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Lewis, Garynahine, Airidh Nam Bidearan, 'tursachan'

Stone Circle (Neol/bronze Age)

Site Name Lewis, Garynahine, Airidh Nam Bidearan, 'tursachan'

Classification Stone Circle (Neol/bronze Age)

Canmore ID 4143

Site Number NB22NW 1

NGR NB 2342 2989

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. 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

Archaeology Notes

NB22NW 1 2342 2989.

(NB 2342 2989) Stone Circle (NR) (remains of)

OS 6" map, (1965)

Five standing stones apparently forming the western arc of a large circle. They vary from 2'6" to 3'6" in height.

Without excavation it is impossible to say whether some 'stones' just appearing above the peat further down the slope are pillar stones or earth-fast boulders.

RCAHMS 1928, visited 1914

An arc of five upright slabs on a N facing slope. Although situated in a skyline position when viewed from the W, the fact that two of the stones are set very close to each other whilst the others are widely spaced, and the total lack of others on the circumference of a deduced circle of c.100.0m, casts doubt on this being the remains of a stone circle. It is possible that they form part of a field or enclosure wall, but if so any other trace of it is under the peat. The stones further down the slope appear to be out-cropping natural boulders.

Visited by OS (A A) 9 July 1969.

Scheduled as Airidh nam Bidearan, standing stones.

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 6 June 1994.


Field Visit (2015)

NB 215 350 – NB 234 299 There is a series of standing stones spread around the Callanish area where many well known standing stone sites, circles and rows, are located. They are about 1.0m high and set either singly or in rows. Many of them are flattened stones stood with their axes aligned unequivocally towards a point on the horizon. These somewhat inconspicuous stones are located at stances from which the S extreme moon’s path can be seen cutting the horizon at rising, setting, grazing or briefly reappearing. The ‘sacred horizon’ over which the S extreme moon’s path arched low consists of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and Roineval (her pillow) to the SE, and the Clisham range of hills with the deep valley of Glen Langadale to the SW.

These stones are not set in a straight line, W–E across the countryside and are scattered at different OD, enabling the moon to be observed against a specific horizon features of the ‘sacred landscape’ eg Sleeping Beauty’s knees or the left slope of the Clisham. The sea level is thought to have risen c5m since the first stones were erected. The last stance (site XIII) is covered by high spring tides nowadays. The highest stance is site V, at 44.47m OD.

NB 234 299 Callanish V On the E slope of Druim nam Bidearan is an alignment of four stones (one of which lies prone) running diagonally uphill. It is the most southerly of the S extreme moon observation stances, 4km from Site I at Callanish. Looking S along the row of four stones a large angular boulder can be seen at the far end of the hillslope, almost 100m away, distinct on the sub-horizon. The far, true horizon behind the boulder is 17km away and is formed from knees of the Sleeping Beauty, where the S extreme moon rise occurs. If seen from the stones of the alignment, only Sleeping Beauty’s knees protrude above the hillslope. Standing a few paces uphill of the alignment, none of the Sleeping Beauty is visible. Standing a few paces downhill of the alignment, more of the Sleeping Beauty can be seen. The four stones of the alignment are at a critical location pin pointing the junction of near and far

horizons: a method used elsewhere (eg Callanish VIII). There is another alignment of stones running off to the NE which marks the minor N moonrise. Other stones further down the hillslope, protruding from the peat suggest the possibility of more lunar settings.

NB 230 304 Callanish IV The elliptical stone setting of Site IV stands in deep peat, some of which was cut away by Worsae in 1846. A 20th-century drain was cut to remove water from inside the site, exposing the smaller stones of a central cairn. The tallest cairn stone is a flattened slab set on edge with an attitude of 162.5°. Seen from Site IV, the lower part of Sleeping Beauty is hidden by a nearby hill where quartz was quarried prehistorically (Cnoc Dubh). Only Sleeping Beauty’s face and torso can be seen 13km away. Seen from backsite ‘D’, the S extreme moon rose from this short stretch of horizon and set only a few minutes later. Site IV is also involved in viewing the S extreme moon set seen from rocky outcrop A, c150m N. Site IV is also involved in the view from Site XVII with the final re-gleam of the moon in Glen Langadale.

NB 218 331 Callanish XIX The blocky single stone at Site XIX, by a blackhouse ruin, is 1.0m N–S by 0.45m E–W by 0.70m tall. Broken facets around the sides and ends of the stone reflect damage. The long axes of the stone appear to indicate Roineval, Sleeping Beauty’s pillow. The low S extreme moon’s path skimmed Roineval c24km away. This could have been used to judge how close to the actual S extreme it was. Site XVI has a similar alignment.

