Up along the northwest coast of Scotland, a small group of islands hug the coast. In total, these are called the Hebrides. The Outer Hebrides consist of the Isles of Lewis and Harris (really one island), North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Barra. Lewis/Harris is the largest island in Scotland, and the third largest in the British Isles (after Great Britain and Ireland, of course).
Lewis, or Leòdhas in the Gaelic, is the northern half of the island. It is lower, gentler than the more mountainous Harris. Because of this, it has more fertile land and is thus more settled.
And settled it has been, for thousands of years. It has plenty of neolithic sites, some of which date from 5,000 years ago, though there is evidence of habitation from 8,000 years ago. The most magnificent of these sites is Calanais, a series of stone circles that dot the countryside.
Lewis was once under Norse rule along with the other islands along Scotland, and now the Gaelic language culture is strong. The name, Leòdhas, may come from the Norse Ljoðahús, or Song House.
The Iron Age brought prominent stone building, and Dun Carloway is a stunning example of this. Built around 500 BC, these round stone towers or brochs were used for many things, perhaps living, intimidation or storage.
A series of people came to the island, including the Scots in the first centuries AD, followed by Picts, and then Vikings. The Romans never made it to these islands. The Norse settlers left their mark in many ways, including placenames and the legacy of the Lewis chessman, which were found on the island in the 19th century.
The main town on Lewis is Stornoway, a ferry port with plenty to do. However, the real charms are in the countryside. Keep in mind that the island is strongly Presbyterian, and the Sabbath is observed on Sunday. This means most shops, pubs, and services are closed for the day, so plan accordingly.
Gaelic is still strongly rooted in Lewis, and children have the option of attending either Gaelic school or English school (both are taught the other as an alternate language). Around 60% of the populations speaks Gaelic as the daily language, but almost everyone also speaks English.
Lewis is simply amazing. It was like no other place I’d been. Miles of undulating peat bogs, grasses blowing in strong wind like an ocean of browns and greens. Sturdy houses all in a row, sparkling in the sun with quartz-flecked gray stone walls. Friendly folk and delicious food. Stunning views of the vast ocean surrounding the place. I ache to go back.
There are several wonderful sites to visit, including:
- Callanish stone circles (Calanais) – these are a series of stone circles, standing stones, and other sites. The largest of these is Callanish I, a circle of 13 stones with five rows of standing stones forming avenues. Callanish II and III are close by, within a mile.
- Dun Carloway, a broch on the west coast that still reaches 9 meters tall, probably built in the 1st century AD.
St. Moluag’s Church is near the Butt of Lewis, a small church dating from the 1100s, but there was a chapel on the site since 560.
- Ethnic Food – the best Indian food I had in Scotland (which is a pretty high standard, let me tell you!) was at a small place in Stornoway called Balti House.
- Bosta Iron Age House and forts
- Lewis Loom Centre, for the history of Harris Tweed in Stornoway
- Butt of Lewis Lighthouse and cliffs/Port Ness – a stunning view from the north tip of the island.
- Seafood – the variety and quality of seafood in Lewis is amazing. Scallops, langoustines, prawns, all delicious!
- Lews Castle in Stornoway
- St. Columba’s church in Aignish, known as Eaglais na h-Aoidhe
- Blackhouse villages at both Arnol and Garenin, showing traditional thatched crofting cottages
- Shawbost Norse Mill and Kiln, a folk museum showing fascinating insight on daily life during another age.
- Beaches – Lewis has several gorgeous beaches, including Uig, Coll, Dalmor/Dalbeag, Tolsta, Valtos, Ness and Bostadh. These are white sandy beaches, but the water is a wee bit on the chilly side, so be warned!
Some more photos in Lewis:
I write historical fantasy novels, mostly set in Ireland, and a contemporary romance based on my parents’ 30-year search for true love. Don’t miss information on Celtic myth and history, as well as practical travel planning tips, and hidden places, in my travel books.
– Better To Have Loved – Contemporary romance based on the true story of my parents’ 30-year search for love
– Legacy of Hunger – Historical fantasy set in 1846 Ireland
– Legacy of Truth – Historical fantasy set around 1800 Ireland. Prequel to Legacy of Hunger. Available now!
– Legacy of Luck – Released!!! Historical fantasy set in 1745 Ireland and Scotland. Prequel to Legacy of Truth.
– The Enchanted Swans – Historical fantasy set in 500 BCE Ireland, based on The Children of Lir, an Irish Fairy Tale. On pre-order now! Release date March 8, 2017.
– Call of the Morrigú – Historical fantasy set in 1797 Ireland. Projected release date July 2017.
More info at Green Dragon Artist :: Home ,
Christy Jackson Nicholas, Author , and
Tirgearr Publishing – Christy Nicholas