Callanish Stones - History and Facts | History Hit

Callanish Stones

Carloway, Scotland, United Kingdom

The Callanish Stones are a collection of Neolothic standing stones on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

Lily Johnson

29 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Callanish Stones

The Callanish Stones are a collection of neolithic standing stones on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Older than Stone Henge, the Callanish Stones provide an atmospheric look into some of Britain’s most ancient history.

Callanish Stones history

Likely built between 2900 and 2600 BC, the Callanish Stones are thought to once have been the site of ancient ritual practices, with historians suggesting its potential role as a lunar observatory. With the number of other neolithic sites in the area, Callanish has been placed as a focus for prehistoric religious activity in the area, with a number of folkloric stories since surrounding its use.

In the 17th century, the first written account of the stones claimed them to be men ‘converted into stone’ by an enchanter, and set up in a ring for devotional purposes. In another story from that period, locals reportedly told a visiting writer that the stones were ‘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.’

Whatever the true use of the stones, by around 1500-1000 BC they had fallen out of use after around 1,500 year of activity, and between 1000 BC and 500 BC were covered by peat. It was not until the mid-19th century that their true height was revealed.

Callanish Stones today

Located on a low ridge with the waters of Loch Roag and the hills of Great Bernera in the background, the Callanish Stones are a scenic yet imposing place to visit. The circle is comprised of 13 primary stones and measures 13m in diameter, with a solitary monolith standing 5m high at its heart alongside a chambered tomb.

There is an accompanying Visitor Centre, whose Story of the Stones exhibition provides a look into the 5,000-year-old site’s fascinating history. A shop and tearoom are also available on site, providing visitors a welcome refreshment following the brisk walk around the stones.

Getting to Callanish Stones

The Callanish Stones are located in Callanish on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, 12 miles from Stornoway off the A859. A ferry service operates from Ullapool on the mainland to Stornoway, following which a 20-minute drive will take you to the site, or alternatively bus service W2 runs directly to the Visitor Centre.

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