tarner Island is a triangular shaped island in Loch Bracadale just off the coast off the Harlosh peninsula of Skye in Scotland. It is about 28 hectares (69 acres) in extent.
The coastline is largely cliff-lined and rocky and there is a natural arch to the north. Tarner Island is only about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) from mainland Skye and there are several skerries including Sgeir Mhòr and Sgeir Bheag that lies just offshore to the north east between the island and Colbost Head. Wiay and the tidal islet of Oronsay lie about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) to the south.Trondra
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Vacsay (Scottish Gaelic: Bhacsaigh from Old Norse "bakkiey" meaning "peat bank island") is one of the Outer Hebrides. It is off the west coast of Lewis in West Loch Roag. It is 41 hectares (0.16 square miles) in size, and 34 metres (112 feet) at its highest point.Whalsay
Whalsay (Old Norse: Hvalsey or Hvals-øy, meaning 'Whale Island') is the sixth largest of the Shetland Islands in Scotland.
Prehistoric Western Isles
|Other Neolithic Sites|
|Bronze and Iron Age Sites|
|on North Uist,|
and South Uist
|Places of interest|