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Coordinates: 58°13′13″N 6°22′59″W / 58.220163°N 6.38301°W / 58.220163; -6.38301 

Scottish Gaelic: About this sound Leòdhas
Lewis shown within the Outer Hebrides
Area  683 sq mi (1,770 km2)
Population 18,489 
    - Density  27 /sq mi (10 /km2)
Language Scottish Gaelic
OS grid reference NB426340
Council area Na h-Eileanan Siar
Lieutenancy area Western Isles
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district HS1, HS2
Dialling code 01851
Police Northern
Fire Highlands and Islands
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament Na h-Eileanan an Iar
Scottish Parliament Western Isles
List of places: UK • Scotland •

Lewis (Scottish Gaelic: Leòdhas, pronounced [ʎɔː.əs̪], also Isle of Lewis) is the northern part of Lewis and Harris, the largest island of the Western Isles or Outer Hebrides (an archipelago) of Scotland. The total area of Lewis is 683 square miles (1,770 km2).[1]

Lewis is, in general, the lower lying part of Lewis and Harris, with the other part, Harris, being more mountainous. The flatter, more fertile land means Lewis contains the only town, Stornoway, and three-quarters of the population of the Western Isles. Beyond human habitation, the island's diverse habitats are home to an assortment of flora and fauna, such as the golden eagle, red deer and seals and are recognised in a number of conservation areas.

Lewis is of Presbyterian tradition with a rich history, having once been part of the Norse Kingdom of Mann and the Isles. Today, life is very different to elsewhere in Scotland with Sabbath observance, the Gaelic language and peat cutting retaining more importance than elsewhere. Lewis has a rich cultural heritage as can be seen from its myths and legends as well as the local literary and musical traditions.


Name of the island

The Gaelic name Leòdhas may be derived from Norse Ljoðahús ("song house"),[2] although other origins have been suggested—most notably the Gaelic leogach ("marshy").[3] It is probably the place referred to as Limnu by Ptolemy, which also means "marshy".[4] It is also known as the "Isle of Lewis" (Gaelic: Eilean Leòdhais). Another name usually used in a cultural or poetic context is Eilean an Fhraoich, ("The Heather Isle").[2] This name however refers to the whole of the island of Lewis and Harris.


The first evidence of human habitation on Lewis is found in peat samples which indicate that about 8,000 years ago, much of the native woodland was torched to make way for grassland to allow deer to graze. The earliest archaeological remains date from about 5,000 years ago. At that time, people began to settle in permanent farms rather than following their herds. The small houses of these people have been found throughout the Western Isles, in particular, at Dail Mhor, Carloway.

The more striking great monuments of this period are the temples and communal burial cairns at places like Calanais.

About 500 BC, island society moved into the Iron Age. The buildings became larger and more prominent, culminating in the brochs – circular, dry-stone towers belonging to the local chieftains – testifying to the uncertain nature of life then. The best remaining example of a broch in Lewis is at Dun Charlabhagh. The Scots are recorded as arriving from around 1AD, bringing the Gaelic language with them.[5] As Christianity began to spread through the islands in the sixth and later centuries, following Columban missionaries, Lewis was inhabited by the Picts.[5]

Two kings and two queens from the Lewis chessmen at the British Museum

In the 9th century AD, the Vikings began to settle on Lewis, after years of raiding from the sea. The Norse invaders intermarried with local families and abandoned their pagan beliefs. At this time, most buildings changed their forms from being round to rectangular, following the Scandinavian style. At this time, Lewis was part of the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles and officially part of Norway. The Lewis chessmen, which were found on the island in 1831, date from the time of Viking rule. The people were called the Gall-Ghaidheil, the ‘Foreigner Gaels', reflecting their mixed Scandinavian/Gaelic background, and probably their bilingual speech.[6] The Norse language persists in many island placenames and some personal names to this day, although the latter are fairly evenly spread across Scottish Gaeldom.

