Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

All our staffed properties, sites and offices, including the HES Archives and Library, are currently closed, but we’re working on plans to gradually reopen. In the meantime, you can access our services online. Find out more.

Scheduled Website Maintenance 14/07/20 00:00 – 04:00GMT – There will be periods of time during this window when this website will be unavailable.

Publication Account

Date 1985

Event ID 1018864

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


The main site stands on the southern end of a ridge of rock, on the east shore of Loch Roag. It is visible from a considerable distance in some directions and is particularly impressive when seen against the skyline.

The plan is unique: a circle of standing stones, with an avenue, or double line, of stones to the north, and, to the south, east and west, single lines of stones. Most are slabs of Lewisian gneiss, set with their long axes on the line of the setting of which they form part Thirteen stones, up to 3.5m in height, fonn a circle just over 5m in diameter, with a tall central monolith

standing to a height of 4.75m. To the north, lines of ten and nine stones form the west and east sides of an avenue about 82m long. The spacing and height of these stones is irregular; there are long gaps at the northern end, but the northernmost stones of each line may mark the original end of the avenue, particularly as one is squarish in section and the other stands at right angles to the line. The western line contains four stones and the eastern five, the outermost recently raised from beneath its covering of peat and replaced upright in its original socket. The southern line also contains five stones, and close to the circle there is an extra stone to east and west of this line; the eastern one was placed there in the nineteenth century and may not be part of the original plan. The southern line of stones is almost precisely on a north-south line, but the other lines and the avenue do not mark true cardinal points in relation to the circle.

Until the mid-19th century a thick growth of peat partially covered the stones and the lower parts of some of them are still slightly paler as a result of this. The peat was stripped by Sir James Matheson, proprietor of the island, in 1857, revealing the remains of a small circular chambered cairn within the eastern half of the circle. Several kerb-stones are still visible, and two stones of the circle on the east side are also incorporated on either side of the entrance passage; the central monolith stands within the western edge of the cairn. The entrance passage is on the east side, and both it and the chamber are mainly of drystone construction, though the chamber has portal stones, and a further two upright slabs divide it into two compartments. Minute fragments of bone, assumed to be human, were found in the chamber, but the tomb must have been robbed in antiquity before it was completely covered by peat

A large oval heap of stones to the south-west of the circle, near the perimeter fence, bears a superficial resemblance to a chambered cairn; it is, however, related to the hamlet that formerly stood near the monument and is almost certainly a corn-drying kiln.

The circle with its associated lines of stones is the most imposing of a group of circles at the head of Loch Roag. The circle known as Cnoc Ceann a' Gharaidh (Callanish II) is situated at the end of a track near the south end of the Callanish loop roadi this is an ellipse of seven stones, two of which are prostrate, with a ruined cairn near the centre. The circle known as noc

Fillibhir (Callanish lID is visible from the A 858 to the south-east of the main circle. Access is by wooden steps over the fence. This appears to have been a double circle, the inner represented by four standing stones, and the outer by eight standing stones as well as five which have fallen.

Another circle, known as Garynahine or Ceann Hulavig (Callanish IV) can be seen to the west of the Uig road (B 8011) on a hill about 1.5km south of Garynahine Lodge. Five impressive stones form an oval (13m by 9m); the centre has been excavated and appears to contain an upright stone surrounded by a small cairn.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Argyll and the Western Isles’, (1985).

People and Organisations