Calanais (Callanish I)

Stone circle and rows
Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides
Nearest town: Stornoway
Nearest village: Callanish
Map reference: NB 213331

Calanais Image These silvery stones are made of Lewisian gneiss

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This site dates from about 1800 BC, but precise dates and proven functions have been hard to establish. Callanish I consists of a 13.1 x 11.3m (43 x 37 ft) circle of 13 tall slender Lewisian gneiss stones. In the middle is another stone, the tallest of all (4.75m/15 ft 6 in). Four incomplete avenues lead away, with single rows of stones to the east, south and west, and a double row just east of north. Had all the rows been completed, their axial alignments would have converged at the centre stone.
    Inside the circle are the remains of a chambered round cairn of Neolithic type, but archaeologists are undecided whether this was built before or after the stone circle and stone rows. Professor Alexander Thom finds that looking south along the line of the stone avenue gives the point at which midsummer full moon sets behind Clisham.
    In the same area there are several other stone circles, like Cnoc Ceann a'Gharaidh (Callanish II), Cnoc Filibhir Bheag (Callanish III) and Ceann Hulavig (Callanish IV).
    Local tradition explains the presence of these stones by saying that when giants of old who then lived on the island refused to be Christianed, St.Kieran turned them to stone. Another local belief of this Gaelic-speaking community was that when the sun rose on midsummer morn, the 'shining one' walked along the stone avenue, his arrival heralded by the cuckoo's call. This could be a remnant of the astronomical significance of the Callanish stones.

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