Calanais Standing Stones.

Start. Calanais Visitor Centre.

Route. Calanais Visitor Centre - Standing Stones - A858 - Calanais II - Calanais III - A858 - Calanais Visitor Centre.

Notes. Many theories abound to the origin and use of the various stone circles, standing stones and avenues of rock adorning the landscape at Calanais, truth is nobody really knows, whatever inspired there construction all agree that a visit to the standing stones is not to be missed. Having visited them myself I think I am qualified to say, there is definitely a presence on the hill amongst these sentinels raised around 5,000 years ago, without getting all spiritual which is easily done at Calanais, lets look at the facts. There are eighteen pre-historic sites in the Calanais complex, single stones to circles, ancient villages and settlements, chamber cairns and burial sites.

It's hard to believe that until 1857 the stone circles were buried under up to eight foot of peat, the product of sudden climate change around 3,000 years ago. Following the orders of the laird, his workforce begun excavating the only stone visible, what they unearthed was the finest stone age monument in the British Isles, second to non including the one on Salisbury Plane.

Our walk took in just three of the historic monuments, making for a pleasant half day stroll. We parked in the Visitors Centre car park, a path lead up the hill past the Visitors Centre, it was closed, it was Sunday, Lewis shuts down on Sundays, and Wednesday afternoons. Squally showers accompanied by a strong north-westerly wind welcomed us to the standing stones, undaunted we wandered around the monument drinking in the atmosphere before re-tracing our steps. Following the single track road we drove in on, we skirted the edge of Loch Ceann Hulabhaig soon passing a number of modern bungalows, at the road junction we continued east along the A858, after 200 yards a finger-post announced this was the route to Calanais II. A short walk up a drive to a small croft followed before a metal kissing gate allowed access to the standing stones. We found ourselves looking at a scattering of five stones, the guide book tells us originally ten monoliths stood on this site, evidence of post holes suggest there was a much earlier circle standing on this small hill.

Onward to Calanais III, duckboards aided our progress across boggy ground, at the top of a small rise we were met by more standing stones, Calanais III, a complex setting of seventeen stones with stunning views over a rolling landscape of peat bog and lochans. With dark cloud approaching quickly from the northwest it was time to make a move. Following a well used path north we soon reached the main road, we turned left to start the short walk over tarmac back to the shelter of the waiting car.

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Nearing the standing stones looking over Loch Ceann Hulabhaig to the Harris hills.

Stunning views from the standing stones at Calanais, to the right the grey slate roof of the Visitor Centre.

Calanais Standing Stones, even with a force eight blowing out of the northwest there's definitely an aura on this small hill amongst the stones. For stone circle buffs here's some statistics. A ring of large stones 39ft in diameter enclose a huge monolith at it's centre, also at the centre are the remains of a ring and chambered cairn, running north from the circle are two parallel lines of nineteen stones forming an avenue 262ft long.

At the heart of the circle a ring and chamber cairn.

Views over Loch Ceann Hulabhaig with the hills of Harris across the skyline.

Seen from the loch side lane, Beinn Scarastaigh, Culabhal and Smuaisebhal rise above the houses of Linsiadar.

Looking west across upper Loch Ceann Hulabhaig with Calanais Standing Stones clearly visible across the skyline.

An air of neglect, that was the impression I got from many of the croft's across the island, on the skyline Calanais III.

Calanais II, a condensed circle of five stones, originally ten stones stood on this site, even more interesting the evidence of post holes has been found, suggesting there was an earlier circle here roughly 32ft in diameter.

Calanais as seen over the tidal island of Eilean Orasaigh.

The remains of an abandoned croft, one of many deserted Shielings and small farming/fishing communities on the island, some abandoned to the peat encroachment, but most cleared in the 18th and early 19th centuries, a black one hundred year period in Scotland's history, when the highland people were cleared by their landlord to make way for the more profitable sheep.

Sue turns her back against the wind and rain, she's heading for the shelter of the standing stones.

The passing storm.

Loch Ceann Hulabhaig looking south.

Viewing the hills of Harris from the edge of Cnoc Fillibhir Bheag.

A typical slice of Lewis landscape.

Calanais III a complex setting of 17 stones just a few hundred yards from Calanais II.

Looking back to Calanais II and Loch Ceann Hulabhaig, with the main circle hardly visible now on the green hill to the right.

Music aficionados amongst you may recognize the stones here, on a stormy day in January 1984 rock band Ultravox lead by Midge Ure filmed part of a music video here, the stones later featured on their album cover Lament.

Looking north over the scattered community of Calanais....

....and south to the Hills of Harris.

Under darkening skies Loch Rog an Ear.

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