New Calanais Visitor Centre - The Entrance, Shop and Café

UPDATE

9-May-2024  Big step forward for Calanais Visitor Centre as CnES approves plans  

 A major milestone has been reached today as Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (CnES) grant planning permission for the exciting redevelopment of The Calanais Visitor Centre.  This announcement allows the centre to move forward with its long-term goal of transforming into a 5-star visitor attraction and a first-class community facility.

“We are thrilled that our plans have been approved for this major project,” said Ian Fordham, Chair of Urras nan Tursachan the charity that runs the Calanais Visitor Centre. “It has been quite a journey getting to this stage and would not have been possible without the support of our local community and wider stakeholders.  The redevelopment of the centre has been a long-term ambition of the community and over the last fourteen years local involvement has ensured  the project reflects the aspirations of the community and respects the ancient heritage of our neighbouring Calanais Standing Stones.”

The centre will undergo extensive architectural improvements integrating the existing building with new extensions allowing for much improved facilities to be provided.  Urras nan Tursachan give their thanks to local CnES planning and JM Architects design team for working with them to achieve the best design possible within the constraints of the site.

Ian Fordham also expressed particular thanks to Highlands and Islands Enterprise who funded the planning phase of the project saying, “The trust is grateful for their ongoing support in the delivery of the Calanais 2025 initiative.”   HIE have been closely involved in the project from the outset and comment, “HIE welcomes this significant milestone for the redevelopment of the Calanais Visitor Centre and what it could mean for the organisation, the place, and the product.  We look forward to seeing this project progress.”

Community Board member Kenny Maclennan MBE and Chair of local community land owned estate Urras Oighreachd Charlabhaigh also reflects positive local opinion,  “This indeed is a major step forward for the re-development of our visitor centre at Calanais. The current centre has been an integral part of this community for the past 30 years and this is now a huge milestone as the proposed re-development project moves forward. The community here are fully supportive of the project and are looking forward to the long-term benefits that will come in the form of job opportunities and an enhanced visitor experience. We are looking forward to the works getting under way very soon and having a state-of-the-art visitor centre “.

Looking to the future Ian Fordham said, “The charity looks forward to continuing to work with stakeholders to ensure the successful delivery of this exciting improvement to our local infrastructure.  This approval of planning permission marks a crucial step forward in the project’s progress and we are now on track to move forward, pending the securing of the full funding package.”

 

New Calanais Visitor Centre - The Entrance, Shop and Café

UPDATE

The Major Lunar Standstill, 2025, and preparations for it in 2024

The complex stone monument at Calanais is world-famous for marking an extraordinary natural phenomenon that happens every 18.6 years, at the time of the moon’s Major Standstill, when its rising and setting positions are at their southernmost point and furthest apart.

At this time, when viewed from the northern end of the Avenue at Calanais, the full moon’s path from rising to setting means that it appears to skim across the horizon (which is shaped like a woman lying on her back – the ‘Cailleach Na Mointeach’, or ‘Old Woman of the Moors’), then disappear from view briefly before shining into the centre of the circle at the southern end of the Calanais monument as it sets.

It is believed that the design of the monument at Calanais was deliberately changed, probably around 2500 BC, to re-orientate the monument so that it was aligned on this remarkable lunar event. Before that, it had existed as a free-standing stone circle with a tall central stone, built around 2900 BC, whose orientation is believed to have been concerned principally with marking winter solstice (i.e. an event connected with the sun, not the moon). There is evidence for a small chamber tomb being constructed inside the stone circle around 2500 BC, and it may well be that that the northern Avenue and perhaps also the East, West and South rows were added around this time. It was the construction of the Avenue that directed people’s gaze and movement towards the position of the Major Lunar Standstill.

The last time the moon’s Major Standstill was marked was 2006, and it is due to happen again in 2025 – but the Major Standstill season starts this year, when it will be close enough to its 2025 position for the phenomenon to be witnessed. Urras nan Tursachan are hoping to work with our friends in English Heritage, who are live-streaming the event at Stonehenge this June, and we hope to offer a live-stream from Calanais on the night of 22 June, 01:16 (moonrise) till 03:19 (moonset), British Summer Time – if this proves possible from a technical and logistical point of view. We shall also be recording the phenomenon at various times when it is visible, and this footage will feature on our website and in the new Visitor Centre when it opens in a couple of years’ time. Of course, there is no guarantee that the sky will be free of clouds, but watch this space! Note that this will occur shortly after the summer solstice on 20th (sunset)/21st (sunrise) June.

Other dates to watch (all British Summer Time) are:

19–20 July 2024, between 22:55 (19th) and 0.04 (20th)

15 August 2024, between 21:57 and 23:48

11 September 2024, between 19:42 and 21:34

..and in 2025:

12th June, between 01:57 and 03:54

9–10 July, between 23:48 (9th) – 01:47 (10th)

5–6 August, between 22:36 (5th) and 00:31 (6th)

1 September, between 20:30 and 22:19

Note that Urras nan Tursachan cannot guarantee that the phenomenon will be visible on any of these dates, nor can it guarantee the accuracy of the information presented here. Any visits made to Calanais to try and see the phenomenon are the responsibility of the visitor, not of Urras nan Tursachan.

Note also: The monument at Calanais was constructed as a sacred site, not as a destination for mass tourism, and it is vulnerable to damage from excessive footfall from visitors. It will not be possible for large numbers of people to witness the phenomenon at the monument itself and there is only very limited parking space, so in-person visits to the site at these times are not encouraged.

If you want to find out more about lunar standstills, see:

View of The Major Lunar Standstill Season is Here! (equinoxpub.com)

And if you want to find out about the Standstill at Stonehenge, see:

Stonehenge Major Lunar Standstill | English Heritage (english-heritage.org.uk)

 

New Calanais Visitor Centre - The Entrance, Shop and Café

UPDATE

Next Events:

On-line Talk from Archaeoastronomer Professor Clive Ruggles

Mon 17 Jun 6.00pm, On-line  Free

Professor Clive Ruggles, one of the best archaeoastronomers in the world, is presenting an on-line lecture in collaboration with the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and UnT about Calanais and other sites with lunar alignments.  Book on: Sighting the sun and moon at Calanais Tickets, Mon 17 Jun 2024 at 18:00 | Eventbrite

 

‘Dancing among the Stones – how the stars made us’ Talk by Roberto Trotta

Thu 20 Jun 7.30pm, Breasclete Hall   Suggested Donation £10

Roberto Trotta is an Italian astrophysicist and award-winning science communicator. His new book, Starborn, imagines what human history might have been like if we’d never been able to see the stars – an idea he had while visiting the Calanais Stones on a stormy, cloudy night in February 2020, and contemplating the irony of being at this site of great astronomical significance without actually being able to see anything – a story he writes about in the book.  Book on: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dancing-among-the-stones-how-the-stars-made-us-who-we-are-tickets-921609768627

 

Talk by Archaeologist Alison Sheridan on Calanais, Solstice and Lunistice

Fri 21 Jun 7.30pm, Breasclete Hall   Suggested Donation £10

Dr Alison Sheridan is a leading archaeologist and a specialist in the period when Calanais was built and used.  She will give her fascinating insights into the Calanais as a monument, with an emphasis on the lunar orientation of the Standing Stones.

Book on:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/calanais-standing-stones-the-monument-solstice-and-lunistice-tickets-921666297707