Calanais 2025
A Vision for the Future

Image Credit: Grant Hugh Jones
Image Credit: Kenny Lam
Image Credit: Grant Hugh Jones
Image Credit: Kenny Lam

What is Calanais 2025?

Calanais 2025 is a major project that will see the Visitor Centre comprehensively transformed, and each visitor’s experience significantly enhanced. From structural changes to the fabric of the existing buildings to an exciting new contemporary exhibition space exploring the landscape, people and stones that make Calanais so special, this exciting initiative will safeguard our work with the Standing Stones for years to come.

You can find out more about the work of Urras nan Tursachan (the Standing Stones Trust) here, or click here to learn more about our current Story of the Stones exhibition.

Our Four Objectives for Calanais

By upgrading, reconfiguring and extending the existing Visitor Centre (built in 1995) and its physical linkage with the world-renowned Calanais Stones (a Property in the Care of Scottish Ministers) the Trust intends to:

 

  • Create a unified and significantly enhanced visitor experience
  • Greatly enhance the digital experience, develop bespoke educational resources and place the Story of the Stones within its national and international context
  • Develop and expand guided and self-guided tours of the Calanais Standing Stones and of other archaeological sites and visitor attractions in the Western Isles as part of a broader approach to developing sustainable heritage tourism in the Outer Hebrides
  • Develop community-based heritage research initiatives through the creation of an independent heritage fund for the Outer Hebrides, funded from a proportion of the exhibition ticket sales, supplemented by grants

What are the
Project’s Key Outcomes?

A Tourist Hub for the Isle of Lewis and Beyond

Our extensive and ambitious £5.3m redevelopment project aims to ensure that Calanais becomes the tourism hub for the Isle of Lewis, increasing the number of our 150,000 yearly visitors substantially.

We are committed to using this unique expansion opportunity to invest in improving the island’s over-stressed heritage tourism infrastructure. In doing so, we aim to increase employment in visitor management and related services, as well as offering new employment opportunities in education and research.

As a result, we expect to play a purposeful role in developing the economic contribution Calanais makes to the Outer Hebrides, as well as producing a range of quality learning and educational resources for locals and visitors. We anticipate that the project will transform the visitor experience of the Calanais Visitors Centre, the Stones and the wider Calanais area and consequently protect population retention and encourage growth by promoting the Outer Hebrides as a place to live, work and research.

A Chance to Support new Projects

An increase in funding, combined with higher visitor numbers, contemporary resources and world-class facilities will give us the opportunity to financially support a range of historic environment projects across the Outer Hebrides. Most importantly, this investment will allow us to place the conservation of the Calanais Standing Stones on a sustainable footing.

Why is Calanais 2025 so Important?

Managing Increasing Visitor Numbers

In 2016, the Centre’s stakeholders agreed that the Trust’s facilities were no longer fit-for-purpose. Visitor numbers have doubled in the last 10 years, and continue to rise, with Visit Scotland reporting in 2017 that Calanais was the most visited attraction in the Outer Hebrides.

Preserving this historic site whilst properly managing access to the Standing Stones and ensuring that every visitor can enjoy the experience will soon be an unachievable goal unless major redevelopment is undertaken.

With facilities constrained by 25-year-old infrastructure, the projected rises in visitor numbers also represent significant operational risks to the Centre and reputational risks to tourism in the Outer Hebrides. If investment is not introduced now, facilities will be overwhelmed and overstressed, risking significant numbers of visitors being turned away. Development of the Stornoway Cruise facility (Deep Water Port) will add volumes of visitors to the site, which will become unmanageable without this investment.

Building on our own Heritage

Plans for our Calanais 2025 project have evolved since 2016, but one goal has remained constant; to create a design that not only looks to the future but combines new construction elements with our existing architecture. The current design is now streamlined to balance the minimum extension and modernisation of existing buildings but provide the necessary step-change in operational offer and opportunity.

Calanais 2025 is a once in a generation investment that will transform the most successful visitor centre and ancient monument site in the Outer Hebrides. It will offer us a compelling chance to develop study and research opportunities into the Neolithic history of both Calanais and Scotland as a whole, and provide fit-for-purpose facilities and attractions that will exceed the expectations of visitors for generations to come.

Image credit: Paul Tomkins
Image Credit: Grant Hugh Jones
Image Credit: Grant Hugh Jones
Image Credit: Grant Hugh Jones

Calanais 2025
Timescale and Partnerships

Once the design proposals are approved and funding secured, the construction phase of the Calanais 2025 project will commence early in 2022 and be completed by the end of the year. The Trust is already partnering with Historic Environment Scotland to develop a framework for the operation of the Calanais monument and Calanais Visitor Centre as a single tourism experience.

Other strategic partners include Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Outer Hebrides Tourism and the Carloway Estate Trust, as well as several other bodies with interests in heritage and cultural activities within the Outer Hebrides. Calanais 2025 is a priority investment project in alignment with the Stornoway Port Authority cruise terminal plans and we are a beneficiary of the Islands Growth Deal, with additional funding being sought from a range of sources including Levelling Up funds.

Ultimately, the project will also create a ‘Fund for Heritage’ through a profit-share arrangement which will support other heritage initiatives across the Outer Hebrides.

You can see the inspiring designs for our redevelopment below.

Community Partnership and National Value

Since its 1994 incorporation, the Urras nan Tursachan board has placed a focus on community engagement, offering two positions for local authority representatives. These representatives played a key role in the 2018 community engagement report that outlined the initial development plans, and were central to the new community forum formed in 2021 to engage local interest in development progress.

Our Calanais 2025 project is rooted in the needs of the local community and will allow us to:

  • Support businesses throughout the Outer Hebrides by promoting a range of locally crafted merchandise in the Gift Shop and sourcing local produce for the Visitor Centre Café
  • Support Outer Hebrides-based artists and performers
  • Transform community awareness, understanding and appreciation of, and engagement with the prehistory of the Outer Hebrides
  • Develop community engagement with the rich archaeological heritage of the area and the wider Outer Hebrides
  • Transform the Gaelic language offer of the Visitor Centre, and promote Gaelic language and culture
  • Transform the sustainability & performance of the Trust

If you would like to work with us on this important and inspirational project, or would like more information about our ambitious plans, please contact us here.

Explore the stones in person

Discover calanais

Experience the wonder and mystery of the Calanais Stone Circle and be transformed by this ancient and inspiring landscape.

Open Tuesday to Saturday

10am - 5pm

Pre-booking essential for groups.