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Lewis, Beinn Bheag

Cairn(S) (Period Unassigned), Shieling Hut(S) (Post Medieval), Standing Stone (Prehistoric), Stone(S) (Period Unassigned), Axehead (Stone)

Site Name Lewis, Beinn Bheag

Classification Cairn(S) (Period Unassigned), Shieling Hut(S) (Post Medieval), Standing Stone (Prehistoric), Stone(S) (Period Unassigned), Axehead (Stone)

Alternative Name(s) Airigh Na Beinn Bige; Callanish Xi

Canmore ID 4151

Site Number NB23NW 3

NGR NB 2223 3569

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

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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

NB23NW 3 2223 3569.

Mrs Margaret Ponting, Olcote, New Park, Callanish has a stone axe she found in 1976 at NB 2223 3569. It was found within a few yards of what may be a fallen standing stone. Dr Close-Brooks has a drawing of the axe.

Information contained in letter from J Close-Brooks (National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland [NMAS]) to OS, 5 October 1976.

'A standing stone and broken, displaced or buried portions of seven more, plus sockets for at least three further stones, either removed or never emplaced, together with the remains of two burial cairns and a group of later shieling huts.'

Information from Historic Scotland, January 1993.

NB 222 356 The larger cairn is 11.5m long by 9.3m broad, and stands 2.25m above the lowest surrounding ground to the SE. Eleven kerb stones can be traced around the perimeter, the largest appearing to be 0.75m long, but much of the perimeter is buried by tumble and grass. Within the area it is disturbed and there is hummocky grass and many exposed stones, the largest being 0.95m long. There is a hint of a chamber given by another flat slab near the centre and two voids which could be rabbit holes.

Attached to the W side there is an arc, outside the kerb, formed by six more kerb stones extending for about 1m by 2m.

The cairn has been robbed to build a semi-modern stone shelter on top. The walling, about 0.4m to 0.6m thick, with two or three courses faced both to the inside and outside, has an outside diameter of about 2.4m and appears to be D-shaped internally.

It is located on undulating ground on a natural 'shelf' on the S shoulder of the hill, 39m E of the standing stone known as Callanish Site II.

The smaller cairn is 6.9m long and 5.1m broad, and stands about 1.5m high above the lowest ground. Six kerb stones appear to be in place, one being 0.85m long and another being 0.8m high. Internally it is disturbed and there are many stones and uneven grass.

It has been robbed to build a now-ruined 'sunken' shelter or shieling, 4.5m by 2.25m internally, lying 9.5m to the SE.

The cairn is 19m S of the larger cairn and 43m from the standing stone II.

M R Curtis and G R Curtis 1995.

NB 222 356 Survey work has established that the single standing stone, stone stumps, prostrate stones, other broken stones and packing stones at this site (DES 1976, 58) should be regarded as the remains of a stone circle. They mark the positions where eight standing stones once stood in a circle of about 51m diameter. The circle may have consisted of at least 13 standing stones. These eight positions are not continuous but extend along 7% and 39% of the perimeter.

Local knowledge records that in the 19th century this stone circle was used as a source of lintels for the houses shown on the 1853 1st edition OS map, at NB 2158 3508. There is still a metal wedge embedded in a crack in the remaining standing stone.

M R Curtis and G R Curtis 2002.


Field Visit

NB 222 356 On the S face of Beinne na Bige is a gently sloping terrace at c75m OD. On it there are the remains of a stone circle Callanish Xl (DES 1976, 58; DES 1995, 110; DES 2002, 123–124). The circle, c51m in diameter almost fills the terrace. There is evidence of eight standing stones but the circle may have consisted of at least 13 standing stones originally.

From the terrace and above, almost all the 40+ Callanish standing stone sites are visible below the ‘sacred’ horizon of the Sleeping Beauty and Clisham range of hills. The Airigh Mhaoldó Nuich site XVl monolith (now fallen) marks the direction of site Vlll where the S extreme moon skims along a different skyline (DES 1976, 57; 1985, 8; 1987, 61; 1988, 32; 1989, 72; 1989, 109; 1990, 49).

The basic ground plan of the Callanish circles is such that seen from a backsight position (D) to the NW of a circle, the circle stones frame Sleeping Beauty and the S extreme moonrise appeared to take place within the circle.

Seen from a backsight position (A) to the NE of the circle some four hours later, when the S extreme moon briefly appeared in the deep valley of Glen Langadale, a person (either at the circle centre (B) or beyond it) (C) would have been silhouetted against the moon : ‘a man in the moon’. These two backsight positions (D and A) were sometimes marked with stones, eg at Callanish lll (Callanish Stones, Moon and Sacred Landscape 1994 Ron and Margaret Curtis, p8–9, p12–13).

This basic ground plan and use of stone circles was not possible at site Xl due to the steep rising ground to the N of the terrace and less steep ground to the S of the terrace. From a position even higher on the hill, all the complete circle of site Xl is seen to extend from below Sleeping Beauty’s feet on the left to Glen Langadale on the right: ie the complete

path of the S extreme moon occurs above the circle of site Xl.

Thus backsight positions for the moonrise and moonset are combined with a view to due S.

University of Glasgow Department of Geography published in 1978 Callanish: A map of the Standing stones and Circles at Callanish, Isle of Lewis, with a detailed plan of each site. It had a number of errors. The survey was undertaken in 1974. It was the first published record of site Xl. It shows the erect stone and five stones which have fallen from the steep

slope, forming an apparent alignment. Ponting and Curtis (DES 1976, 58) realised that the five stones were natural, and that other features existed on the plateau on the edge of a large circle. It was many years before M and R Curtis fully understood how the stone circle was modified from a

general ground plan and how it ‘worked’. M Curtis found the circle and probed the whole area in the 1970s. R and M Curtis finally ‘solved’ Callanish Xl in 2006.

MR Curtis and Ron Curtis

(Source: DES)


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