Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Callanish Standing Stones

I have a thing for rocks, and I've been happy to discover that there are a lot of people throughout history who have also had a thing for rocks. And having a thing for rocks and art done with stone leads one on all sorts of fun adventures.

But it's not just rocks really. It's the people behind them. I love stone circles and other monuments and I love the things I learn along the way simply by following the stones.

I have been all around Scotland twice just looking at stones. It was fabulous because it took me to some fantastic places. I've been to Lewis Island in the Outer Herbrides. Which is so off the beaten patch but the (pictured) Callanish Stones (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Callanish_Stones) are there and I saw one photo of them and knew I had to see them in person

Journeying out to see them really brought home that it's so much more about the journey than the destination, but wow what a destination. Smaller that Stonehenge. Just as powerful and no big fences and far fewer crowds (who go away regularly). nothing like a few hour ferry ride to put a dent in the wandering tourists. We did run into some Americans but they were the nicest Americans you could wish for.

And the fantastic thing about Callanish is that Callanish I is only the beginning. On the wiki page skip down to "Other nearby sites" and you have the ultimate geocaching adventure listed. I was tromping about in a cow pasture, looking for one of the obscure marker stones, trying to parse out sort of vague instructions, and I realized that I was having a most excellent, outside the box, adventure. These days I have no doubt that all the sites have GPS coordinates, but I had no such thing and even if I did I would still have a fabulous time.

The bummer is that you can't do this on a tour bus. You need a car and one of you needs to know how to drive on the right side of the street (a pretty empowering skill I must say). A tour bus will take you to Callanish I and pause briefly at the very nearby Callanish II and III, but they are not about to drop you off by the side of the road with a basic map and say here's where you climb the fence (a "stile") and say go for it. I really must find and scan in some of that material as it left me with a thing for rocks and I'm a geocaching fan too, but I must say geo caching is nothing compared to this adventure.

Some googling on the other sites has shown me that others share this passion.
Here is Callanish IV standing appropriately in the middle of a sheep pasture.
You have to love getting your feet wet (sometimes more than just feet) and your pants muddy.

And I tromped all around the place to locate Callanish V:

This obsession has inspired other trip such as driving all over Scotland looking at Pictish Stones and Castles and then a trip to Orkny to see Viking and Victorian graffiti (different sites) and Neolithic home furnishings in Skara Brae (seriously - do you have a bureau? I sure don't and they did. See here.), but this is all a different post(s) sometime.

I may have a climbing obsession, but when asked about my travels I talk about rocks and their breathern, and the human side of archaeology (e.g. the need to graffiti, and make a home). I need to keep this in mind.


Jan said...

I have a major thing for rocks. Also for trees. Serbs have a thing about their trees. Grandma can't leave gawdawful Hesperia because she can't leave her trees and I think they are those Joshua things that really aren't trees...

Elf said...

Funny, I am just now in the middle of a National Geographic article on the Outer Hebrides and the photos there are making me want desperately to go there. The tall stones are cool, but the natural scenery is stunning!

Ellen said...

I'm looking here:
and I really need to figure out where that is. Most of the Hebrides *is* bleak and the starkness does get your attention. If you like the above photo then you really must visit the Island of Skye. Further south, but more hilly, more Braveheart looking.

Ellen said...

Oh I see - they call the article Hebrides and don't specifically say inner or outer. Skye is in the Inner Hebrides. In town is more touristy but very easy to leave tourists behind.

Unknown said...

Ellen, you'll love my documentary DVD 'Standing with Stones' - apologies if you already have it - http://www.standingwithstones.com/Landing.html

Jennie said...

Did I ever tell you there are standing stones in Brittany, France? Freaking fascinating. Huge fields of them. Random places.

And the signs are all in French and Breton, the local Celtic language. Wild.

Unknown said...
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