THEY have been an enduringly mysterious fixture of the windswept landscape of the Isle of Lewis for around 5,000 years.
Now the standing stones of Callanish, near Stornoway, are expected to become the main attraction of a nationwide tourism boom after it emerged they inspired a pivotal plot line in Brave, the Disney-Pixar animated film set in Scotland.
The makers of the film visited the ancient monuments as part of their research. Trailers for the film, seen by more than ten million people on YouTube, feature a stone circle which appears integral to the tale of a rebellious princess who triggers havoc in her kingdom by flouting long-standing traditions.
Writer Brenda Chapman and director Mark Andrews are said to have visited Callanish as part of two research tours of Scotland, scouting locations in search of inspiration for Pixar’s first foray into the world of “fairytales”.
Since January, four film crews have travelled to Callanish, the setting of the 50 stones, as word has spread about the film’s Hebridean inspiration.
Although the plot of Brave, to be released in the UK this summer, has been shrouded in secrecy, Katherine Sarafian, the film’s producer, has revealed that the standing stones represent “a very powerful setting for the kind of things we want to have happen in the story”.
She added: “We have our own take on Scottish lore. It’s really Pixar lore, but it’s set in Scotland and it’s inspired by Scottish storytelling and designed to be a story that’s perfectly set in that landscape.”
Speaking about the trips to Scotland, Andrews added: “We were inspired by all the stories that were already there. There are stories about every landscape and every tree and every rock.”
The main standing stones on Lewis are thought to have been used for rituals connected with the movements of the stars, Moon and Sun. More than 40,000 visitors a year flock to the site, boosted in recent years by cheaper ferry fares.
Angus Alex Mackenzie, manager of the Callanish visitor centre, said a major expansion of the complex was now being looked at in the expectation of a further surge in visitors.
“There’s already a lot of buzz about the film and what it could mean for the area, and we’ve had quite a few camera crews in already on the back of it. We’re already pretty busy in July and August these days, since the ferry fares went down, but if something like this helps extend our season then obviously that would be great news for the industry.
Anne Ryan, spokeswoman for the Outer Hebrides Tourism Association, said: “We actually had a meeting of local businesses the other day at which there was a presentation about the film and how they could benefit from it.”