Island of the week: Lewis
THIS week’s edition of our ‘Islands of the Week’ series features Lewis, the northern-most tip of the Outer Hebrides or Western Isles.
Location: Northern part of Lewis and Harris, Outer Hebrides
Gaelic name: Leòdhas (possibly from the Gaelic ‘leogach’ which means marshy)
The largest island in the Outer Hebrides, Lewis covers an area of around 683 square miles and is made up mostly of flatter and fertile land, in contrast with the mountainous landscape of neighbouring Harris. Home to a number of animals including the golden eagle and plentiful seals, the island is also home to about three-quarters of the Western Isles population. Famously the ancestral home of Donald Trump, the island is well-known a rich cultural heritage and history.
Peat samples found on Lewis indicate that much of the island’s woodland was burnt down to allow for deer grazing, circa 8000 years ago. The earliest remains suggesting human life date from 5000 years ago, when people began to settle on a permanent basis. Remains of their houses can be seen at Dail Mhor, in Carloway.
The Vikings began to settle in the 800s, intermarrying with local families amidst a casual disregard for their pagan beliefs. The island itself, like many of the Hebridean islands, was part of Norway - the famous Lewis Chessmen date from the time of Viking rule - and the inhabitants were known as Gall-Ghaidheil (Foreigner Gaels) in reference to their mixed Scandinavian and Gaelic background. Along with the rest of the Western Isles, Lewis was repatriated by Scotland following the Treaty of Perth in 1266, with the Lordship of the Isles, the role that controlled the Hebrides, becoming a key power in north-west Scotland by the 1300s.
Following the rebellion of 1745 and Bonnie Prince Charlie’s subsequent flight to France, the Gaelic language was all but stamped out, rent was demanded in cash and folk dress was outlawed. During the Great War, thousands of islanders were called up, with many losing their lives. The sinking of the Admiralty yacht HMY Iolaire just off the Stornoway coast saw the loss of 208 naval reservists. The aftermath of the Second World War, which saw a further loss of lives, led to hundreds of inhabitants emigrating to America or the lowlands of Scotland.
The island had been bought by soap supremo Lord Leverhulme in 1917, who had grand plans to industrialise the town of Stornoway, including a fish cannery. Although initially popular, his plans were scuppered by his opposition to land resettlement, which led to further land raids, and government involvement as they sought to support land resettlement. Leverhulme abandoned his plans for Lewis, instead venturing south to Harris, where the town of Leverburgh is named for him.
The Isle of Lewis has a great many attractions, mostly of historical or archaeological interest including The Callanish Standing Stones; Iron Age houses near Bostadh; The Garenin Blackhouse Village in Carloway; St Columba’s Church in Aignish; Bonnie Prince Charlie’s monument in Arnish; Lews Castle; the Butt of Lewis cliffs and lighthouse and the Bragar whale bone arch.
How to get there
Lewis can be accessed by ferry, travelling between Ullapool and Stornoway, operated by Caledonian MacBrayne. The scenic journey last around 2 and a half hours, and gives passengers the chance to look out for whales and dolphins.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 18 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 10 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West