The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian


Standing Stones


Saturday 3 May 2003
Well, where do I start? Probably like many people, with my expectations.

There is an element almost of confession here. This is one reason it has taken me nearly 2 months to write this. It's now getting on for 4 months since I was actually there.

If you've reached here via my weblogs, you'll know that this was a very special trip for me. Not only had I been longing to see the place for many years, but turmoil in my personal life had added an extra, emotional 'charge' that is unusual for me when visiting a site. And it lived up to every expectation. Eventually.

Right up until I turned the corner on the path from the visitors' centre and saw the stones from anything other than a distance, everything was fine and my expectations were undented.

So, I turned the corner, and… I really can't say whether it was the view approaching from that direction, or whether it was sheer weight of expectation, but I knew straight away… To my total astonishment, I just didn't 'get' it.

All those years. All those miles… and I was just looking at some more rocks. A lot of rocks. A lot of beautiful rocks. But still 'just' a lot of rocks.

I was quietly mortified. I couldn't even blame crowds – we saw maybe 3 people in the hour or so we spent there before I was happy (almost relieved) to go to Cnoc Fillibhir Bheag and Cnoc Ceann a' Ghàrraidh.

Of course the setting is beautiful. Of course the place is spectacular. Of course the sheer number and sizes of the stones are massively impressive. Of course the stones are intriguing shapes and colours and textures.

But there was no feeling of inspiration or even reverence that I have felt at a few very special sites. No feeling of 'homecoming' or perhaps 'belonging' that I have felt at some sites. No real connection, no real understanding.

Sunday 4 May 2003
On my second visit, the following day, it began to dawn on me however – expectation and understanding were the whole problem for me. Before visiting most sites I read a little bit about them in fairly 'analytical' Burl (usually) type terms – maybe read a few comments on this website or in the big papery TMA.

With this limited preparation I don't expect to understand them or connect with them. It's just not normally an issue. If I do – great. If I don't – I'll have enjoyed seeing them anyway.

With Callanish though, there was a whole lot more – an entire chapter in Julian's book. Various telly progs including Julian's. And more recently, a couple of other books. I approached the place thinking (subconsciously) that I understood – that I knew what to expect. So when I didn't I was confused, disappointed and bewildered.

This feeling of realisation increased steadily and luckily it was convenient to revisit regularly over the 3 days and I was able to discover Callanish as I actually see it – not as I expected to see it.

Seeing it with too many expectations was, for me like photos of the complete Callanish I from ground level. They never quite really show it. I've seen great pictures of it – there are some good ones on this site and I took some that I'm pleased with, but they still never quite do it.

It's one of those places where I cannot see how a photographer can capture the full picture. The complexity and sheer number of stones makes it seem confusing in photos, yet makes perfect sense as you walk it on the ground.

Monday 5 May 2003
By my fourth and final visit (for now) I was happy. Right now at 11pm on Monday 18 August 2003, I could happily stand between the northern rows facing the circle and laugh and shout for joy. It's awesome. Not a word I normally use. Ever.
Moth Posted by Moth
29th August 2003ce
Edited 26th May 2005ce

Comments (1)

I am planning to go there next year (April 2011) Moth. I'm interested in how I am going to capture the atmosphere with my camera and sketch pad (and then hopefully via my oil paints).

Let's hope the weather is clear for at least one day of our planned, week long trip.

rocket Posted by rocket
2nd June 2011ce
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