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Bid to save Sleeping Goddess from turbines

A Lewis-based archaeologist has hit out at proposals to erect a Western Isles windfarm on a famous and mystical hill formation that resembles a woman lying on her back.

If the plan is successful, Cailleach na Mointeach, the Old Woman of the Moors, would have some of the 53 turbines sprouting from her knees.

The Cailleach, also known as the Sleeping Goddess, can be seen to the south side of the ancient Callanish stone circle.

Ian McHardy says the visual impact of the highest seven turbines will destroy the effect of the “major lunar standstill” around which the mythical site of Callanish appears to have been built about 6,000 years ago.

Every 18.6 years, the moon appears to rise from between the “knees” of the woman and travels in a low arc over her body, lighting it up, until it reaches the end of the ancient avenue of stones at Callanish.

At this point, the moon is huge and low in the sky, and a person standing on a ridge in front of it also appears enormous.

The phenomenon, which extends over a year and is unique in Britain, was first noted by archaeologist Margaret Curtis in 1987.

It is now believed that the whole complex at Callanish was designed around it.

The latest major lunar standstill has been occurring since last year, with this weekend and the end of June good times to observe it.

Mr McHardy said: “The landscape around Callanish turns this event into a spectacular piece of natural theatre, which the stones make full use of.”

Mr McHardy said the visual impact of the windfarm will be significant, with parts of seven turbines visible on the ridge.

“As an archaeologist I think it is tragic if the turbines go up and destroy an area of such significance,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland said: “The recently discovered cairn is not a scheduled monument unlike Callanish and as such falls outwith our remit.”

Action group Moorland Without Turbines says that almost 5,000 objections have been lodged against the proposal.

Spokeswoman Catriona Campbell said: “It is a bad proposal for all sorts of reasons. It is one of the best places for eagles and sea eagles. It encroaches into a National Scenic Area.”

Landowner and developer Nicholas Oppenheim said: “We have allocated £1.25million to archaeological research by Headland if the proposal goes ahead. Without this development archaeology like this would never get accessed.

“A lot of people don’t like change, and I sympathise with this.

“But the windfarm will create a lot of jobs and income for the community.”