These 5,000 year old stone slabs are as famous as Britain’s Stonehenge — and unlike fenced in do-not-touch Stonehenge, visitors can actually walk up and touch the Standing Stones of Callanish, which are as old as Egypt’s pyramids.
I visited Stonehenge in 1967 when it was unfenced. We visitors walked in and among the magnificent site as we pleased.
For me, visiting the Standing Stones at Callanish on the Isle of Lewis in the remote Outer Hebrides chain north of Scotland, is a check off thrill on almost the last of a personal list of famous archaeological sites I’ve spent a lifetime exploring around the world. Like Callanish, many of the sites were very difficult to get to — some required waiting; closed for decades by wars and bombing, others I have visited — now closed by dangerous conflicts.
Experiencing every wondrous site was always and is always, worth the travel, hassle and any wait.
The worldwide sites share a commonality as intriguing contemporary puzzles, like Callanish: mathematically perfect in design and construction with an astronomical measuring sophistication inexplicable in their creation even before a time when locals lived in huts with open fires at bare subsistence levels.
It was only with computer help that scientists understood Stonehenge as an ultrasophisticated observatory of the universe. Callanish is now posited as a precision lunar observatory. An avenue of 19 stones, cosmetically shrunken by age, ends in a circle of 13 stones, and additional circles.
A July 2004 two full-page color spread in The New York Times drew me in 11 years later on a July day when the wind, drizzle and near freezing temps of Hebrides’ “summer” required heavy coats and hats. We were on a cruise to four remote island chains, offered by Maritime Cruises and Voyages only once a year because of capricious weather and remoteness.
The prior day our promised stop at the Shetland Islands was canceled because of high waves which prevented both full docking or our going ashore in small tender boats.
Outside of Stornoway, the only town of any size, we visited what are called Black Houses because smoke from the inside peat fires turned the walls black. Locals lived with their farm animals for warmth, in elongated rounded huts that resemble huge bloated caterpillars on the perpetually green landscape.