Past & Present

Clach Stèinigidh

Clach Stèinigidh.jpg

(Photo: Harris 365)

Today, this stone stands alone on the headland between Bagh Stèinigidh and Tràigh Mhòr. When it was erected some 4,500 to 5,000 years ago it was one of over a dozen standing stones set in a large circle, 40m in diameter. It was just part of a highly significant place of ceremony and ritual for the stone-using Neolithic farmers of Harris.

Its landscape setting was all important. One of the views from the stone circle is over to the island of Tarasaigh, another is towards the outline of the high hills of North Harris. The circle was probably designed so that certain stones linked to high or low points on the horizon at specific times of year in the cycle of the movement of the sun.

Clach Stèinigidh Black Lab.jpg

(Photo: Black Lab)

This standing stone isn't all that survives here. Three fallen slabs can be found on the eastern arc of the circle, and one on the west. The others that once formed the stone circle have disappeared, broken up during the last 400 years or so for use elsewhere. But further details are buried under the turf. It seems that a large man-made ditch once surrounded the stone circle.

Clach Steineagaidh and the remains of a few of the other stones in the circle are not the only visible features here. Between the standing stone and the headland is a low, stoney, turf-covered mound. Is it the remains of a burial mound, or is it all that is left of a substantial round building, like a broch? Only excavation, at some time in the future, will provide the answer as to which is the correct interpretation.

By Jill Harden

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