Best standing stones: Stonehenge, Avenbury, Callanish?

Hi. Where are the best standing stones or fairy rings in England, Ireland and Scotland? We are interested in seeing Stonehenge, but have been told that there are other stones that are more accessible just as interesting. It has been suggested that we see the Standing Stones of Callanish on the Isle of Skye in SCotland. WE will have a rental car. How long does that take from Dublin or Iverness? Thanks

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

The Callanish circles (the big one and four small ones) are on Lewis, not Skye. From Skye you'd take the ferry to Harris and drive up. I've always used the Ullapool - Stornoway ferry which is a couple of hours. CalMac runs the boat. Stonehenge pales beside Callanish, Brodgar (Orkney) and Carnac (Brittany). Avebury is in the top six or seven. If you get bored, there's more than thirteen hundred stone circles among the UK, RoI, and France.

Posted by Kathy
137 posts

The only one I have been to is the Ring of Brodgar in Orkney, which is just terrific! It is free to the public, who can walk around the stones, walk on top of the fallen ones, sit on one that was split by lightening about thirty years ago. Very impressive, and within a short drive of the Stones of Stenness, a group of standing stones that are very tall, Maeshowe, an amazing chambered tomb (this requires booking your tour time earlier in the morning, since space is limited) with the largest collection of Viking graffiti outside of Scandinavia, and just up the coast is Skara Brae, the best preserved Neolithic community in Northern Europe. All of these sites predate Stonehenge and Avebury, as well as the Pyramids!

Posted by Cynthia
Gig Harbor, Washington, USA
1270 posts

We have been to most of the stone circles in the UK and Ireland. Stonehenge is unique - it's the only one I know of with the horizontal stones connecting some of the uprights. If you are intrigued by it, I would suggest reserving a "private access" ticket. You can find out how by visiting the official Stonehenge website.....Callanish on Lewis is quite remote but well worth the trip. The stones are very tall, sort of reddish color. Castlerigg, just north of the Lakes district, is our favourite. If you go there early evening, you will often be sharing it only with the cows. Ring of Brodgar in the Orkneys is also more remote, also well worth the trip. Avebury is so huge it is hard to get a sense of "stone circles". Another good circle is the Merry Maidens, just past Mousehole in Cornwall. You should be able to find images of all of them on Google. Except for Stonehenge, the ones I mention are all in lovely atmospheric locations.

Posted by Tod
San Diego, CA, USA
237 posts

If you decide that you really want to do Stonehenge be sure to arrange and reserve well in advance to book a slot in the special access tour before they open or after they close. This is the only way to actually walk among the stones themselves. The regular day access only gets you within viewing distance behind the rope and the special tour is only about twice as much as regular access and so worth it. If you don't want to do this than any standing stones you can walk through will probably be a better and more personal experience. Also avoid Stonehenge on any of the celestial landmark days - solstice etc - as 10s of thousands show up for those. My $.02,

Posted by Kim
1052 posts

Another vote for the Ring of Brodgar. And don't forget Carnac in France -- a completely different experience.

Posted by Rebecca
Parkersburg, WV
5 posts

We visited Avebury years ago and enjoyed the fact that people could walk among the stones (no idea if this is still the case or not). One of my favorite memories was watching children rolling down the hill between two of the uprights and sheep grazing among them.

Posted by Thomas
Snyder, Texas
504 posts

Hi Tena, We have been to the 3 sites you mention. We really enjoyed the Callanish stones on the Isle of Lewis. We enjoyed the rest of Lewis and Harris too. The Callanish circle is quite remote; just a small sign off the main road reals you to it. There were only a few people there at the same time. Avebury was quite enjoyable too because of both the stone circle and the setting. It is well worth the time to see. We had previously bypassed Stonehenge, but this summer our route took us right by there, so we decided to stop. To our surprise, we greatly enjoyed it. You get an audio guide as a part of the admission. The rope boundary is about knee high,so it does not in any way block the view. While you cannot walk amongst the stones, neither can all the rest of the people. So if you stand next to the rope, which is easy to do, you can block out the people and listen to the audio guide. The size of the stones is quite impressive. You can walk all the way around. Anyway, we were quite glad we stopped. We were there about 2 hours including parking and getting tickets. Also, there are a lot of roads being revamped in the area, so your GPS may not guide you very well.
We have visited other standing stones too. The Callanish is my favorite so far.

Posted by Anita
Long Beach, California, USA
1377 posts

I have been to quite a few circles in England. Stonehenge is stunning but very regulated and touristy. Well worth the visit though! Avesbury is amazing for the large circumference of the circle. Castlerigg, just above Keswick in the Lake District, is my very favorite. It's in the middle of a sheep pasture (there are almost always sheep sleeping against the stones) and the setting is beautiful. There are usually not that many people there and you can just stay as long as you like. I've spent many happy hours sitting there sketching the stones from multiple angles. Take a walk across the highway and across the field to Castlerigg Hall and have lunch or just a pint at The Crag Bar...great little old pub that has charm and a local flavor!

Posted by Carroll
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
1462 posts

I've been to all the ones that Ed mentioned, and I think Stonehenge is the most impressive due to the size of the stones and the configuration. Unfortunately, it is less accessible and there are a lot of people around. Callanish is probably my next favorite. The remoteness of it, as well as the ones on Orkney, add a lot to the appeal.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
4298 posts

I've been to both Callanish and the Ring of Brogdar. What I like about them is that you can get up close and personal with them. The two circles are different. Orkney has other ancient sites as well. Maeshowe is amazing. Standing at Stenness are interestingly placed as well. And, if you've time to get to South Ronaldsay there is the Eagle's Tomb. A great website to explore is Orkneyjar. Also, you might want to get a copy of the Oxford Archaeological Guides Scotland by Anna and Graham Ritchie. Pam

Posted by Steve
Big Eagle, KY, USA
70 posts

I've been to both Stonehenge and Callanish. Highly recommend Callanish however it will require a greater effort to get there. I arrived via ferry from Stornoway. Callanish is most impressive. Enjoy !

Posted by John
Tampa, FL, USA
69 posts

Just got back--did the Madmax bus tour. I liked Stonehenge more than I thought but I had lowered expectations--I'd give it a B/B+--kinda of a check it off the list thing. If going GO EARLY, once the tour buses show up the experience gets worse fast. I liked Avesbury more; it was less crowded, you could get close to the stones. and if bored of them the village in the middle was cute enough. My teens jogged around the circle (it is over a mile)--can't say you do that everyday. That said oldest son liked Stonehenge the most.