Lewis (and the rest of the Western Isles) became part of Scotland once more in 1266 following the Treaty of Perth when it was ceded by the Kingdom of Norway. Under Scottish rule, the Lordship of the Isles emerged as the most important power in north-western Scotland by the 14th century. The Lords of the Isles were based on Islay, but controlled all of the Hebrides. They were descended from Somerled (Somhairle) Mac Gillibride, a Gall-Gaidheil lord who had held the Hebrides and West Coast two hundred years earlier. Control of Lewis itself was initially exercised by the Macleod clan but after years of feuding and open warfare between and even within local clans, the lands of Clan MacLeod were forfeited to the crown in 1597 and were awarded by King James VI to a group of Lowland colonists known as the Fife adventurers in an attempt to anglicise the islands. However the adventurers were unsuccessful and possession eventually passed to the Mackenzies of Kintail in 1609 when Coinneach, Lord MacKenzie, bought out the lowlanders.[5]

Admiralty yacht HMS Iolaire (named as Amalthaea in 1908 photo).

Following the 1745 rebellion, and Prince Charles Edward Stewart's flight to France, the use of Gaelic was discouraged, rents were demanded in cash rather than kind, and the wearing of folk dress was made illegal. Emigration to the New World increasingly became an escape for those who could afford it during the latter half of the century. Lewis was bought by Sir James Matheson in 1844, but subsequent famine and land reform forced vast numbers off their lands, and increased again the flood of emigrants. Lewis was the site of numerous 'land struggles' which have recently been commemorated in modern cairn-style monuments in various villages.[5]

During the First World War, thousands of islanders served in the forces, many losing their lives, including over 200 naval reservists from the island who were returning home after the war when the Admiralty yacht HMY Iolaire, sank within sight of Stornoway harbour. Many servicemen from Lewis served in the Royal and Merchant Navy during the Second World War and again, many lives were lost. Following the war, many more inhabitants emigrated to the Americas and mainland Scotland.

In 1918 the Isle of Lewis was bought by William Lever with the intention of making Stornoway an industrial town and building a fish cannery, his intentions were received badly by the islanders. He gave Lewis to its people in 1923, and concentrated his efforts on Harris, where the town Leverburgh takes his name.

Historical sites

The Isle of Lewis has a variety of locations of historical and archaeological interest including:

There are also numerous 'lesser' stone circles and the remains of five further brochs.

Geography and geology

Satellite photograph of Lewis and Harris

A cross-section of Lewis would see mostly sandy beaches backed by dunes and machair on the east coast, giving way to an expansive peat covered plateau in the centre of the island. The Atlantic coastline is markedly more rugged and is mostly rocky cliffs broken by small coves and beaches. The more fertile nature of the eastern side led to the majority of the population settling there, including the largest (and only) town, Stornoway. Aside from the village of Achmore in the centre of the island, all settlements are on the coast.[7]

Looking towards the uplands in the centre of the Island of Lewis

Compared with Harris, Lewis is relatively flat, except in the south-west, where Mealisval, 574m (1,883 ft), is the highest point, and in the south-east, where Beinn Mhor reaches 572m (1,877 ft); but there are 16 high points exceeding 300 m (1000 ft) in height.[8] Southern Lewis also has a large number of freshwater lochs compared to the north of the island.

South Lewis, Harris and North Uist collectively is a National Scenic Area, and there are 4 geographical Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) on Lewis - Glen Valtos, Cnoc a' Chapuill, Port of Ness and Tolsta Head.[9]

The coastline is severely indented into a number of large sea lochs, such as Lochs Resort and Seaforth which form part of the border with Harris, Loch Roag surrounding the island of Great Bernera and Loch Erisort. The principal capes are the Butt of Lewis, in the extreme north, with hundred foot (30 m) cliffs (the high point is 142 ft (43 m) high) [10] and crowned with a lighthouse, the light of which is visible for 19 miles; Tolsta Head, Tiumpan Head and Cabag Head, on the east; Renish Point, in the extreme south; and, on the west, Toe Head and Gallon Head.[11] The largest island associated with Lewis is Bernera or Great Bernera in the district of Uig and is linked to the mainland of Lewis by a bridge opened in 1953.


Abandoned house and croft in SW Lewis, with exposed gneiss visible.

Lewis is composed of gneiss rocks, excepting a patch of granite near Carloway, small bands of intrusive basalt at Gress and in Eye Peninsula and some sandstone at Stornoway, Tong, Vatisker and Carloway, originally thought to be Torridonian,[11] now considered to probably be Permo-Triassic in age.[12] Sedimentary rocks cover some low-lying areas around the Broad Bay area as well.[7]


Exposure to the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream lead to a cool, moist climate on Lewis. There is little temperature difference between summer and winter, both of which are very cloudy, along with significant rainfall and frequent high winds, particularly during the autumn equinox. These winds have led to Lewis being designated a potential site for a significant wind-farm which has caused much controversy amongst the population.

