Hebridean Hop 4: Lews Castle

Tuesday 31st July 2018

Lews Castle, Stornoway

Lews Castle was built by Sir James Matheson, a Far East trader who bought the whole island of Lewis in 1844. In 1917 the island was bought by Lord Leverhulme, the soap industrialist, who set about trying to replace the culture of crofting (small-scale farming) with a fishing empire. The crofters weren’t impressed and his plans came to naught – the island was put up for sale again in 1923, and the community was at least able to buy Stornoway and the castle. Since then, the castle has had many uses – from 2016 it has housed a museum on the ground floor and holiday accommodation above.

The forecast was for rain later, but the morning was sunny so we set off for a walk around the grounds – the wooded peninsula showing behind Stornoway Harbour in the first image below – before hitting the museum.

By the time we arrived back at the castle it was raining – and definitely time for lunch. We’d had morning coffee in the small café in the grounds, but it was now packed so we headed back towards town to Kopi Java which was recommended in our guidebook. Run by a local couple (she comes from Lewis, he comes from Indonesia) it provides excellent food and illustrates how much Stornoway has changed since our last visit 29 years before. Then, we remember queuing at a counter for “coffee” which was poured from a large metal tea-pot with the enquiry “Sugar?” Had we not said no quickly, sugar would have been poured in for us. Gourmet it was not!

Back in the castle, we were extremely impressed with the museum. Centre stage were six Lewis Chessmen, part of a 12th century set which was found nearby but now belongs to the British Museum which has kindly (?) loaned some of the pieces back. In the morning, we’d passed some large wooden models in the grounds and had a bit of fun with them. Spot the difference!

The castle also has an excellent café, and after more fortification we looked at the public areas on the rest of the ground floor. I don’t know what the apartments above are like, but I suspect they will be very grand. Next visit maybe …

This was our last day in Stornoway – the following morning, we set of for Harris, an island that we didn’t need a ferry to access, or even a causeway. How could this be?

39 thoughts on “Hebridean Hop 4: Lews Castle

  1. Jessica (Diverting Journeys) September 19, 2018 / 14:11

    Hmm, I’ve been to Lewes Castle, but have never heard of Lews Castle, though now that I’ve seen it, I think Lews Castle is more attractive, and certainly better preserved, though it is obviously much, much younger. I love your picture with the giant chessman!

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    • Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter September 19, 2018 / 16:52

      Well, you are not the only person who can pose with strange objects! By the way, one of the museums we visited had some cracking mannequins which I photographed just for you. Coming soon …

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Liesbet @ Roaming About September 17, 2018 / 20:41

    That castle looks very fairy-tale like. Who would not want to stay upstairs. It sounds like you planned the day well, based on the weather. Outdoor activities in the morning and back inside right in time to do the impressive museum. So, did you walk to the next island during low tide? 🙂 I’ll check for the answer right now.

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  3. bob September 15, 2018 / 00:54

    You certainly made the most of your trip despite some rain at times. Amazing how many of these grand piles have been built in remote places throughout Scotland. That’s a new one for me, seeing it properly, though I watched a programme about Leverhulme and his fishing enterprise- something to do with seaweed on an industrial scale I recall as well- an idea that’s been suggested/revived again recently to harvest Scotland’s kelp forests around the coasts and islands with similar mixed responses and views.

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    • Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter September 15, 2018 / 08:09

      Kelp was a huge thing on the islands at one time – we read in another museum later about it. When the bottom fell out of the market it caused real hardship on top of the clearances.

      Like

  4. Retirement Reflections September 14, 2018 / 01:23

    The Lewis Chessmen pieces are amazing. This looks like an awesome adventure – despite some rain!

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    • Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter September 14, 2018 / 07:30

      Well, we went with the weather forecast which was actually correct and got a dry walk in the morning and a wet afternoon in the museum. Both of which were great!

      Like

  5. RetirementallyChallenged.com September 13, 2018 / 22:56

    That chess piece and the larger statues are so interesting. Do you have any idea why they both have one hand on their face? One looks a bit confused and the other, perplexed (of course the third one looks charming 🙂 ).

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    • Anabel @ The Glasgow Gallivanter September 13, 2018 / 23:01

      I’m sure there were info noticed for each piece but I can’t remember the meaning of the gesture now. Charming? Why, thank you! I would say more glaikit.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. the eternal traveller September 13, 2018 / 22:03

    This is my idea of a lovely day. I’ve seen the Lewis chessmen in the British Museum but I didn’t know that part of the story.

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  7. Jemima Pett September 13, 2018 / 21:42

    I won’t comment about the chessmen, since I’ve not even seen them in the British Museum – although I have been inside it a couple of times.
    Love the Indonesian linked cafe 🙂

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  8. Kev September 13, 2018 / 20:55

    Nice post. I like the pose next to the Lewis Chessman. I quite agree that they should all be displayed permanently in Stornoway. There’s a bit of me that wants to bring them home every time I’m in the British Museum!

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