History of the Western Isles
Western Isles Map
The Western Isles have been inhabited for over 6000 years. The Vikings invaded in the 9th century and today many place names are of Norse origin. Gaelic and English are both spoken. The Isle of Lewis and The Isle of Harris still retain some of their history and culture going back over 6000 years.

The history of the Islands covers quite a bit of hardship over the times, when the islanders have fought with great determination to carve out their future.

Historically Lewis and Harris have gone their separate ways, despite the existence of the common clan surname Macleod. However today they are more united with the Western isles Council - the Comhairle nan Eilean Star, playing a great role in their present day
Callanish Stones
One of the things that The Western Isles are famous for - is the Callanish Stones - a worthy rival to Stonehenge - in fact these stones are older than Stonehenge.

Calanais comprises a late Neolithic stone ring and associated lines of standing stones.

Callanish Stones
Lewis Chessmen
Harris Tweed
Callanish Stones
Harris Tweed Industry
The Harris Tweed industry has always played an important role in the islands culture, industry and history.

By its legal definition - the cloth must be woven on the islands. For centuries the islanders of Lewis and Harris have woven Harris Tweed,

Lewis Chessmen
The Lewis Chessmen. found at Ardroil, near Uig, The Isle of Lewis are historically very important. Iconic Viking treasures dated 12th century.

Unearthed in 1831, these chessmen are intricately carved from walrus tusk.
Lewis Chessmen

Amhuinnsuidhe Casttle - Isle of Harris
Amhuinnsuidhe Castle
Amhuinnsuidhe Castle - Isle of Harris. This lovely Scottish castle sits by the river and has played quite a part in Scottish history.

The castle was built in the 1860's has quite a history. It is now owned by the residents of North Harris and Ian Scarr-Hall.
Amhuinnsuidhe Castle
Deeer Pair Raiders Memorial
Golden Road - Harris
Pairc Deer Raiders
Balallan, (Baile Ailein) this now peaceful village was the centre in 1887 of fight (all be it peaceful)

It took place as the local crofters fought to keep their crofts. Land owners wanted to convert many many acres of sheep land into sporting deer parks.
Balallan Pairc Deer Raiders
The Golden Road
The Road winds & twists through the East Coast of Harris, Spectacular scenery, 'lunar' landscape, rock shines in the sun, lochs and inlets & seals

Locals say that the cost of building the road was quite a sum - and that it 'must have been made of gold!
Golden Road - Isle of Harris
Iolaire Disaster - Western Isles
The Iolaire disaster, one of the most tragic events in the history of the Western Isles. In 1919, in the Isle of Lewis, two months after the end of the FIrst World War, 205 men died,

174 Lewis men and 7 Harris men, who had survived the war, were only yards from the shore and there were families watching to welcome them home.
Iolaire Disaster - Western Isles
Carloway Broch - Western Isles History
Lewisian Gneiss - Western Isles
St Clements Church - Rodel
Dun Carloway Broch
The Iron Age Broch at Carloway in The Western Isles a stunning example of a broch. The broch was a structure built as a means of defence.

The Carloway broch was probably built for either a tribal leader or at least for a really important member of the community
.Carloway Broch
Lewisian Gneiss
The rocks of the Isle of Lewis and The Isle of Harris - Western Isles. Lewisian Gneiss are so very pretty and indeed the geology so very interesting.

The Oldest Rocks in Britain, some of the Oldest in the World. Lewisian Gneiss rocks here in the Outer Hebrides are just stunning.
Lewisian Gneiss - Western Isles History
St Clements Church - Isle of Harris
A beautiful church - late medieval sculpture at its best! Situated in Rodel - The Isle of Harris

One of the finest examples of a pre-reformation church dedicated to St Clement. The church houses monuments to the Macleod clan - including the tomb of Alexander Macleod
.St Clements Church - Isle of Lewis
The Bridge to Nowhere
The bridge to nowhere at Garry, Isle of Lewis. . The road after the bridge was meant to run from Tolsta - to Ness and was so named because today the bridge does actually lead nowhere at all.