Average / Month Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
High temperature Celsius (°F) 11 (52) 7 (44) 7 (44) 8 (46) 10 (50) 12 (54) 14 (58) 16 (60) 16 (61) 14 (58) 12 (53) 9 (48) 7 (45)
Low temperature Celsius (°F) 5 (41) 2 (35) 2 (35) 2 (36) 3 (38) 6 (42) 8 (47) 10 (50) 10 (50) 8 (47) 6 (43) 4 (38) 2 (36)
Days of Air Frost 34 7.22 7.01 6.52 2.62 0.56 0.01 0.00 0.00 0.02 0.86 3.48 6.30
Rainfall (mm) 1197 134.41 98.48 93.86 72.70 61.86 64.89 74.21 89.63 106.44 132.21 132.37 135.78
Hours of Sun 1223 34.46 63.43 104.85 147.07 192.18 166.44 127.94 132.57 106.63 77.19 44.26 26.21
Temperature figures are average figures for that month; other figures are averages of monthly totals.
Source: Met Office (Data Jan 1874-Nov 2006)


There are 15 Sites of Special Scientific Interest on Lewis in the biology category, spread across the island. Additionally, the Lewis Peatlands are recognised by Scottish Natural Heritage as a Special Protection Area, Special Area of Conservation and a Ramsar site, showing their importance as a wetland habitat for migratory and resident bird life.[9]


Many species of seabirds inhabit the coastal areas of Lewis, such as shag, gannets, fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots and the ubiquitous seagulls.

In the Uig hills, it is possible to spot golden eagles; it has also been claimed that white-tailed eagles have been seen in the area.[13] In the Pairc area, it is possible to see feeding oyster catchers and curlews. A few pairs of peregrine falcons survive on coastal cliffs and merlin and buzzard are not uncommon anywhere on hill and moor. An important feature of the winter bird life is the great diversity of wildfowl. A variety of duck, such as eider and long-tailed are found in the shallow water around Lewis.[14]

Marine life

Atlantic salmon

Salmon frequent several Lewis rivers after crossing the Atlantic. Many of the fresh-water lochs are home to fish such as trout. Other freshwater fish present include arctic char, European eel, 3 and 9 spined sticklebacks, thick-lipped mullet and flounder.

Offshore, it is common to see seals, particularly in Stornoway harbour, and with luck, dolphins, porpoises, sharks and even the occasional whale can be encountered.

Land mammals

There are only two native land mammals in the Western Isles, red deer and otter. The rabbit, blue hare, hedgehog, brown and black rat, feral cat, mink and polecat were introduced. The origin of mice and voles is uncertain.[14]

American mink are another introduced species (escapees from fur farms) and cause problems for native ground-nesting birds, the local fishing industry and poultry farmers.[15] Due to this impact and following a successful eradication[16] of the species from the Uists and Barra, the second and ongoing phase of the Hebridean Mink Project aims to rid mink from Lewis and Harris in similar fashion.[17]

There are claims that the Stornoway castle grounds are home to bats.[18] In addition, there are farmed animals such as sheep, cattle and a few pigs.

Reptiles and amphibians

Dragonfly near Valtos, Uig

In common with Ireland, no snakes inhabit Lewis,[19] only the slow-worm which is merely mistaken for a snake. Actually a legless lizard, it is the sole member of its order present. The common frog may be found in the centre of the island[19] though it, along with any newts or toads present are introduced species.[14]


The island's most famous insect resident is the Scottish midge which is ever-present near water at certain times of the year.

During the summer months, several species of butterflies and dragon flies can be found, especially outwith Stornoway.

The richness of insect life in Lewis is evident from the abundance of carnivorous plants that thrive in parts of the island.

Plant life

Sundew near Valtos

The machair is noted for different species of orchid and associated vegetation such as various grasses. Three heathers; ling, bell heather and cross-leaved heather are predominant in the large areas of moorland vegetation which also holds large numbers of insectivorous plants such as sundews. The expanse of heather-covered moorland explains the name Eilean an Fhraoich, Gaelic for "The Heather Isle".[20]

Lewis was once covered by woodland, but the only natural woods remaining are in small pockets on inland cliffs and on islands within lochs, away from fire and sheep. In recent years, Forestry Commission plantations of spruce and pine were planted, although most of the pines were destroyed by moth infestation. The most important mixed woods are those planted around Lews Castle in Stornoway, dating from the mid 19th century.[21]

Politics and government

Flag of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the only official flag for any part the Outer Hebrides.[22]

Historically, while Harris was part of Inverness-shire, Lewis was part of Ross-shire or Ross and Cromarty until the establishment of the Western Isles Islands Council in 1975. Now called Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, its remit covers the whole of the Outer Hebrides and its headquarters are in Stornoway.

