A big part of going to Scotland was, for me, to see the cairns and standing stones. That there are so many in such a small land area and that they are largely intact is remarkable. Not quite as remarkable as the fact they were built – particularly the standing stones – in the first place. I’m going to revisit the standing stones in this post.
Kilmartin Glen is one of the few neolithic sites I’ve seen where you get a strong sense of a society creating something, because they didn’t just build one or two things here, they built many all in one spot. Whatever it was about landscape or territory that made this the right place to build, this society buried their dead and expressed their beliefs in this one area over a long period.
Nether Largie standing stones
Like a lot of standing stones they are laid out on an axis and are of similar heights.
Nether Largie standing stones
Kilmartin Glen also has two stone circles a few meters apart, in the wonderfully named Temple Wood.
While the Temple Wood is a 19th C addition, the circles have been there – and changed over time – for around 5,000 years
The neolithic landscape on Mainland in the Orkneys gives you a similar sense of interconnected sites, but they are far less dense than Kilmartin Glen. Maybe because they are more spread out, they are also much bigger in scale; the Stones of Stenness are towering wonders and the Ring of Brodgar is on a much grander scale to the stone circles of Temple Wood.
Stones of Stenness – only a few are left of the original 12
Interestingly, both of these sites are also henges – though we only know about the encircling embankment and ditch at Stenness through archeology – putting them on a reasonably small list of such sites within the UK where a stone circle exists within a henge.
Some of the 27 remaining stones in the Ring of Brodgar (there were around 60 originally)
Not as tall as those at Stenness, but the Ring of Brodgar stones are still quite tall!
On Lewis there is also a “ritual landscape” with many standing stones and remains of circles dotted around. The local guide who was showing us around was amusingly dismissive of these small stones (part of a circle) because nothing compares to the scale of the Callanish standing stones.
These just didn’t rate for our guide compared to their nearby friends (sorry about the image quality but we weren’t going close to them)
This gives you a sense of just how many stones make up Callanish I
The Callanish I site is a stone circle with a cross through it, accompanied by stone “alignments” that lead away from the circle. An amazing sight. The time invested in creating all of the circles, stone groups and henges is a bit mind-blowing, but Callanish I is also just lovely in its symmetry.
Even more amazing when the sun is out to throw shadows everywhere
Here you can see the circle pretty well and the chambered tomb that was retrofitted some time after the circle’s original creation
Can I just add that I also liked these standing stones for the actual stone.
Beautiful texture and layers of weathered Lewisian Gneiss
I saw an estimate that, across the UK, only about half the original standing stones remain. Which makes me think that once the entire place was a “ritual landscape”, because you probably couldn’t have walked far without finding a single menhir if not something more substantial!