Lewis, Callanish

Avenue, Chambered Cairn, Stone Circle, Stone Row(s)

Site Name Lewis, Callanish

Classification Avenue, Chambered Cairn, Stone Circle, Stone Row(s)

Alternative Name(s) Callanish 1; Cnoc An Tursa; Standing Stones Of Callanish; Calanais

Canmore ID 4156

Site Number NB23SW 1

NGR NB 21300 33017

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Western Isles
  • Parish Uig
  • Former Region Western Isles Islands Area
  • Former District Western Isles
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Recording Your Heritage Online

Standing Stones, c.3,000 bc A ring of gneiss slabs surrounding a central monolith, with an avenue running north and single rows extending south, east and west. Erected on land that had already been cultivated, this remarkable ritualistic monument, older than Stonehenge, was originally just one row running southwards. Some 1,000 years later a crypt or chambered cairn was added in the centre. This was despoiled some 500 years later and then transformed into a house, an indication of the mixed uses to which the site has been put over the millennia. The long process by which it became enveloped in a blanket of peat began around 800 bc. The full extent of this awesome henge was not revealed again until 1857/8, when Sir James Matheson removed 1.5 m of bog. Callanish is the focus of an important group of stones and circles, part of the immensely rich prehistoric heritage of the Hebridean archipelago, which falls outwith the remit of this book.

Calanais Visitors' Centre, Michael Leybourne, Western Isles Council Technical Services Consultancy, 1995 Low-lying, kidney-shaped gallery carefully sited in the fall of the land, fusing new form and function with elements of the local vernacular. A curving timber clerestory offers sweeping views over the mountain fields and drowned valleys of this primeval landscape.

Taken from "Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Mary Miers, 2008. Published by the Rutland Press http://www.rias.org.uk

Archaeology Notes

NB23SW 1 21300 33017

Standing Stones of Callanish [NR]

Chambered Cairn [NR}

OS 1:10,000 map, 1974.

For miscellaneous finds in area (now in the Royal Museum of Scotland [RMS]) see NB23SW 23 (formerly recorded with NB23SW 1).

The Object Name Book (OS) decribes the stone circle thus: ' A circle of stones with one stone in the centre, two rows parallel to each other extending Northwards from the circle; one to the coast and one to the South. They are about forty in number. The inhabitants say that the numbers of these stones cannot be counted. They are the supposed remains of a druidical place of worship. They all stand on end at the distance of five and six yards from each other and are in a rough natural state as taken from the shore, it is stated that some of them are so large that it is inconceivable how they could have been brought to the place.

Name Book 1853

A megalithic setting with an obviously secondary (A S Henshall 1972) chambered cairn, and another cairn which is not necessarily part of the megalithic scheme.

The setting is basically a circle, with arms radiating approximately towards the cardinal points, the row to the north being double, forming an avenue, which is, however, closed by the arc of the circle. A single stone standing opposite the inmost of the southern alignment suggests that this may also have been double. Outside the SW arc of the circle is an outlier perhaps the rudiment or remains of a second circle (RCAHMS 1928). The stones are of unwrought Lewis gneiss, varying in thickness from 5 1/4" to 20", packed at base with small stones. The tallest, 15'7" high, stands in the centre of the circle; the others range down to 3'6". Matheson (J Matheson 1862) who had the site cleared of 5' of peat in the mid-19th century, mentions 'a rough causewayed pavement in which the circle stones are embedded'. (possibly the base packing)

The chambered cairn is set eccentrically within the circle, incorporating the central pillar within the line of its kerb on the west and two of the stones of the circle on the east. Cairn material still remains to a depth of 2' but the double chamber has been deroofed - probably in antiquity, since Matheson (J Matheson 1862) appears to have found it in much the same state as it is today. On the south side the cairn appears to be joined to a slightly raised causeway which runs down the south alignment.

The second cairn which impinges on the NE arc of the circle has been an oval of 18' by 14'; it is reduced to ground-level and the outline can just be traced. The site, unique in Scotland, lies on a hillock called 'Cnoc an Tursa' - 'Hill of Sorrow'. The stones are locally said to have been quarried from the nearly vertical face of the west side of the ridge Druim nan Eum. (NB 228 338)

J Matheson 1862; RCAHMS 1928; A S Henshall 1972.

As described and planned. Known locally as the 'Standing Stones of Callanish'.

Surveyed at 1/2500

Visited by OS (R L) 25 June 1969.

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