Lewis is home to the majority of the Western Isles electorate and 6 of the 9 multi-member council wards are within Lewis and one is shared with Harris. 22 councillors are effectively elected by Lewis residents using the Single Transferable Vote system, and following the 2007 elections 19 are independents, 1 has Labour and 2 SNP party affiliation.[23]

The Isle of Lewis is in the Highlands electoral region and is part of the identical Western Isles Scottish Parliamentiary and Na h-Eileanan an Iar Westminster constituencies, both currently represented by members of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and previously held by members of the Labour Party before the respective elections.

Current representatives


Lewis' main settlement, the only burgh on the Outer Hebrides, is Stornoway (Steòrnabhagh), from which ferries sail to Ullapool on the Scottish mainland. In the 2001 census Lewis had a usually resident population of 18,489.

The island's settlements are on or near the coasts or sea lochs, being particularly concentrated on the north east coast. The interior of the island is a large area of moorland from which peat was traditionally cut as fuel, although this practice has become less common. The southern part of the island, adjoining Harris, is more mountainous with inland lochs.

Parishes and districts of Lewis

  • There are four parishes: Barvas (Barabhas), Lochs (Na Lochan), Stornoway (Steòrnabhagh), and Uig on which the original civil registration districts were based. The district of Carloway (after the village of that name) which hitherto had fallen partly within the parishes of Lochs and Uig, became a separate civil registration district in 1859 .
  • The districts of Lewis are Ness (Nis), Carloway (Càrlabhagh), Back, Lochs (Na Lochan), Park (A' Phàirc), Point (An Rubha), Stornoway, and Uig. These designations are traditional and in use by the entire population.
  • For civil registration purposes Lochs (Na Lochan) is nowadays split into North Lochs (Na Lochan a Tuath) and South Lochs (Na Lochan a Deas).
  • The West Side is a generic designation for the area covering the villages from Borve to Shawbost (Siabost).

It is claimed that the site of the Stornoway War Memorial was chosen as it would be visible from at least one location in each of the four parishes; therefore, it may be possible to see all four parishes of Lewis from the top of the monument.[24]


While Lewis has only one town, Stornoway, with a population of approx 8,000, there are also several large villages and groupings of villages on Lewis, such as North Tolsta, Carloway and Leurbost with significant populations. Near Stornoway, Laxdale, Sandwick and Holm, although still de-facto villages, have now become quasi-suburbs of Stornoway. The population of the greater-Stornoway area including these (and other) villages would be nearer 12,000.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of villages in Lewis according to their location:

Back Ness North Lochs Park

(South Lochs)

Point Uig West Side Stornoway area
Back, Coll, Gress, North Tolsta, Tong South Dell, North Dell, Cross, Swainbost, Habost, Lionel, Port of Ness, Eoropie, Fivepenny, Knockaird, Adabrock, Eorodale, Skigersta, Cross-Skigersta Road Balallan, Crossbost, Leurbost Gravir, Cromore Aird, Aignish, Flesherin, Lower Bayble, Portnaguran, Portvoller, Shulishader, Upper Bayble Aird Uig, Cliff, Kneep, Timsgarry, Valtos Arnol, Ballantrushal, Barvas, Borve, Bragar, Breasclete, Brue, Callanish, Carloway, Garynahine, Shader, Shawbost Branahuie, Holm, Laxdale, Marybank, Melbost, Newmarket, Newvalley, Parkend, Plasterfield, Sandwick, Steinish



Arnish Industrial Estate

Traditional industries on Lewis are crofting, fishing and weaving. Though historically important they are currently in decline and crofting in particular is little more than a subsistence venture today. Over 40% of the working population is employed by the public sector (chiefly Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the local authority; or NHS Western Isles). Tourism is the only growing commercial industry, bringing in over £45 million a year in revenue to the islands.

