The Callanish Standing Stones of Scotland

Aug 12, 2014 by

 The ancient Callanish Standing Stones of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland are among the most photographed megalithic monuments in the world.  Erected 4500-5000 years ago, the Callanish standing stones are laid out in a rough Celtic cross-shaped pattern, consisting of 13 large stones in a circle with lines of stones radiating from the circle to the east, west and south.  Two lines of stones form the approach from the north, ending in a large solitary monolith in the center of the circle. Its exact purpose is unknown, but most scholars think the Callanish standing stone circle represents an astronomical observatory based on lunar patterns. It was abandoned about 1000 years after it was built and left uncared for until 1885, when the stones came into the care of the Scottish government.




Callanish Standing Stones — Image: Jim Richardson


In Gaelic, the Callanish standing stones are called Tursachan Chalanais[Toor-sakh-khan Khalanish] or Calanais Stones. Scholars believe the name Tursachan is related to the Old Norse word Tursa, which meant giant, because the stones, especially the central ones, do tower over people.
Local Scottish tradition says that giants who lived on the island refused to be converted to Christianity by Saint Kieran and were turned into stones as a punishment.


A distant view of the Callanish standing stones: the circle, stone rows and part of the northern avenue. Image: Netvor

There are several smaller monuments near Callanish as well, including Cnoc Ceann a’Gharraidh, a circle of eight stones (three of them fallen), and Cnoc Fillibhir Bheag, a double circle with eight stones in the outer ring and four in the inner ring.  Whatever the purpose, the site was clearly important to its ancient builders, and the Callanish standing stone circle remains one of the most mysterious and magical places in Scotland.


Center stone in the Callanish circle, with the Northern Lights overhead. Image: Colin Cameron,


Historic Scotland

Callanish Visitor Centre

Sacred Sites


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Can’t Stop Looking At Scotland

Apr 16, 2014 by

Do you have a favorite image of Scotland?  Matador Network, an online community of travel writers, journalists and photographers, recently posted a list of 30 Images of Scotland We Can’t Stop looking At, and a quick glance through the pictures shows why these shots are so compelling.  From outrageously beautiful landscapes to ancient castles and architecture, the images chosen are clear examples of why Scotland is a major tourist destination and a photographer’s dream.

It’s hard to limit myself when it comes to views of Scotland, but here are a few of my favorite images from the Matador list.



The Great Highland Bagpipe (GHB) is one of the most iconic symbols of Scotland, and is often used by civilian and military bands, as well as by soloists. Widely used in Europe for centuries, the GHB came into use in Scotland many centuries ago as war pipes played before and during battles.


Castle Stalker (Caisteal an Stalcaire, in Scots Gaelic, meaning castle of the hunter or falconer), is a 14th century keep in Argyll, set on a small island in Loch Laich.  This former home of the Clans MacDougall, Stewart and Campbell is one of the best-preserved medieval tower-houses surviving in western Scotland.  You might remember seeing it in the 1975 film,  Monty Python and The Holy Grail–it is from the top of Castle Stalker that the French soldier (played by John Cleese) famously taunts the English as “English pig dogs” and “silly English K-nig-hts [pronounced kuuuh-nig-its].”



Who doesn’t love a brawny red haired Highlander? The Highland cow, affectionately known as the Hielan Coo, is certainly popular with most visitors to Scotland.  This hardy breed is native to Scotland and comes in red, black, brindle, dun and yellow coat colors.  Females have horns that generally curve upward (as in the above photo), while the horns of Highland bulls usually grow straight out and slightly forward from the head.


To see the rest of the Matador images of Scotland, click HERE.

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