Callanish Stones

Callanish Standing Stones

The prehistoric Callanish stones, also known as the Calanais standing stones, are an iconic monument on the picturesque Isle of Lewis. They’re an eerie yet spiritual landmark, jutting from the earth formidably and with a mysterious past. Over 5,000 years old, they’re one of the oldest standing stones in Scotland – even older than England’s Stonehenge.

A pilgrimage to Calanais to see the stones is a must for anyone coming to the Isle of Lewis, especially fans of the show ‘Outlander’. The central circle features as inspiration for the stone circles in the show’s first episode and is the catalyst for the protagonist’s time travel escapades in 18th-century Scotland.

Even if you haven’t seen ‘Outlander’, there’s a sense of magic around this stone circle that is undeniable. The thirteen stones surrounding the central monolith are theorised to be many things, from an astrological calendar to a leyline centre point. The mystery adds to the fantastic atmosphere at the standing stones of Callanish.

Discover Calanais Standing Stone’s History


The Callanish stones are estimated to have been erected around 2900-2600 B.C.E, a time when writing and city-states were emerging across the world. While their exact purpose has yet to be discovered, the site likely was used for over 2,000 years! The Callanish stones have survived several conflicts and natural disasters throughout their history, an outstanding accomplishment in its own right.

If you can believe it, these 5,000-year-old stones were only subject to archaeological dating and excavations in the 1980s. There, archaeologists discovered a rough timeline of events of this stone circle and how the leading site was altered. One revelation was the addition of a chambered cairn in the central circle.

Bronze-age farmers despoiled the chambered tomb and stone circles about a century later, but the thirteen main stones that make up the central circle have withstood the advances of agriculture. During this time, the circle could still have been used for ritual activity.

Today, Historic Environment Scotland maintains the site. If you have any more questions about the Callanish Stones, make sure to ask the amazing guides at the visitor centre (we’ll talk more about this later!).

Callanish Stones Folklore

The Outer Hebrides are filled with mystical and magical, and the Callanish Stones are one of its most mysterious. As you can imagine, growing up next to such a landmark stirs some unique folklore and mythology surrounding the Callanish Stones by local people. From as late as the 1600s, the stone circles were theorised to be a ritual site for Druidic worship, where they conducted pagan rituals at its centre.

Others believed that the towering stone monoliths were petrified giants who rejected Christianity or people who were turned to stone after suffering some transgression. You’ll sometimes hear the large rocks called “false men” because of this story.

No matter the person you speak to around Calanais, there are intriguing tales around the Callanish Stones that stoke the imagination!

How to Get to Calanais Standing Stones

The Calanais Stones are located on the Isle of Lewis, one of the most popular isles to visit off Scotland’s bustling west coast. Whilst reaching these Western Isles usually involves a combination of car and ferry, so some preparation ahead of time is necessary if you’re renting or travelling with a family.

Here are some easy ways to reach the Callanish Stones: by car on the Isle of Lewis or by ferry from the Scottish mainland.

By Car

The main site of the Callanish standing stones can be fairly easily driven from Tarbert or Stornoway, the two major ports of the Isle of Lewis and Harris.

From Stornoway, you’ll want to drive down the A859 until you reach Cameron Ter, after which you’ll want to drive along the A859 until you begin to see the signs for the stones. On Google Maps, they’re listed as the Calanais Standing Stones, after the village of Calanais.

The entire journey from Stornoway should take less than 30 minutes, so don’t let a short drive stop you from seeing one of the most unique attractions on the Isle.

By Boat

You can find a ferry terminal to take you to Stornoway or Tarbert in many cities and towns along Scotland’s West Coast, but the Ullapool Ferry Terminal is the most popular option. The ferry travels daily to the Isle of Lewis and back to Ullapool, although its Winter Timetable offers fewer opportunities to travel compared to summer.

Look at the Caledonian MacBrayne timetable for specific ferry times, prices, and more info while visiting the Isle of Lewis on your holiday.

When to visit the Calanais Standing Stones

The standing stones Callanish [in] are open for visitors at all times of the year, so don’t let a winter chill stop you from seeing the Scottish Stonehenge. That being said, the best time to visit the Callanish stone circle is between April and September and the rest of Scotland.

April and September offer mild weather, with less chances of rain and snow during your visit. The peak of visitors to the Calanais Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis is during summer, so avoid this time of year if you want the most chance of enjoying the stone circle.

Callanish Stones in Outlander

As you may already know, the Callanish standing stones resemble an in-world location where Claire travels back to the height of the Jacobite Rising in Scotland. Unfortunately, the series was not filmed at the Stone of Callanish, and the stone circle was actually made of styrofoam.

Nevertheless, the Isle of Lewis Standing stones hold just as much magic as the Outlander stone circle, so we’re sure you’ll still fall in love with it as much as we have. Just don’t expect to travel back in time!

Things to do at the Calanais Standing Stones

The Callanish Standing Stones are a superb attraction to add to a day of recreating and sightseeing on the Isle of Lewis, and it’s highly recommended you check them out while you explore. As your visit begins to take shape on your itinerary, remember to try out these things to do while you’re here.

Stop by the Visitor Centre at Calanais

Calanais Visitor Centre

The Calanais visitor centre near the Calanais Stones is a treasure horde of information for anyone interested in learning about the stone rows and circles. There’s a visitor centre car park that’s free, although there is limited parking available.

Within the visitor centre, you can find a shop with snacks, drinks, and Callanish stone memorabilia to take home! And, of course, some ever-helpful representatives are more than happy to chat with you about the Callanish standing stones and the immense lore that surrounds them.

Urras Nan Tursachan owns the visitor centre, which is currently under redevelopment and set to reopen in 2025.

Take the Scenic Route

Scenic Route

The Callanish stones are located on a hill, with several smaller stone circles and stone rows that branch off from the centre. But to fully appreciate the neolithic site’s picturesque beauty and magnitude, it’s recommended that you enjoy a scenic walk through its scenic pastures.

The circle’s towering stone blocks, some of which reach up to four metres tall and weigh several tons, offer the opportunity to take amazing pictures if you know what time of day to visit. Sunrises and sunsets are the golden hours for capturing stunning photographs of the Callanish stones,

Admire the Northern Lights

Northern Lights

If you want to make your trip to the Callanish standing stones a touch more magical, then you’ll be happy to know that there’s a chance that you can see the Northern Lights while on the Isle of Lewis too! While rare during the summer months, winter serves as the perfect chance to see

Although the ‘Mirrie Dancers’, as they’re called in Scotland, are pretty temperamental about when and how long they visit, visitors with enough patience can witness one of the more beautiful sights—the Callanish standing stone underneath a moon and Aurora Borealis.

Explore More Attractions on the Isle of Lewis

Isle of Lewis

The Callanish Standing Stones are without a doubt one of the most famous attractions on the Isle of Lewis, but they’re certainly not all you can see during your visit here.

For those looking for more historical sites, the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village is located only a 15-minute drive from Calanais. There, you can see a rebuilt Highland village, which resembles what it would have been before the Highland clearances, with options to stay overnight to get the true Highland experience!

Bosta Beach is another splendid attraction to see while on the Isle of Lewis, although the shores are more similar to the Mediterranean than the pebbly beaches of the Scottish Mainland. On a sunny summer day, Bosta Beach is a fantastic place for a day out — even if the water can be pretty cold.

Support this Blog 💙

My Voyage Scotland is an independently owned website. If you find the information on this website helpful, please consider booking your next trip using the links below. We make a (very small) commission on anything booked via the below map, and it doesn’t cost our readers more.