Despite the name the Harris tweed industry is today focused in Lewis with the major finishing mills in Shawbost and Stornoway. Every length of cloth produced is stamped with the official Orb symbol, trademarked by the Harris Tweed Association in 1909, when Harris Tweed was defined as "hand-spun, hand-woven and dyed by the crofters and cottars in the Outer Hebrides"; Machine-spinning and vat dyeing have since replaced hand methods, and only weaving is now conducted in the home, under the governance of the Harris Tweed Authority, established by an Act of Parliament in 1993. Harris Tweed is now defined as "hand woven by the islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the islands of Harris, Lewis, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Barra and their several purtenances (The Outer Hebrides) and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides."[25]

Aside from the concentration of industry and services in the Stornoway area many of the historical sites have associated visitor centres, shops or cafes.[26] There is a pharmaceutical plant near Breasclete which specialises in fatty acid research.[27]

The main fishing fleet (and associated shoreside services) in Stornoway is somewhat reduced from its heyday, but many smaller boats perform inshore creel fishing and operate from smaller, local harbours right around Lewis. Fish farms are present in many of the sea lochs and along with the onshore processing and transportation required the industry as a whole is a major employer.


Stornoway is the commercial centre of Lewis, there are several national chains with shops in the town, two national supermarket chains as well as numerous local businesses. Outwith Stornoway, many villages have an all-purpose shop (often combined with a post-office). Some villages have more than one, with these usually being specialist stores such as pharmacies or petrol stations. There are almost no rural public houses (for the sale of alcohol); instead, local hotels or inns function as meeting, eating and drinking places, often with accommodation provided.

Itinerant, travelling shops also tour the island visiting some of the more remote locations. The ease of transport to Stornoway and the advent of the internet have led to many of the village shops closing in recent times. Mobile banking services are provided to remote villages by the Royal Bank of Scotland's travelling bank.


Stornoway Airport, a former NATO base
MV Isle of Lewis

A daily Caledonian MacBrayne ferry (MV Isle of Lewis) sails from Stornoway to Ullapool on the Scottish mainland, taking 2 hours 40 minutes connecting Lewis with the mainland. There are an average of two return crossings a day, with an increase and reduction in frequency in summer and winter months respectively. As ferry traffic has increased, a second ship (MV Muirneag) now provides a single early morning sailing to carry most of the island's freight lorries. Other ferries sailing from Harris are easily accessible by road enabling transport to Skye and Uist.

Suggestions for the possibility of an undersea tunnel linking Lewis to the Scottish mainland were raised in early 2007. One of the possible routes, between Stornoway and Ullapool, would be over 50 miles (80 km) long and hence become the longest road tunnel in the world;[28][29] however, shorter routes would be possible.

Stornoway is the public transport hub of Lewis with bus service links to Point, Ness, Back and Tolsta, Uig, the West Side, Lochs and Tarbert, Harris. These services are provided by the local authority and several private operators as well as some community-run organisations.

Stornoway Airport is 2 miles (3.2 km) away from the town itself, and is located next to the village of Melbost. From here services operate to Aberdeen, Benbecula, Edinburgh, Inverness and Glasgow, with flights from Flybe franchisee Loganair, Eastern Airways and Highland Airways. The airport is also the base of a HM Coastguard Search & Rescue Sikorsky S-92 helicopter, and was previously home to RAF Stornoway.


A peat stack in Ness

Peat is still cut as a fuel in many areas of Lewis. Peat is usually cut in late spring with a tool called a peat knife or tosg (sometimes toirsgian, or tairsgeir) which has a long wooden handle with an angled blade on one end. The peat bank is first cleared of heather turfs. The peat, now exposed, is cut using the peat knife and the peats thrown out on the bank to dry. A good peat cutter can cut 1000 peats in a day.[30]

Once dried,the peats are carted to the croft and built into a large stack. These often resembled the shape of the croft house - broad, curved at each end and tapered to a point about 2 metres high. They varied in length from about 4 to 14 metres. Peat stacking also follows local customs and a well built peat stack can be a work of art. Peat stacks provide additional shelter to houses. A croft can burn as many as 15,000 - 18,000 peats in a year.[30]

The odour of the peat-smoke, especially in winter time, can add to the general atmosphere of the island. While peat burning still goes on, there has been a significant decline in recent years as people move to other, less labour-intensive forms of heating; however, it remains an important symbol of island life. In 2008, with the large increase in the price (and theft) of LPG and heating oil, there are signs that there may be a return to peat cutting.


