Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The "other" Calanais

For the last stop on our visit to some of the ancient sites on Lewis, we returned to Calanais, but not to the main standing stones.

The main stone stones were visible and impressive on the skyline, the cross shaped formation is actually easier to appreciate from a distance than when among the stones.

Along the road from the visitor centre, a minor road leads to a small parking area.  On the skyline another stone circle can be seen, reached by a walk across a field.  This elliptical circle is known as "Calanais II", neither circle or individual stones are as large as Calanais, but it's an atmospheric place.

The 18 stones vary from 2 to 3 metres tall and are arranged in an ellipse on a ridge very close to Loch Roag. A metre of peat was removed from the site in 1858 to reveal the full extent of the stones, and it is believed that a timber circle preceded the stone one.  As at Calanais I, the orientation of the stones seems to be on the moonset.

A feature of Calanais II is that the stones are slender and proportionally tall. A slab lies near the westernmost standing stone, pointing to the centre of the circle where there's the remains of a cairn.

Just 200 metres from Calanais II, there's yet another stone circle in this remarkable area.

Across a rough field you come to Calanais III, a double concentric circle.  The outer ring has 13 stones, while the inner circle has just 4 stones remaining.  There's no central cairn here, and once again the balance of interpretation is that the circle was oriented to the major moonset.

There are over twenty neolithic sites in this part of Lewis, a remarkable concentration.  For over 5000 years the stones have been part of the landscape, impressive but never dominating their surroundings.  It's entirely likely that despite the crowds at Calanais I, you'll have these two circles to yourself - which adds to the experience.

As with all such sites, the Calanais stones inspired us to reflect on the community effort of construction, the stones in use and what's been lost in our understanding of the world.


  1. Plenty of room for thoughts and views to feed them!
    Ian, thank you for sharing!

    1. There certainly was Leif, the place has a special atmosphere