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One of the most fascinating sacred sites in the UK is the remote stone circle Callanish in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.
This stone circle is not easy to get to, but worth the trip. You have to take the ferry, the Caledonian MacBrayne, from the port of Uig on the Isle of Skye and hope for good weather. The Outer Hebrides (Western Isles) have some of the stormiest weather in the UK and sometimes it doesn't let up for daysâ€¦ or weeks! But if you're lucky, you will get some sunny skies and it will make it all worthwhile.
Ancient Chapel at St. Clement's
Take the ferry to Tarbert on the Isle of Lewis. The ride only takes an hour and a half and there are two ferries a day (except for Sunday when there are none!). Before taking the road to Callanish (Callanais in Gaelic) take a little side trip to the ancient St. Clement's Church in Rodel, just south of Tarbert on the Isle of Harris (famous for Harris tweed.) This is a 16th century chapel overlooking the sea, which is absolutely remarkable.
The old tombs are covered with carvings and you can feel how special it must have been to the residents on this remote island before it was abandoned in 1560 after the Reformation. One tomb is dedicated to Alasdair MacLeod, the builder of the church, and it shows him clutching a skull, surrounded by various carvings including everything from saints to hunting dogs. Alasdair was nicknamed Crotach, hump-backed, as a result of a battle with the MacDonalds. The tomb shows his effigy in armour, his feet resting on a crocodile. The arch is decorated with angels, saints and symbols of the apostles.
Callanish Has a Presence All Its Own
Driving back to the Isle of Lewis, you will find the stone circle of Callanish located inside a fence next to a small lunch and tea room. If it's raining hard, you will be glad for the shelter! There is no admission fee to the stone circle. You just pass through a small gate and you are on your own. Not at all like the hoards of tourists at the famous Stonehenge, Callanish remains aloof and alone.
Callanish is one of the most complete stone circles in Britain. There are 13 large stones of banded gneiss arranged around a central monolith 4.5 metres high overlooking a chambered tomb. About 40 smaller stones radiate from the circle in the form of a cross. This stone circle is said to date from between 3,800 to 5,000 years ago, roughly contemporary with the pyramids of Egypt.
The stones are tall and regal and as you walk around them you get a feel for their mystery. Who knows why they were erected and how? They definitely have a presence all their own. If possible, put your hands on some of the stones and just stand there for a few minutes, absorbing that energy. If you listen with your heart, the stones can be heard.
Callanish is celebrated by some groups as the home of the goddess Brigit, whose special day is February 2.
While in the Hebrides, check out some other ancient sites you can find listed in your guide book. Make sure you have booked accommodation at a local B&B, as the weather could change at any moment.