NB 2268 3207 Callanish XXVII In the peaty expanse of the lower slopes of Cnoc Fillibhir Mhor is a 6m alignment of four orthostats, 1.65km SE of site I, their tops barely protrude from the peat. Viewed SW along the row, Clisham can be seen on the horizon. The S extreme moon set into the left slope of Clisham. The location and orientation of this stone row unequivocally mark the S extreme moon touching down on Clisham. This site could have been used to record the 173 day perturbation cycle, by observation of the point at which the moon intersects the Clisham.

NB 215 341 Callanish XIII This possible/probable site is on a small tidal island now covered at high spring tides. A trimmed slab, 1.3 x 0.5m by 0.10m thick lies on the sparse vegetation of the island. The dimensions suggest that it was one of the series of stones marking stances for viewing the S extreme moon on the horizon, which has been dressed on all faces intended for use as a lintel or gravestone etc. These orthostats are c1m high allowing for

a quarter of the length beneath the surface of the soil. From this location the stones of Callanish I are visible in front of Cnoc an Tursa 900m away and Clisham behind that. The S extreme moon sets into the Clisham above the stones of the circle. Realisation that site XIII fits the series of stances for viewing the S extreme moon on the horizon gives more credence to this being a genuine prehistoric location.

NB 213 338 Callanish XVI (Cliacabhaigh) This area has been disturbed; however, three stones conforming to the criteria of flattened slabs with a definite axes c1m high can be found in the area. One free standing, one in a wall and one almost submerged in a cultivation ridge, which measured c0.97 x 0.75 x 0.16m. The three stones have different orientations. There may well have been more stones before crofting disturbances. The free standing stone (1m long by 0.3m thick by 1m high) is 15m E of a minor road which rises to the first summit N of Site I. It is orientated at 118/298° neither direction relating to the sacred horizon. It stands 800m from the tall stone in the centre of Site I. Given that there is an accurate N–S line running N from the burial cairn on Cnoc an Tursa, via a line of pits, the stones of the S row grazing the tall stone in the centre of the circle, to the general area of Site XVI, one might expect an orthostat to stand at due N. There is no visible evidence of this stone, which would have been located at the E edge of the tarmac road, but excavation might find evidence of a stone socket oriented N–S. The azimuth of the nearby submerged stone in the crofting area was determined by probing at 162°. This may relate to the rising of the S extreme moon, first appearance against Sleeping Beauty’s torso. If the stone is in its original position it indicated the S extreme moons lift-off from Roineval at 169°.

NB 237 320 Callanish XVII (Druim na h’aon Cloich) The fallen and broken stone at this location measures 1.7m long. Allowing for the part in the socket, it would have been 1.5m high, has an irregular surface and tapers to the top. It does not conform to the general idea of c1m high slabs with their axes clearly indicating a horizon feature relating to the S extreme moon. Seen from Site XVII is a deep valley, Glen Langadale at 200°, where the S extreme moon appears briefly over Site IV circle. This is the last appearance of the moon as its S extreme when viewed from this position. Excavation of the socket might identify the stones orientation.

NB 215 350 Callanish XII This stone is in situ having been protected by Mrs Perrins of Garynahine during the building of houses in the area. The orthostat of Site XII is the second site which does not conform to the criteria outlined above (c1m high with clear orientation). Its flattish E face leads the eye to the right of Glen Langadale and to the hill of Uisgnaval. Depending on the 173 day perturbation cycle, the moon would have set in the right hand side of Glen

Langadale, Teilesval at c194.5° – 197.5°. This would be the very last sighting of the S extreme moon.

NB 2158 3486 Callanish Site? (Aird na Moine) (DES 2001, 104) This stone was brought to my attention by the late Simon Fraser of Callanish. It stood in the line of a fence. It was 0.60m E–W, 0.85m tall and 0.08m thick with 0.40m below ground level. There were four or five packing stones at its base. Its orientation of 65°/245° differs from the line of the fence and does not relate to the S extreme moon on its own. However, it may be that it and the nearby

Site XII stone were the remains of a level alignment (same height) marking the last sighting of the S extreme moon. The orthostat was deliberately removed by a crofter and the field re-landscaped.

All horizon profiles relating to the above sites (except for Callanish XXVII) can be found in BAR British Series Monographs 88 (1981). This spread of orthostats, potentially relating to the southern extreme moon, Sleeping Beauty and the Clisham Hills would be notable even if none of the standing stone circles stood in the vicinity.

Margaret Curtis

(Source: DES, Volume 16)


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