Overlooking Loch Roag and the hills of Great Bernera, the Callanish Standing Stones comprise 13 large stones set around a Celtic cross–shaped monolith, with some 40 smaller stones radiating out from the center. Built between 3,800 and 5,000 years ago, this stone circle was erected at around the same time as the pyramids of Egypt.
If you come to this Neolithic site independently, head to the Calanais Visitor Centre to find out more about the prehistoric monument. Alternatively, visit the enigmatic site in the company of a guide who can shed light on its history and the many theories regarding its function and purpose, as well as share folk tales associated with the stones.
The Callanish Stones feature on multi-day tours of the Outer Hebrides departing from Edinburgh or Inverness. Shorter tours, lasting up to three days, tend to focus on the Isle of Lewis and Harris, while longer tours often make stops at the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides and parts of the Scottish Highlands too.
Things to Know Before You Go
- One of Scotland’s most evocative prehistoric sites, Callanish is a must for history lovers.
- Wrap up warm as Lewis is frequently subject to strong winds.
- A café is located at the nearby visitor center.
- The visitor center is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. With uneven grassy surfaces, the site itself may be difficult to access for wheelchair users, but the stones can be seen from the roadside.
How to Get There
Callanish Standing Stones are about 17 miles (27 kilometers) west of Stornoway. To get here from Stornoway, follow the A859 and A858 roads; the journey takes about 30 minutes. Public transit is not available, so travelers without a car are best going as part of an organized tour.
When to Get There
While you can see the stones at any time of the year, the visitor center is open only from April to September (daily), and from October to March (Wednesday through Saturday). Because of its off-the-beaten-path location, the site is never overrun with tourists. For some excellent photo opportunities, go at dawn or dusk.
Archaeological Sites in the Outer Hebrides
The island of Lewis and Harris is littered with remnants of long-gone civilizations. Just a few miles from the Callanish Stones is Dun Carloway, a well-preserved Iron Age broch (a circular stone construction). Farther south, on the island of South Uist, is Cladh Hallan—a settlement believed to date back to around 2,200 BC—where you can see the outline of ancient roundhouses.