The bridge to nowhere - lies beyond the Tolsta Village - and is on the route of what was to be Lord Leverhulme's new route to Ness.Bridge to Nowhere - Isle of Lewis

Whaling Chimney - Isle of Harris
Stornoway History - Lews Castle
Phentland Rd - Isle of Lewis
Peat Cutting - Peat traditions
Traditionally, peat has been an important natural fuel source for most households throughout the rural communities of The Isle of Harris and The Isle of Lewis,

During May and June, you can sometimes see the villagers on the Moors cutting the peat. You can still see all over the islands the peat banks on the peat moorsPeat Cutting Tradtions isle of Lewis
Kelp Making - Kelp Industry
in The Western Isles, kelp making was the changing or conversion of seaweed into ash - a traditional industry which was used in many things - particularly the production of soda and iodine.

Kelp produces an alkali which was used in the manufacture of soap and other commodities and even today kelp is still used extensivelyKelp Making

The Herring Girls
THe herring Girls played an important part in The history of Stornoway. The Fishing Industry afforded many families a wage and indeed a living.

The work of women in the heyday of the Herring fishery has been well documented, with plays being written and performed , poetry being written about these brave hardworking girls.
The Herring Girls - Stornoway

Peat Cutting - Western Isles History and Traditions
Kelp - Seaweed Western isles
Herring Girls Stornoway

Guga Hunters - Ness
There was a time when seabirds were actually a desired food. Gannets or "guga" - which are the gannet chicks are still eaten by a few of the islanders, particularly in the Ness area.

The Isle of Lewis is a place where the culture and traditions of hundreds of years have been passed down the generations.



Guga Hunters

Butt of lewis Lighthouse
This lovely lighthouse in Lewis has quite a history. Built in 1862 by the Stevenson brothers. The tower rises to 121 feet (37metres) and unlike many Scottish lighthouses it was built using red brick.

The Lighthouse is situated in an incredibly beautiful setting and the views around of the birds on the cliffs are just stunning..
Butt of Lewis Lighthouse
gannet - guga hunting
butt of lewis lighthouse
Bridge to Nowhere - Isle of Lewis
Stone built cairn - Bernera Riot
The cairn Memorial is situated at the Tobson crossroads outside Breaclete. The Bernera Riot took place in 1874 after the Highland Clearances had commenced and actually led to The Crofters War ten years later.

The crofters were being treated abominably and evictions for no reason regularly took place. .
More info about The Bernera Riot
The Norse Iron Age Type Mill
The Norse mill and kiln in Shawbost - Isle of Lewis. Two renovated, recreated buildings give us an insight into the history of The Isle of Lewis.

The mill was driven by water from the stream from the Loch Roinavat. The Norse Mill is a reconstruction of an Iron Age corn mill that actually did exist on the site
Norse Iron Age Mill - Isle of Lewis
Norse Iron Age Mill at Shawbost
disaster - isle of lewis
Bernera Riot Monument - Isle of Lewis History
Pentland Road - Isle of Lewis
The Pentland Road was constructed on the tracks of what was once could have been a proposed railway.

Some attributed it to be another of Lord Leverhulme's plans. However the road /railway plans which were to have linked the harbour's of Carloway and Stornoway was planned before Lord Leverhulme was about on Lewis and Harris
Pentland Road - Isle of Lewis
History of Stornoway
Stornoway has a very colourful history, many invasions and clan fights & Norse domination.

There was a great Fishing Industry too. Lews castle sits in a commanding position overlooking Stornoway. Lews Castle was built between 1847 and 1857 as a country house for Sir James Matheson who bought the island in 1844. In 1918
Stornoway - History

The Whaling Industry
Between 1903 and 1920 a Norwegian family - The Herlofsens ran the successful whaling station at Bunavoneader, just along the Huisinis Road - Outer Hebrides.

Bunavoneader Whaling Station is the best preserved example of a shore-based whaling station in the UK and a designated Scheduled Ancient Monument

Whaling Industry - Isle of Harris
St Kilda
The St Kilda Islands play a huge part in the History of the Western Isles. The Story of the St Kildan is fascinating,

the life of the St Kildans, a village people so remote from the mainland, who led a really simple, some would say primitive existence, only seeing other peoples very infrequently, when either their landlords, who at one time were from the Isle of Sky, sent the factor to collect their "rents" or indeed when various ministers and schoolteachers were sent to the island.

St Kilda
St Kilda - Western Isles
Carloway Broch
Lighthouse at The Butt of Lewis
©2014 Virtual Hebrides
Website Design and Hosting by Western Isles Web Services Ltd, Isle of Lewis Western Isles - Outer Hebrides