New Book Launch - A Guide to Callanish Standing Stones

New Book Launch - A Guide to Callanish Standing Stones


The Islands Book Trust (IBT) is launching an attractive new illustrated guide to the Callanish Stones.  The booklet has been written by Lewis-based archaeologist Ian McHardy and is entitled ‘Contemplating Calanais – A Guide to the Standing Stones’. Written in a conversational style, it summarises what is known about the origin and purpose of this famous monument but also provides an introduction to the many theories which have been put forward to explain why they were located on this particular site. The 60-page booklet is illustrated with some 30 stunning colour photographs and drawings.

The launch event will take place on Monday 8th April at 3pm at the Callanish Visitor Centre. All are welcome to come along. Light refreshments will be provided.

The awe-inspiring Callanish Stones, erected 5,000 years ago on a low windswept peninsula in western Lewis, is one of Scotland’s most magnificent and best preserved prehistoric monuments and a prime attraction for visitors from all over the world. The site offers wonderful views in all directions to the hills, moorland and surrounding coastline, and the stones themselves have become part of this dramatic landscape.

Much is known about their more recent history – how the peat which had accumulated over millennia and obscured the lower part of the stones, along with the ruins of some of the houses of local villagers, was cleared in the 19th century by the Matheson landlords of Lewis for antiquarian reasons. From the time of Martin Martin to today’s New Age Travellers and mass tourism, Callanish has exerted a unique fascination for thousands of people.

But there is an enigma at the heart of this attraction. No-one knows for certain what was the original purpose of the Stones, precisely how the site was used, and why this particular location was selected for the erection of the monument. Some pointers in relation to certain aspects of the mystery are available from archaeological evidence, but there are also many theories of varying credibility, ranging from fertility cults, religious rituals and festivals to astronomical observation of stars, sun, and moon.

Commenting on the new publication, John Randall of IBT said:

‘In this thought-provoking guide, Ian McHardy, a professional archaeologist, attempts to summarise what is known about Callanish from archaeological studies and scientific research. But he also outlines a wide range of other ideas, drawing on folklore, placename evidence, and astronomy, distinguishing where possible between fact and speculation and making it clear when he is advancing personal views on the contested theories.

His aim is to stimulate discussion, to introduce readers to possible explanations, and to encourage people from all backgrounds to think for themselves and come to their own conclusions - rather than to hand down received wisdom or present what might very appropriately in this context be regarded as ‘tablets of stone’!

I hope that this beautifully illustrated and attractively presented personal account will serve not only as a guide to readers as they explore the Callanish Stones for themselves, but also as a permanent memento of an unforgettable visit and a quarry for ideas and ongoing speculation about this magnificent but ultimately mysterious site.’

Copies of the booklet, which includes many superb photographs by Jim Hope and beautiful line drawings by Donald Urquhart, will be available price £12 plus P and P from the Islands Book Trust website or from bookshops. For more information, contact

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