The Isle of Lewis is famous for its prehistoric stone circles centred on the Callanish area , the Loch Roag group, about 20 minutes drive from Dollag's Cottage. The stones were errected at a time when the climate was some 3 degrees warmer than it is today, a time referred to by some archaeologists as a "climate optimum," and so when the stones were built there was no peat on Lewis. It is hard to imagine Lewis without its peat but in fact the stones you visit at Callanish today are very different from a few hundred years ago because about 1.5m of peat has been cut away to reveal their full height. It has been suggested that before the climate started its dramatic cooling, and the peat started to grow, the area around Callanish was relatively fertile machair and so was able to support a significant human population.
Today the stones at Callanish are a most impressive sight for the visitor to the area and are something that just have to be on every "must see" list. As well as the main circle at the village of Callanish there are also other outlying circles. One of the more interesting is the circle at Achmore, some considerable distance from the main Callanish circle. This circle is a relatively recent discovery having been found during peat cutting. There is a little parking spot at Achmore with a good path to the circle and even a seat so you can enjoy the wonderful views. If you visit Achmore circle then take boots as the stones are still emerging from the peat cuttings so the moor is quite wet if you want to get off the path and in among the stones. This Achmore site provides a useful exampe of how the peat on Lewis is a real, growing entity that has the ability to bury the past and it also gives some scope to consider that there may be a very many circles on Lewis that remain buried in the peat which now lies across most of the island.
It is believed by archaeologists that the main circle at Callanish was designed to line up with the major standstill of the moon which happens every 18.6 years and this theory now seems to be generally accepted. At the most recent lunar major standstill there was some suggestion that thousands of visitors would make the trip to see this most remarkable event but in the end there were only about 15 of us there on a most wonderful clear night. For the visitor who is not willing to wait until the next lunar major standstill the site is still very dramatic and it is possible to get in among the stones and really enjoy the whole experience. There is a visitors centre but no charge for admission to the stones and during the day, especially when a bus tour arrives, there can be a significant number of people at the stones but in the evenings and indeed even on most days the site is relatively quiet. Should you find that the main circle is quite crowded then it is a simple matter to head for one of the outlying circles.
Even today the stone circles at Callanish seem to raise more questions than answers for the visitor as you stand in this dramatic landscape and contemplate the people who were standing in exactly the same spot some 4000 years previously. However, one question that should present you with no challenge occurs in the visitors centre and the simple answer is that you should always have the apple pie if it is on the menu as it is simply excellent and is becoming famous across the island.