St Columba's Church, Aignish, Isle of Lewis

Religion is important in Lewis, with much of the population belonging to the Free Church and Church of Scotland (both Presbyterian in tradition). The Sabbath is generally observed with most shops and licensed premises closed on that day, although there is a scheduled air service to mainland Scotland as well as a scheduled ferry service from 19 July 2009[31]. While Presbyterianism dominates Lewis, other denominations and other religions have a presence with a Catholic church, a Salvation Army corps, a Mormon church and a Jehovah's Witness kingdom hall all present in Stornoway.


School education in Lewis is under the remit of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, there are a total of 23 schools covering the 5-18 age range.[32] Unusual features are the prevalence of Gaelic medium education (offered in 15 of 22 primary schools)[33] and the five 2-year secondary schools in communities outside Stornoway. Pupils who attend the rural 2-year secondaries then move to the Nicolson Institute, the only six-year secondary school on the island. The large number of village schools lead to necessarily small rolls, and further recent falls in pupil numbers have led to plans being drawn up for closures including all of the rural secondary departments.[34] The closure plans have been deferred pending a full review[34], but upcoming changes to the curriculum (a change to a 3 year junior secondary structure) would seem to place the rural secondaries under threat of change if nothing else.

Stornoway is home to a small campus of the University of Stirling, teaching nursing, which is based in Ospadal nan Eilean (Western Isles Hospital). There is also a further education college, Lews Castle College, which is part of the UHI Millennium Institute. The college is the umbrella organisation for other vocational and community education, offered in several rural learning centres as well as on the main campus and covering subjects such as basic computer skills, Gaelic language classes and maritime qualifications.[35]

Culture and sport


Garenin Black House Village

Lewis has a linguistic heritage rooted in Gaelic and Old Norse, which both continue to influence life in Lewis. Today, both Gaelic and English are spoken in Lewis, but in day to day life, a hybrid of English and Gaelic (Highland English) is very common.[36] As a result of the Gaelic influence, the Lewis accent is frequently considered to sound more Irish or Welsh than stereotypically Scottish in some quarters. The Gaelic culture in the Western Isles is more prominent than in any other part of Scotland. Gaelic is still the language of choice amongst many islanders and around 60% of islanders speak Gaelic, whilst 70% of the resident population have some knowledge of Gaelic (including reading, writing, speaking or a combination of the three). Most signposts on the islands are written in both English and Gàidhlig and much day-to-day business is carried out in the Gaelic language.[37] Almost all of the Gaelic speakers are bilingual.

Most of the place names in Lewis and Harris come from Old Norse. The name Lewis is the English spelling of the Gaelic Leòdhas which comes from the Old Norse Ljóðhús, as Lewis is named in medieval Norwegian maps of the island. Ljóðhús translates from Old Norse to English as Home of the Poet (Ljóð = Poet, hús = house). The 12th century ruler of the Island, Leod, taking his name from the Norse word for Poet.[citation needed]

Media and the arts

Lewis has been home to, or inspired, many writers. As well as regularly playing host to the Royal National Mod, there are annual local mods. Stornoway Castle Green hosts the annual 3 day Hebridean Celtic Festival in July, attracting over 10,000 visitors. The festival includes events such as ceilidhs, dances and special concerts featuring storytelling, song and music with performers from all round the Isles and beyond.

The radio station Isles FM is based in Stornoway and broadcasts on 103FM, featuring a mixture of Gaelic and English programming. The town is also home to a studio operated by BBC Radio nan Gàidheal, and Studio Alba, an independent television studio from where the Gaelic TV channel TeleG is broadcast.

The Stornoway Gazette is the main local paper, covering Lewis and beyond and is published weekly. The Hebridean is a sister paper of the Gazette and also provides local coverage.[38] Some community organisations in the rural districts have their own publications with news and features for these particular areas, such as the Rudhach for the Point district.[39][40]


Badge of Lewis Camanachd

There is a good provision of sporting grounds and sports centres in Lewis. Sports such as Football, Rugby union and Golf are popular.

