The Isle of Lewis is the northern part of the largest island of the Outer Hebrides, Lewis and Harris, with a total area of 1,770 km2 (683 sq mi). While the terrain of Harris is mountainous, Lewis is flatter and more fertile and hence contains the largest settlement on the island, Stornoway. In fact, Stornaway’s population alone, of around 9,000, makes up around three quarters of the population of the whole of the Outer Hebrides.
In the 9th century AD, Lewis was officially part of Norway due to the dominance of Viking settlers, and the Norse influence can still be seen in many island place names. The Lewis Chessmen, a group of 78 12th century chess pieces dating from the period were discovered here in 1831. Lewis reverted to Scottish rule in 1266. Lewis subsequently survived a chequered existence, its population rising and falling with natural disasters such as famine and two World Wars, and today, it has a wealth of historical features, both man-made and natural, to appeal to tourists, from Iron Age houses near Bostadh to the Butt of Lewis cliffs and lighthouse.
Lewis has a diverse ecosystem, home to rare species such as the red deer, seals and the golden eagle, and there are fifteen Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The Lewis peatlands in the centre of the island are recognised as a Special Protection Area, a Special Area of Conservation and a Ramsar site, showing their importance as a natural wetland habitat for both migratory and indigenous birdlife.
The traditional industries of crofting, fishing and weaving on Lewis are still in existence today. Crofting is on the decline, but Lewis is the home of Harris tweed, the weaving of which is still carried out by hand in the homes of the islanders as it always has been.
Lochs and rivers provide good fishing for anglers. There’s ample provision for water sports too, such as surfing, kayaking and sailing.