We might have been able to find a room in Stornoway, had we looked, but it had never entered our heads when we were there to pump up the tyre. After spending the previous night sleeping in the car, and given the choice between repeating the experience or a nice, warm room with a bathroom, comfy bed and a cooked breakfast in the morning, there really was no contest. It must have been after ten thirty by the time we arrived at where we had chosen to spend the night and the view through our windows was spectacular.
We tucked the car up for the night in a corner by a derelict building, just outside the enclosure of Callanish II stone circle and we could both see and feel the presence of the stones as we wrapped ourselves against the evening chill and snuggled down. Through the windscreen, the stones…
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If you didn’t know the house was there, you would miss it…and we only knew it was there because of a helpful sign. Not just a house, but a small village. Only one of the houses is complete and it stands beside the clearest of streams, built of local stone, roofed with living turf and held within the embrace of the hills.
Odd artefacts had been found for many years at Bosta, suggesting that something important might be hidden beneath the shifting sands of the dunes. It was not until 1996 that storms moved the sands enough for the village to reveal itself.
Five houses were excavated, built so that they were half underground, protected by double walls and doorways facing south. With the living turf as their thatch, they would have been hidden from view and, being low to the ground, sheltered too from wind and storm.
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We were heading out to a spot we had seen earlier where we might be able to park up for the night. It had looked perfect when we had first noticed it, almost as good as the Fairy Rock Motel, but, although it was getting on for nine o’clock, the light showed no intentions of fading and, on a second look in broad daylight, it seemed to lack the privacy we preferred.
Parking safely was not the easiest thing to do on the narrow island roads. Had it been easier, we would have undoubtedly explored the Callanish IV stone circle, Ceann Hulavig, that we could see as we passed, frustrated by our inability to do more than look from a distance. The stones, nine feet tall, for a circle around a central cairn and from it you can…if you can park… see the three circles we had…
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But anyway, something was happening in the sky.
A great eye-of-light
opened up above the main site…
If we were not going to get a night-scape,
which we were not,
we could at least get
the stones with a dramatic back-drop.
So we headed over,
quick sharp, in the hope
of utilising a break in the cloud…
It seems strange now to think
that these sites were ever considered
in isolation from their surroundings
but they undoubtedly once were.
The backdrop and mythological landscape
for Callanish has been nicknamed, Sleeping Beauty,
which may explain part of the reason
why we find ourselves here.
It starts to become obvious
when enough of these monuments
have been visited:
they are focal points,
and we, as folk,
are an integral part of that!
There is though a caveat.
We are not meant to ‘gawp’ here,
but instead are invited to become involved.
That may not be as easy as at first supposed.
Since the advent of the Visitor Centre at the site,
there has been an attempt to rename Cnoc Fillibhir Bheag,
which some might render the ‘little hill of the long-seers’,
as plain old Callanish III…
Which is a shame because the circle,
like most of these ancient monuments,
has its own very unique signature…
As the current sequence of photographic
‘slides’ endeavours to illustrate.
And as, perhaps, can here be seen,
there may be more to those
hoary old folk tales…
That tell of people being
turned to stone
for dancing on the Sabbath.
…Than initially meets the eye.
Not that it was a Sabbath,
and nor was anybody dancing as such!
Just treading the path to Fairy-Land…
The light was changing. Not that it had been doing anything else all day… the light in the Western Isles is amazing… but it was, by this time, almost eight thirty and we were rather expecting the light to fade as the sun sank below the horizon. It would not be summer solstice for another couple of days and the coachloads of tourists had long since departed… so we headed back to the Callanish Stones.
There were just a few campervans parked close by, securing their spots for the festival that would be held at the stones for the solstice. Not a big affair, we were told, but with music and megalithophiles like us choosing to celebrate the turning of the year at this remote and magical site. One woman, cross-legged in the door of her van, smiled and acknowledged us as we entered the stones. Apart from that, we…
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We left Callanish II and turned our backs to the Callanish Stones that crown the hill over the loch, and walked up the slope towards the third stone circle. Callainish III stands atop a small hill and is actually two stone circles, one inside the other.
The two rings are not circular but elliptical. The outer ring, around forty-five feet in diameter, has thirteen stones still in place, of which eight are still standing. The inner ring is a more definite oval shape and thirty four feet at its longest axis.
Only four of the inner stones remain. Beneath the turf, other stones are still buried and around the site are other stone settings and the stump of a broken standing stone. The circle is an imposing sight, with the tallest stones over six feet and a view back to the main site and Callanish II.
Callanish III is also…
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It was definitely a first… I have never stood within one distinct stone circle and been able to look at two others on the near horizon. The stone circle of Callanish II, otherwise known as Cnoc Ceann a’Gharaidh, stands just three hundred feet from the shore of Loch Roag, within sight of the Callanish Stones, and nine hundred west of Callanish III. And you can feel it.
The Callanish Stones are just visible on the horizon between the portal stones.
You have to wonder at their alignment, especially when you later realise that they are just one small grouping amongst nine stone circles within a ten mile radius… with at least another six known on this one small island.
The stones themselves are arranged in an elliptical ‘circle’ around a central cairn almost twenty-eight feet in diameter, which was almost certainly a burial mound. Many of the stones of the…
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