The Standing Stones Trust
Tourism and Charity in the Isle of Lewis
Urras nan Tursachan (The Standing Stones Trust)
The Standing Stones Trust (Urras nan Tursachan) is an independent not for profit charitable trust based in the northwest of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Formed in 1994, this registered Scottish charity has operated the Calanais Visitor Centre for over 28 years, bringing valuable tourism to the local community and delivering consistent growth in visitor numbers, turnover and profitability. Working in partnership with Historic Environment Scotland, the Trust has added £1.5m to the North Lewis economy since opening.
Preserving a Precious Heritage
From the internationally famous stone circles of Calanais to Dun Bharpa on Barra, we have a unique Neolithic landscape and an archaeological record of unquestionable international significance to preserve. We believe that our Neolithic past is important and should be better understood, managed and valued before being passed to future generations.
A Tourism Charity in the Isle of Lewis
The Trust believes that the best way for this ancient and iconic Neolithic site to continue to have a positive impact in the Outer Hebrides and beyond is to deliver value in the present. We work with the community to promote and manage research and education, allowing us to preserve the fabric of this sacred and atmospheric site.
Development and Tourism Combine
Community ownership combines with tourism, encouraging visitors to come to the Western Isles and discover the stunning beauty of Calanais and the local landscape. We invite our visitors to enjoy this unique site, to unlock the narratives within it and to be transformed by its archaeology, mystery and heritage. This focus on tourism supports employment, raises awareness and creates opportunities for the people that live in our community.
How Does the Trust
The Trust ensures that all income is allocated to projects that are of lasting benefit to the stones and the community in which they stand. Projects are only funded if they:
- Support the exploration, research and management of the Neolithic landscape of the Outer Hebrides
- Ensure that this landscape and its heritage makes a significant and sustainable contribution to the economy of our islands
- Champion the value of the Hebridean Neolithic, not only because of its historic importance, but because of the positive difference it makes to people’s lives
Meet the Team
Communications and Engagement Executive
It’s my job to reach out to individuals and groups in the community and help them to explore and share the benefits of their local heritage site. I’m looking forward to creating more heritage projects for everyone in this unique island community to enjoy.
The post has been principally funded by a grant from Historic Environment Scotland
I am originally from the island and never thought I would return, but the role as GM at Calanais enticed me back home. My professional career has been quite diverse, specializing in catering, hospitality and visitor attractions. Most recently I have worked with the Wildlife Trust and National Trust driving commercialism in the heritage and conservation sectors. I love the magic and history of the Stones and am delighted to be leading the team taking the Centre into a new and exciting future.
Adam originally from a small town in Staffordshire, is very happy to be the senior chef in the visitor centre. Having worked in the Alton towers hospitality complex for over 7 years, he took the chance to change his life around and come to the islands to live. He thrives in the cut and thrust of kitchen life and has become a fan of island foods, especially Black Pudding. Adam finds the stones to be an inspiring location and very different from Alton Towers.
Sarah Ann Murray
Sarah Ann is from Breasclete, and has been working in the visitor centre since she was 13. She is now team leader in the café and shop, her participative leadership style makes for a pleasant workplace and has helped as others have joined the team. Sarah Ann will soon be travelling to the mainland to attend university, but will be returning to the centre café and shop each summer and easter to work.
Front of House and Service
The cafe team are here to serve your needs, from breakfast, lunch to afternoon teas they deliver delicious freshly prepared meals and excellent home baking all made on site daily.
Calum is the newest member of the team, working in the background to ensure your meal is to the highest of standards. On the far right is Becky, she bakes and serves front of house, far left is Iona, who also bakes, serves up front and assists in the kitchen, centrally pictured, is Sarah Ann, the team leader who keeps things running smoothly. Missing from the picture are Peter, Cat, and Hazel who also work in the café.
Merchandising and Inventory
Lorraine and Audrey are the shop team. The shop supports local artists by selling their work, and displaying it for the customer to purchase it directly from source. . Transactions in the shop also support the research and management of the archaeological sites in the Hebrides.
The shop may appear small, but it is very well stocked with excellent local art and craft products, beautifully crafted Harris Tweed items, and wonderful Lewis chess sets.
Having run a successful tourism business on the islands for thirteen years, and lead Outer Hebrides Tourism for ten years, I have enormous experience of the tourism sector and the opportunities and challenges it faces. Calanais is one of the most important tourism assets in the Outer Hebrides, and a major reason for people coming to visit and stay.
I am Co-Founder and Festival Director for HebCelt, the longest running independent music festival in the Highlands and Islands. My late brother Simon Fraser was instrumental in establishing the Calanais Visitor Centre and I try to honour him by bringing people-management and organisational skills to my role, helping to build a strong volunteering and community ethic.
I live in Aberdeenshire and am currently Head of Mortgages at Bank of Scotland. I bring my experience in project management, finance and strategy to the team, as well as a desire to protect and celebrate the history of this extraordinary location.
I live just the other side of the loch from Calanais (I can see the Visitor Centre from my kitchen window). I am an accountant and accounting academic and although retired I provide accounting assistance to various local social enterprises on a voluntary basis. I am currently treasurer of Outer Hebrides Tourism – the destination management and marketing organisation for the Outer Hebrides.
I’m a freelance archaeological consultant, having recently retired as a Principal Curator in National Museums Scotland, where I’d worked since 1987. I co-produced the report on the prehistoric pottery found at Calanais published in the Historic Environment Scotland report on Patrick Ashmore’s excavations between 1979‒88. I’m also a specialist in the period when Calanais was built and used.
Projects and Community Ownership
The Trust is central in helping Calanais play an even bigger part in the growth of tourism on the islands. As an important local employer, we aim to be a model social enterprise, adding significantly to our island economy. It is vital that the income from Calanais generates local jobs, confidence and pride of place. One way to achieve this is for the Trust to support meaningful events and projects in which our community, visitors and colleagues can be involved. For more information on upcoming events at Calanais, click here.
The Year of Coasts and Waters
One such project is ‘The Year of Coasts and Waters’. This is a community archaeology project designed to explore the past landscape around the Neolithic and later stone monument at Calanais. Led by geophysics expert Dr Richard Bates of the University of St Andrews, the goal is to work with the local community to explore non-invasive ways of investigating and surveying the Calanais landscape. You can find out more about this project and all our charity initiatives in our community section here.
This exciting and important project is central to the Trust’s ambition to dramatically enhance the visitor experience at Calanais. A significant new extension to the existing cottage will increase retail and cafe provision whilst creating a ‘shop window’ through which visitors can fully explore the site. An interpretation area will house a new and dynamic introduction to the stones, before visitors are invited to step back into the past and immerse themselves in the Neolithic period throughout the remainder of the exhibition and out onto the site itself. The final section of the exhibition will focus in on the story of the stones and will include a dramatic, immersive AV experience, complementing the visitors’ own personal encounters with the site. You can see the plans and read our posts about this exciting initiative here.
Explore the stones in person
Pre-booking essential for groups.