Calanais Standing Stones

Callanish, Isle Of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, HS2 9DY

Type:Monuments & Ruins

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A visit to the stones of Calanais is always stunning, and can be quite a different experience at varying times of the year, and in varying light conditions. One of the most remarkable aspects of the site is its relationship to the landscape within which it sits, from its dominating ridge it has uninterrupted views to the distant horizon around 360 degrees. It provides a perfect opportunity to observe the rising and settings of moon and sun and other celestial bodies, and there can be little doubt that this was one of the central functions of Calanais.

It is believed by many that the hills on the southern horizon, known locally as Cailleach na Mòintich (Old woman of the Moors) resembles a recumbent female figure, which may have had great resonance in the minds of early farmers who depended on the fertility of the earth. It is also known that, at this latitude, both the sun and the moon demonstrate wide variance over their cycles. The moon in particular ranges dramatically over an 18.6 year cycle, and the stones may have been partly conceived to take particular notice of this phenomenon. Today again, many people gather at the critical time, hoping to observe the moon rise out of the body of Cailleach na Mòintich, skim low over the horizon, set behind the hill of Cnoc an Tursa, and reappear at the foot of the monolith at the centre of the circle, seeing this is as an ancient manifestation of the idea of "birth, life, death, and rebirth". The last lunar major event was in 2006/7: the next will be 2025.

Even before 1857 when the site was stripped of its overburden of peat, returning the stones to their full Neolithic splendour, Calanais has attracted the attention of visitors and antiquarians. Limited modern excavations have been carried out there since the 1970s, first to understand more fully the meaning and development of the site, and then to locate the settlements and fields of the farming peoples who built the stones and presumably worshipped at them. The story has started to be told, but there is still so much yet to understand.

The standing stones at Calanais are the centrepiece of a ritual landscape filled with other, related stone circles and settings, just as a great cathedral relates to its many smaller churches and chapels. Closest at hand are Calanais II, III and IV.

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  • Other AwardsGold Listing Gold Listing 2013
  • Other AwardsTripadvisor Certificate of Excellence Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence 2014
  • Other AwardsOuter Hebrides Tourism Member Outer Hebrides Tourism Member 2020

Opening Times

Season (1 Jan 2023 - 31 Dec 2023)

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