Isle of Lewis


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Lewis (Scottish Gaelic: Leòdhas) or the Isle of Lewis (Eilean Leòdhais pronounced), is the northern part of the largest island of the Western Isles (Na h-Eileanan Siar) or Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Another name usually used in a cultural or poetic context is Eilean an Fhraoich, The Heather Isle. The southern part of the island is called Harris (Na Hearadh). The two names however refer to the two parts of the same island despite the use of the terms 'Isle of Lewis' and 'Isle of Harris'.

Lewis is, in general, the lower lying part of Lewis and Harris, with 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.

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

* Callanish standing stones;
* Dun Carloway Broch;
* Iron Age houses near Bostadh (Great Bernera);
* The Garenin Blackhouse Village in Carloway and the Black House at Arnol;
* Bragar whale bone arch;
* St. Columba's church in Aignish;
* Teampull Mholuaidh in Ness;
* Clach an Truiseil monolith;
* Clach Na Thursa, Carloway
* Bonnie Prince Charlie's Monument, Arnish;
* Lews Castle;
* Butt of Lewis cliffs and lighthouse;
* Dùn Èistean, a small island which is the ancestral home of the Lewis Morrisons.

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

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 spurred the majority of population 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.

Compared to Harris, Lewis is relatively flat, save in the south-east, where Ben More reaches 1,874 ft (571 m), and in the south-west, where Mealasbhal (1885) is the highest point; but there are only eleven peaks exceeding 1,000 ft (300 m) in height. 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.

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, where the cliffs are nearly 150 ft (46 m) high and crowned with a lighthouse, the light of which is visible for 19 m.; 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. 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.

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, along with significant rainfall and frequent high winds, particularly during the autumn equinox.

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