The Callanish Stones are situated near the village of Callanish on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
It is probable that Callanish (or Calanais) – which comprises two other stone circles in addition to the main site – was built some 5,000 years ago as a lunar calendar. The path of the moon, unlike the reliably annual tracks of the sun, only returns to the same point once every 18.6 years. Callanish plots this slow progress, building to a crescendo in the 19th year at the lunar standstill – when the path of the moon is so low that it seems to walk along the horizon before setting within the stone circle.
Callanish’s mystery to the expectant crowd is not merely in the stones, but in their setting within a sacred landscape. To the south-west of the stones is a low, undulating hill known to the local people in Gaelic as Cailleach na Mointeach – the old woman of the moors, or Sleeping Beauty as she is more affectionately known. The contours look irresistibly like a reclining woman. At the lunar standstill the moon rises from behind this hill, tip-toes across her supine body and sets four hours later behind the Clisham, another sacred hill.
This moonwalk will happen throughout the summer once a month until September, and will draw hundreds for a number of reasons. Some people come to worship the full moon, others to witness the goddess walking the earth. All come in expectation of a spiritual experience and to feel the energy of the planet.