Callanais



We'd planned for dusk and were lucky and got there in time for most others to leave. 
We weren't quite alone at the beginning - some American kids were kicking around, and having enjoyed the solitude and atmosphere of the place themselves they seemed determined to spoil it for us by making loud remarks in overly ironic voices about how 'far out' it all was.  How sad, that they felt embarrassed by their own interest in what is essentially an unknown quantity - how and why these things are where they are. 



So, the stones.  I'm not going to dismiss this place so easily.  We spent a good hour or so there on our own, and they really are lovely.  They have no religious significance for me personally, but they are definitely a work of art, and a hymn to nature - and I've always enjoyed a sing song not to mention a little abstract environmental art.  The way Callanais sits in the surroundings, looking across low lying hills in the foreground, the far distant higher tops of Harris to the South, the shining, swirling lochs nearby, and the relationship with its smaller neighbouring circles is relevant - it has a relationship to this place, its not dumped here.  The stones are massive (the centre stone is 5 metres high) and the rock is very beautiful, cold and bleached from its time buried in the peat and etched full of smooth lines, aged.

All this does have the effect of embedding you in the landscape.  As we moved amongst them, we were put in our place.  You can see the stones on the skyline from a distance, which increased the anticipation still further on our approach, even in a car.  I imagine all this might have been even more impressive in prehistory.



The stones are as much about the people who made them and the reasons behind their build, as the place they are built.  Callanais almost certainly had astronomical significance, and given how much the Hebrides were connected to other cultures by the sea, its likely the locals had help in construction from others further afield. 






Access is completely unrestricted to the site, and there are crofts and houses dotted about the place.  Apparently the locals used it as a public convenience for a while until a local aristocrat bought the site in the 19th Century - it obviously was and still is a part of the township and not separate, for good or ill (or both).  Especially given that it's a man made structure, it would be a real shame if it were condoned off, as Stonehenge is.

Like the rest of the Harris trip, this particular visit had a positive effect on how I view what's possible in interactions between people and landscape.  4000 year old land art has a way of dispensing with my cynicism.  Admittedly I might feel different it it was still a toilet, but these structures are very impressive.  All photos are from the main stone circle except the last one below which is from Callanais 2, one of the satellite circles.