Rich History

Calanais Stones (Callanish Stones)

Click to visit the Callanish Stones website

 

Calanais can be looked upon as Lewis’ Stonehenge, but you are still able to walk close to the stones and even touch them. The area around Calanais is home to over 20 monuments erected between 3000 and 4000 years ago. Most famous by far is Calanais I, a complex arrangement of some 50 stones. At their heart is a circle of 13 stones between 8 and 13 feet tall, surrounding the tallest stone on the site, 16 feet high and weighing in at about 5.5 tonnes. Some time later a stone tomb was added to the centre of the circle. Such is the magnificence of the main collection of standing stones at Calanais I that other nearby monuments are too often overlooked. Just off the main road a little to the south east of Calanais is "Calanais III", a collection of 20 stones forming a double ring with an outside diameter of 16m. The visitor centre is open: June, July and August 9:30 am - 8 pm Monday to Saturday; April, May, September & October 10am -6pm Monday to Saturday; November to March 10am - 4pm Tuesday to Saturday.

 

Port Nis (Port of Ness) & Butt of Lewis

 

Port of Ness is the most Northerly point in Lewis, and boasts the largest percentage of Gaelic speakers in Scotland. While here you can admire an intriguing little harbour which is reached through a gap between a cliff face and large rocky islet. You can also spend some time on the attractive East facing beach at one end of the harbour. A short journey to the North of the main road will take you to Europie (Europaidh) where you will find the beautifully restored St Moluag’s Church on a site believed to have been consecrated since the 500s.
If you travel North from Europie a mile down a narrow track, you get to the 121ft high Butt of Lewis Lighthouse. You are now at probably the most Northerly point on the island! By standing on the most Northerly tip, you are also now standing at the windiest place in the UK as noted in the Guinness Book of Records. If you happen to be here in the Autumn you may see the Ness men make their traditional journey 40 miles North to the island of Sula Sgeir for their annual Guga cull (guga being the name for the young gannets).

Click to read more about the Guga Hunt

 

Lews Castle

 

The castle is actually a mock-Tudor folly built in the 19th Century by Sir James Matheson who purchased the island in 1844 with part of his fortune gained through the opium trade in the Far East. During the Second World War it was used as a naval hospital, then later as a technical college, but has long been in disuse. Today it houses the museum which includes the return of some of the Chessmen to their home. There is also a cafe and accommodation in the newly rennovated castle.  A walk in the extensive gardens with its 100 varieties of tree and views across the harbour (watching out for stray golf balls along the way!) is well worth it. There is also the old waterwheel and the Woodland Centre with its exhibitions, tea room, gift shop and toilets.

 

Shawbost Norse Mill & Kiln

 

The Norse mill on west side of Lewis, has been rebuilt to show how barley grain was processed into meal.

The Iolaire

 

World War One had ended and on 31st December 1918 hundreds of Scottish soldiers from the Western Isles of Scotland crowded on to the Iolaire to go home in time for Hogmanay. The weather was very bad and in the early hours of 1st January 1919 the boat lost track of where it was as it approached Stornoway harbour. Just metres away from home the boat struck some rocks. Many soldiers jumped overboard and tried to swim home but the seas were so rough that they drowned instantly. Only 79 survived. 205 men lost their lives. Over 170 of them came from the island of Lewis. The disaster shocked the entire island - just about every family knew someone who had died on the Iolaire. It was one of the worst sea disasters Britain had ever experienced. The memorial is located at Holm, outside Stornoway.

Uig Museum & An Suileachan

 

The Comann Eachdraidh (Uig Historical Society) runs a small museum situated in the community centre in Timsgarry. They have displays covering different aspects of local history including crofting, fishing, Vikings and the Lewis Chessmen. The museum also holds extensive genealogical material including croft histories compiled over many years.
An Suileachan is a recently completed monument on the Valtos Penninsula which reflects local, historical events which started in the late 19th century with the Reef Raisers and which are on-going into the 21st century.

 

Gearrannan Blackhouse Village

 

Facing the Atlantic lies the blackhouse village of Gearrannan, an evocative port of call for anyone trying to understand a way of life once common on Lewis. This is a unique place in a beautiful environment. The last occupants left the village in 1974, and you will now find self catering accommodation, café, museum and visitors centre.

 

Arnol Blackhouse

 

Arnol Blackhouse offers an insight into the traditional way of life on our island. You will also find a White house (as the modern houses were termed) furnished to the 1950s to give an idea of the transition people would have made at that time from a Blackhouse to a White house. The visitor centre is open: April to September - Monday to Saturday 9.30am to 5.30pm; October to March - daily except Wednesday and Sunday 10am to 4pm.

 

Dun Charlabhaigh (Carloway Broch)

 

Dun Carloway is a remarkably well preserved broch in a stunning location overlooking Loch Roag on the West coast of Lewis. Dun Carloway was probably built some time in the last century BC. It would have served as an occasionally defensible residence for an extended family complete with accommodation for animals at ground floor level. It would also have served as a visible statement of power and status in the local area. It was built at a time when brochs were already starting to be replaced by other forms of housing less demanding on scarce resources (wood in particular), and it is not known how long it remained in use. The broch is free to walk around, and accessible all year. The visitor centre is open between April and September, Monday to Saturday, from 10am until 5pm.

Great Bernera

 

Connected to Lewis by bridge, Bernera is nearly 6 miles from North to South, and 3 miles from East to West. The centre of the island, geographically and in every other way, is at Breacleit. Here you find the school and church. Here too is a shop and post office, and a doctor's surgery. A striking new addition is the large sloping roofed community centre which contains a very good cafe. It is also home to the Bernera museum, which explores the island's fishing heritage and its wider history. In the doorway are handprints left by the island's Millennium children. At the most northerly point is Bosta Beach and a reconstructed Iron Age house. Exposed during a storm in 1993, the house has been re-constructed and open to the public in the summer months.

 

R.A.F. Base Aird Uig

 

Aird Uig is a village of two halves: the old crofting village and the former R.A.F. base. The base was constructed in 1954 to cover the North Atlantic Gap during the Cold War, the defences consisting of 24 substantial buildings which were abandoned in 1963 and replaced by satellite surveillance equipment and the R.A.F./N.A.T.O presence at Stornoway Airport. The 12 acre domestic camp was sited immediately to the north of Aird Uig village to the south of Gallan Head. There was a guardroom on the village side and the first building was the Station Headquarters. Other buildings included a medical block, stores, fire station and the NAFFI shop. The four houses standing to the left of the road running between the camp and the operations site were married quarters for AMWD (Air Ministry Works Dept), the civil staff that maintain the fabric of the site. The domestic camp was sold to a private individual in March 1973 and since then has changed hands several times. Some of the accommodation blocks have been converted into housing and incorporated into the village, other blocks remain empty and disused.

In 2016 the Gallan Head Community Trust bought Gallan Head back from the government and have opened the penninsular up to the public.  The views from Gallan Head are glorious and it is an excellent place to watch seals, whales, dolphins and bird life.  The Edge cafe is open every day except Tuesdays and Saturdays and offers a good range of food and drink. 

Visit the Gallan Head Community Trust website to learn more. 

Come to the Outer Hebrides to experience this for yourself!