• Ellen E. Sutherland

Outlander’s Craigh na Dun


As a special blog, and a tribute to my favorite (living) author, Diana Gabaldon, it is fitting to include Craigh na Dun.

Diana Gabaldon is currently touring the Maritime Provinces of Eastern Canada doing research for an upcoming book in the wildly popular Outlander series. It was my privilege to meet her after enjoying her books for so many years.

It may come as a surprise that Craigh na Dun is a fictional place, even though the stones are oh so very real. Craigh na Dun is said to be located, according to Outlander, near Culloden, a battlefield where a crucial moment both in the series and in history unfolded. A defining moment in Scotland’s history, as any highland Scot can tell you, took place on 16 April 1746. This was the final confrontation of the Jacobite rising of 1745 and part of a civil war in Britain. The intent had been to put Charles Edward Stuart on the throne. Instead, somewhere between 1500 and 2000 Jacobites were killed or wounded. The Jacobite campaign collapsed. Wearing of the tartan was banned. And eventually many Scottish people fled Scotland. Scottish peoples ended up in places like Nova Scotia, Canada--and really much of the Maritimes--and North Carolina. This is an extremely high-level telling of Culloden, but if the topic interests you, there are many books and websites dedicated to the events. Check them out.

Craigh na Dun, as in the stone circle, is actually the Callanish Stones. Instead of being located near Culloden, they are located near the village of Callanish on the west coast of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. They are an arrangement of standing stones placed in a cruciform (shaped like a cross) pattern with a central stone circle.

The Callanish Stones were erected in the late Neolithic era (4000 BC to 2500 BC) and were used actively during the Bronze Age (2500 BC – 800 BC). There are thirteen primary stones in the main circle. The largest stones in the circle are almost perfectly oriented to the north and south. This circle is not a perfect circle as previously stated. Additionally there are multiple rows of smaller stones connecting to the central grouping. Much of this is not visible on the television show, allowing Craigh na Dun to have its own “personality.” Further stones, and “avenues” connect to the stone circle from the north-northeast.

Besides the stone rows and avenues of stone, there is a chambered tomb. This is located between the central and eastern monolith of the stone circle. The chambered tomb was built later than the stone circle. There is also a cairn, or mound of stones, on the northeast side of the stone circle. Over time it has been reduced to ground-level. These may not be part of the original site.

The Callanish Stones are positioned in a landscape known as “Cailleach Na Mointeach” or “Old woman of the moors” because the skyline resembles a woman’s prone form as seen to the north east from the standing stones.

As with Craigh na Dun, the circle of stones located on the Isle of Osiris in the Jamie Poole books is entirely fictional. Due to Osiris’s location, I originally took some high-level details from the Orkney Islands, since they are located to the south-west of Osiris. Because the area could have been volcanic in the past (think Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland) the idea of a destructive earthquake and volcanic explosion was conceived as a crucial point in the story.

As with any good story, there’s a lot of fact tucked in beside the fiction.

#outlander #DianaGabaldon #craighnadun #callanishstones

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