Standing Stones

Standing stones are fascinating. There are several sites on the Isle of Mull; I hiked to two of them—in the rain.

_DSC0034The Quinish stone stands alone, the only stone remaining upright of the four, possibly five stones, out on the Quinish Point hike. About an hour’s walk from the village of Dervaig, the stone isn’t marked, and if I hadn’t looked up, I might have missed her.

I say “her” because the locals refer to the stone as Caliach, the Old Woman.

Wind and rain has shaped her over the 3,000-4,000 years she has stood. The Old Woman appears to be wrapped in a cloak, and with her head inclined downward, she evokes a lament in stone—maybe for the residents of Mull who were subjected to the horrendous injustice of the Highland Clearances.

She stands just over nine feet tall and is decorated in green and white lichen. She’s beautiful.

But I couldn’t help myself—I had to try it. Alas, the Old Woman didn’t take me back to the 18th century, there to meet Jamie Fraser. Sorry, Outlander fans, this stone didn’t work for that._DSC0040

So what was the purpose of these stones? Speculation centers on religious ritual, orientation to time and season, and burial. There still seems to be a big shrug of archeologists’ shoulders. Ideas, but no definitive answers. I wonder why, even over the millennia, an oral tradition wasn’t handed down with the explanation. But maybe the people of the past should hold their mystery.

The other site I hiked to on Mull is the Kilmore Standing Stones just up the hill from Dervaig and off the main road, the B8073. Again, the stones are unmarked, as is the car park near them, except by the small gravel area pocked with _DSC0249deep puddles. Two of the five stones are standing. They’re listed as around eight feet tall, but didn’t seem that big to me. The area around the stones is a forestry plantation and is in an unlovely state right now, having been clear-cut.

What is lovely is the view from the bench at the top of the hill overlooking the village of Dervaig and Loch Cuin. I watched as a mist rolled in from the sea and turned into a drizzle as it got to me. I put up the hood of my rain jacket and headed back down the steep road, driving the sheep ahead of me.

The standing stones of Mull aren’t as fantastical and awe-inspiring as Stonehenge in the south of England or Callanish on the Isle of Lewis, but they’re incredible to me in a more quiet way. They speak of people, ordinary people, scraping out a living on an inhospitable land—people who erected and gathered around these stones, then left them standing in silent eloquence.

 


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