I want to see the Standing Stones of Calanais
I must go to Lewis in the Outer Hebrides
When Standing Stones are mentioned, it's the great majesty of Stonehenge that comes to mind, not a wind-scoured island at the northwest edge of Europe
I want to go to the chain of the Outer Hebrides, once an integral part of the Viking world and ruled by the Lordship of the Isles.
I want to see all the windy, rocky places, full of peatmoss and mystery.
I want to visit the misty Isle of Lewis, and see the Standing Stones of Calanais.
The Calanais or Callanish Stones
Biting deeply into the north west coast of Lewis is Loch Roag, whose eastern shore is home to the small linear settlement of Calanais.
There, on a hump of land between the village and its jetty, are the Calanais (or Callanish) Standing Stones. I want to see them.
I want to see them from a boat, as Diodorus Siculus did in 55 BCE.
Calanais Stones from the air
The Stones stand in a skewed cruciform shape, 53 pale grey stones of Lewisian gneiss, with at the heart a central circle of 13 tall stones.
From the centre, four limbs run out in line with the cardinal points of the compass
Buried in the Peat Bog
A local legend relates how the stone ring of Calanais was found many hundreds of years ago by a farmer looking for large rocks to build a wall.
Wandering across the desolate wind-swept moors of the Isle of Lewis, the farmer came upon a single large stone jutting from the ground.
With the intention of removing the stone, the farmer began to dig for its base.
As he dug deeper into the earth, other stones began to appear until finally he had brought to light the ancient ring of Calanais.
Climate change around 1000 BCE led to the formation of the blanket bogs which covered the stones.
Legends and Folk Memories
The stones are known as 'Fir Bhreig' meaning the false men, they may have been seen as petrified people in the distant past. Legend suggests the stones were giants, turned to stone by St Kieran when they would not convert to Christianity.
The stones were also said to have a spectral visitation on the dawn of the Midsummer Solstice. A shining figure is said to walk down Northern avenue heralded by the call of a Cuckoo. This may be a folk memory of astronomical alignments or seasonal ritual at the site.
The Moon and the Stones
Music of the Stones
Gentle Celtic-influence music to convey the mystery and magic of the Stones.
Perfect for relaxing and for moments of meditation
Mountains divide us ..
Mountains divide us, and a waste of seas; yet
Still the blood is strong; the heart is Highland
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides
I dream of the islands, and of the Standing Stones of Calanais.
How about you?
Have you seen any Standing Stones?
© 2010 Susanna Duffy