  • Football is the most popular amateur sport in Lewis with Goathill Park in Stornoway hosting special matches involving select teams and visiting clubs and other organisations. Local teams currently participate in the Lewis and Harris Football League .
  • Shinty is not as popular as in the rest of the West of Scotland, but the Lewis Camanachd team is based around the town.
  • Attached to the Nicolson Institute School is the Ionad Spors Leòdhas (Lewis Sports Centre), an all-weather pitch and running track.
  • The Lews Castle Grounds is the home of Stornoway Golf Club (the only 18-hole golf course in the Outer Hebrides).
  • Angling is a very popular pass-time in Lewis as there are several good lochs and rivers for fishing.
  • As Lewis is an island, various water sports, such as surfing are popular activities.
  • Lewis has a terrain very suited to hillwalking, particularly in Uig and near the border with Harris.

Myths and legends

The Isle of Lewis has a rich folklore, including Seonaidh - a water-spirit who had to be offered ale in the area of Teampull Mholuaidh in Ness - and The Blue Men who inhabited the Minch, between Lewis and the Shiants.[41]


  • Each year, men from Ness go out to the island of Sula Sgeir in late August for two weeks to harvest young gannets known locally as Guga, which are a local delicacy.
  • Lewis has many hotels and restaurants serving varied menus from the more remote locations to the centre of Stornoway. In the town, there are Chinese, Thai and Indian restaurants as well as numerous establishments with authentic Scottish menus. Chefs use local produce as much as possible, and the crofting and fishing industry on the islands ensures they have a wide range of high quality ingredients from which to choose. Naturally, fresh seafood is featured heavily with the catch landed that morning, often put straight into the pot.

People with Lewis connections

See also


  1. ^ Thompson, Francis (1968) Harris and Lewis. Newton Abbott. David & Charles. Page 15. The sub-totals provided are: Land - 404,184 acres (163,567 ha); inland water - 24,863 acres (10,062 ha); saltmarsh - 230 acres (93 ha); foreshore - 7,775 acres (3,146 ha); tidal water - 150 acres (61 ha).
  2. ^ a b Iain Mac an Tailleir. "Placenames" (PDF). Pàrlamaid na h-Alba. Retrieved 2007-07-23. 
  3. ^ Murray, W.H. (1966) The Hebrides. London. Heinemann. p. 173.
  4. ^ Roman Map of Britain
  5. ^ a b c d Macdonald, D. (1978). Lewis: A History of the Island. Edinburgh: Gordon Wright
  6. ^ Local Authority Web Site
  7. ^ a b Pankhurst R.J. & Mullin, J.M. (1991) Flora of the Outer Hebrides, London: HMSO
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b 1911 Britannica
  11. ^ Steel, R.J. & Wilson, A.C. 1975. Sedimentation and tectonism (?Permo-Triassic) on the margin of the North Minch Basin, Lewis. Journal of the Geological Society, 131, 181-200.
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b c Local Authority Web Site
  14. ^ SNH - Hebridean Mink Project
  15. ^ BBC News
  16. ^ Hebridean Mink Project
  17. ^ An Introduction to the Bats of Scotland
  18. ^ a b Morris, Dr P. (1984). Animals of Britain, Field Guide to the. London: Reader's Digest Association
  19. ^ Scotsman piece with 'Eilean an Fhraoich' translation
  20. ^ Local Authority Web Site
  21. ^ Article on flags for Hebridean Islands
  22. ^ Comhairle nan Eilean Siar - Council Members
  23. ^ Stornoway Historical Society.
  24. ^ Harris Tweed Authority, "Fabric History", retrieved 21 May 2007.
  25. ^ Calanais Stones Visitor Centre
  26. ^ Scottish Enterprise - Life Sciences Directory
  27. ^ Stornoway Today
  28. ^ The Independent
  29. ^ a b Am Baile Education - Crofting
  30. ^ "BBC Scotland News". 14 July 2009. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  31. ^ Local Authority Education Dept.
  32. ^ Local Authority - Gaelic Medium
  33. ^ a b BBC News
  34. ^ Lews Castle College - Learning Centres
  35. ^ Linguae-Celticae.Org
  36. ^ Local Authority Web Site
  37. ^ Johnston Press - Publishers
  38. ^ Rudhach - Community Newspaper
  39. ^ - Breasclete Community Newspaper
  40. ^ Wonder Tales From Scottish Myth and Legend (1917)

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Stornoway harbour
Stornoway harbour
Callanish standing stones, Isle of Lewis
Callanish standing stones, Isle of Lewis

Lewis forms one part of an island in the Outer Hebrides. Harris forms the southern third of the same island. In former times (up to 1970s) Lewis and Harris were in separate counties, which may explain the dual names.


