Overview

ROCKS, SAND & SEA… Let’s Go Walking

EXPLORE

this magnificent Hebridean seascape on the second stop of our tour. We’ll go walking past the lilly pond surrounded by peaty, heather covered hills and walk onto a glorious expanse of sand. Head over to the majestic sea stacs and marvel at their rugged beauty before taking a look at the Bridge to Nowhere – a great spot for photos.

Bridge to nowhere

The Bridge to Nowhere was thus named because beyond the bridge there is no road. The bridge was built as part of planned new route along the east coast of Lewis from Tolsta to Ness. However, it was one of the many ambitious plans Lord Leverhulme, who owned the Isle of Lewis from 1918 – 1923, never quite made to fruition.

Caisteal a Mhorar

Caisteal a’Mhorair Sea Stac, Traigh Ghearadha, or Garry Beach as it is often called, is just south of the Bridge to Nowhere.

Once you get down to this beach, you will see the magnificent sea stacs rising from the sand at the southeast end of the beach. 

The tallest and most substantial of the three stacs rising from the sands and is called Caisteal a’Mhorair (the Castle of the Nobleman). It is called this as the remains of a possible medieval castle sit on top of this stac.

Caisteal a’Mhorair. (The Castle of the Nobleman). The prominent sea stacks on Garry Beach in the Isle of Lewis look out towards the North Eastern seaboard and the narrow channel that separates the Hebrides from mainland Scotland; an ideal place for a coastal fortress – which is what these stacs once were – with uninterrupted sea views, and look out points on the hill of Beinn Geiradha to the rear. The remains of the medieval castle sit on top of an earlier prehistoric defensive construction and demonstrates how islanders utilised the inhospitable sites round the coast in order to safeguard themselves from possible threat.

Today, the stacs draw visitors from around the globe who explore the sea caves and tunnels in their foundations, and trace the huge quartz deposit in the large tower stac which resembles a heart of crystal.

The monument is of national importance because it is an example of a late prehistoric defensive construction and demonstrates how people utilised inhospitable sites in order to safeguard themselves from possible threat. Examination of the buried archaeological deposits may yield information concerning the occupation phases, domestic activities and material culture of those who lived there in the past.

GRESS RAIDERS MONUMENT

On our way to Garry Beach we’ll stop along the way to view this memorial to the Gress Land Raiders. It stands on a low hill surrounded by earthworks in the form of trenches and waves, a reminder of the First World War and the promises made to those who survived the conflict.

After having fought and faced the horrors of the First World War, crofters returned to Lewis to make good the promise of land and homes made to them by the government. However, they found none and, in their place, farms whose ownership was supported by the island’s new proprietor, Lord Leverhulme. These returning ex-service men were denied crofting land and their condition increased the tensions within the community and highlighted the problems of land usage.

Some of the largest raids took place in Gress in 1919. The resultant battles saw the raiders take and withdraw from the land several times under duress of arrest and pressure from Lord Leverhulme. The raiders determination eventually won and in 1922 the Board of Agriculture took over the farms and divided them into over 100 new crofts, establishing crofting communities which, which thanks to will of men like the raiders, survive to this day

This memorial is dedicated to those who risked imprisonment in their struggle against an oppressive system of land use and ultimately paved the way for reforms to Scottish law.

St Aula’s Church

Looking across from the Gress Memorial we can see an ancient monument across the river.

The monument consists of the ruins of a small pre-Reformation Church situated within a graveyard in use.

It is dedicated to St Aula (St Olaf). This is the only example of a Norse Saint’s commemoration in the Western Isles. It is oblong on plan, twin gabled and orientated NW-SE. The external dimensions of the building are 7.5m by 6.1m over walls 0.7-0.9m thick. The masonry is of random rubble with pinnings and lime mortar.

Above the entrance on the exterior is a stone carved with the letters: “IB MK” and the date 1681. 

There is very little recorded documentation as to the exact nature of this church and so remains rather shrouded in the depths of history!

St Aula's Church
St Aula's Church, Isle of Lewis

Village Life

Crofting, Fishing, Peats, Religion

Local Folklore

Witchcraft, tales

Anna Mackenzie at North Tolsta Historical So

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