Isle of Lewis, Scotland
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Callanish, after a heavy snowfall in January 1982
Callanish and other British Stone Circles - Researches, slide presentations and books by Gerald Ponting
I have known Stonehenge all my life, having been brought up a few miles from Salisbury. On visits as a small boy, there was nothing to stop one clambering over the stones or having picnics among them. In the 1990s, working as a Blue Badge Tourist Guide, I sometimes had the privilege of interpreting Stonehenge for foreign visitors. But my great interest in stone circles did not originate from either of these facts or from holiday walks to remote sites in Cornwall or Wales.
From 1974 till 1984, I lived on the Isle of Lewis, near the village of Callanish. The Standing Stones of Callanish are, arguably, the most evocative group of megaliths in the British Isles. I visited and photographed them in sunshine and in snow (photo above left), with blue skies, stormy skies and mackerel skies, with rainbows and with sun-halos. There is a magic about the site and the way in which the stones relate to the surrounding croftland and moorland, to the waters of East Loch Roag and to the open Hebridean skies.
For those ten years, I not only appreciated the site for its intrinsic grandeur, but also became deeply involved in research on various aspects of Callanish, with various discoveries in other parts of the island. My colleague in this research was then my wife; as Mrs Margaret Curtis, she still lives on Lewis. We wrote a number of books and papers about Callanish. In 1978, the Prince of Wales presented us with a British Archaeological Award for our researches, which were featured in a BBC Chronicle programme.
Having visited many other circles in other parts of Britain, I prepared a slide presentation and accompanying booklet, Going Round in Circles, with information about 16 major sites. (The presentation is no longer offered.)
Stones at Avebury, Wiltshire
Callanish and other Megalithic Sites of the Outer Hebrides, was published in 2002 by Wooden Books, based on unpublished researches from my time in Lewis. It features reproductions of many fine old engravings. A bibliography of the antiquarian material used, for which there was no room in the book, is available only on this site.
I also have a slide presentation, based on the way in which Stonehenge has been ‘seen’ and interpreted by antiquarians and artists from the 14th century till the present day.
In June 2006, I returned to Callanish hoping to observe the southern skim of the moon, setting and re-gleaming within the stone circle. I have used the resulting digital pictures to prepare a presentation ‘Callanish, the Moon and the Sleeping Beauty’ which I showed at Megalithomania 2007 at Glastonbury.
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Latest revision of this page March 2009
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