Ness is in the north part of the island, and is inhabited almost exclusively by incomers, the west coast is known as the West side. Uig is in the far west bordering Harris and Lochs is in the South. Point is the peninsula to the east of Stornoway and Back is directly to the north of Stornoway on the east coast.


Religion still plays an important part in many people’s lives. In Lewis and Harris this is often in the form of Protestant Free Presbyterian Churches. As a result the Sabbath (Sunday) is respected, so you are unlikely to find shops etc open on a Sunday. Activities happening on a Sunday often are opposed locally.


The Gaelic language and culture is appealing. At a practical level this means that place names on road signs are in Gaelic, but the bus timetables use the English names! Gaelic is widely spoken, but locals are happy to change to English if a visitor joins the conversation.

Get in

By boat

Caledonian MacBrayne, [1]. The national ferry service. Citylink coaches generally connect with the ferries on the mainland. Details below are for Summer 2006:

  • Stornoway Airport (IATA: SYY, ICAO: EGPO) has flights connecting the town with Aberdeen, Benbecula, Edinburgh, Inverness and Glasgow. The airport is located about 3km from the town near the village of Melbost.

Get around

By Bus

There are good bus services during the day Mon - Sat, but little in the evening and no buses on a Sunday. Western Isles bus timetables [2].



There are many fine sandy beaches, mainly on the Western side.

  • Historic Scotland Properties [3]:
    • Callinish Standing Stones. An impressive stone circle, which is said to be comparable to Stonehenge.
    • Carloway Brooch. A pre-historic round castle.
    • Black House Museum at Arnol. A restoration of an old thatched black house, as was the main housing on the island around 100 years ago. Recently a restored "White House" has been added, showing the sort of house people moved to from the black house.
  • Garenin Historic village. [4] A village of black houses. The individual houses are not as accurate as Arnol, but you get the village effect better. Some of the houses are let as holiday homes.


See Stornoway for accommodation there. More rural places are listed here.

  • Garenin Hostel [6] Carloway, Isle of Lewis, HS2 9AL. Simple hostel with no advance booking (and no phone) in the Garenin restored village. Hostel is in a restored black house.
  • Kershader Community Hostel [7], Ravenspoint, Kershader, South Lochs, Isle of Lewis, HS2 9QA 01851 880236. Modern hostel affiliated to the SYHA, run by a local group. As it is small and sometimes used by groups, advance booking is recommended.

Bed and Breakfasts

Some can be found on the tourist board website [8], but many are no longer listed due to the charges and "hassle".

  • Newly opened, the finest place to stay in the Hebrides is just 10 minutes to the north of Stornoway - Broad Bay House [9] is the islands only 5* serviced accommodation, and has a superb beachside location and award winning dining. Broad Bay House is currently rated as the top rated B&B / guest house in the whole of the Hebrides on Tripadvisor, and has set new standards for guest accommodation in the Western Isles.

Self Catering

Renting a house for a week or more is a popular option. Such places are generally let from Saturday to Saturday. Some of these can be found on the tourist board website [10].

Stay safe

Don't visit the Cearns district.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also lewis



Proper noun




  1. A male given name of Norman origin, the English form of Louis.
  2. An English patronymic surname.
  3. A Welsh surname; anglicized form of Llewellyn.
  4. The Isle of Lewis, Scotland.
  5. The title given to a partially apprenticed Freemason who is normally the Master or Son of a practicing Freemason; One practising or learning the degrees of Freemasonry after introduction to the degrees and before full induction or before becoming a Worshipful Brother.

Derived terms



  • 1595 William Shakespeare: Third Part of King Henry the Sixth: Act III, Scene III:
    And tell false Edward, thy supposed king,
    That Lewis of France is sending over masquers,
    To revel it with him and his new bride.
  • 1994 Joseph Heller: Closing Time ISBN 0671746049 page 42:
    They named me Lewis and called me Louie as though my name was Louis, and I never saw the difference until Sammy pointed it out. And even then, I still don't see much difference.

See also


Simple English


Lewis is the northen part of Lewis and Harris, the largest island in the Western Isles (or Outer Hebrides) of Scotland.

Its biggest town is called Stornoway, which has a population of over 5000. Most people on the island speak Gaelic. On the island, there is a town called Barvas, which is the place which has the biggest percentage of Gaelic speakers (74.7% of the people speak Gaelic).

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