9.4 Uig Peninsula, Isle of Lewis

Taigh a’Bheannaich, Gallan Head, Aird, Uig

The name of this chapel translates as ‘House of the Blessed or the Benediction’. It’s unusual because it is not dedicated to an individual saint. Unlike many of the other locations on this trail, the chapel is high on a cliff rather than being close to a beach or directly accessible by boat.

Gallan head © Calum Swanson

Taigh a’Bheannaich is still enclosed by the remains of a wall and the remains of 5 small monastic cells can be found nearby - archaeologists have also found traces of another 13 cells on this site.

The walls of the chapel are just over 1 metre high. The interior measures 5.5 metres by 3.3 metres.

Mealasta ruined nunnery and crofting township

The ruined crofting township of Mealasta dates from the 17th century although people lived here for many centuries before then.

Local tradition says that this was the site of a nunnery called Taigh nan Cailleachan Dubha - House of the Black Women or Nuns. The ruins of an early church and graveyard are close to the sea.

Mealista aerial photograph © RCAHMS

The crofting township of Mealasta was typical of many in these islands and was unchanged for centuries. The people lived on the resources of the land and the sea. They made fires from peat cut from the bogs in summer and dried in the wind. They grew crops in the machair land behind the beach. They fished.

The name Mealasta - and other names in this area - are Norse and reflect the Viking raids and settlements here.

The township was cleared for sheep farming in 1838 and local people moved to Ness in the north of Lewis or emigrated to Canada and Australia.

You can still see remains of the Second World War radar station that was here between 1941-1946.

beautiful uig bay © Alistair McCallum

What else?

It is worth heading to the Uig Peninsula not only for the sites relating to early Christianity but also for the stunning beaches of Uig and Mangarstadh.

The Lewis Chessmen were discovered on the beach at Uig. Find out more about the Lewis Chessmen and the history of Uig beach here.

For more local history, visit the Comunn Eachdraidh Uig website.


Getting there

Taigh a’Bheannaich: Drive south on the A858, past Carloway and Callanish. At Garynahine take a right turn on to the B8011. At Timsgearraidh turn right towards Aird Uig. Pass through the crofting township of Aird and park near the Gallan Head Hotel in the middle of the former RAF base. A rough walk of 600 metres over the headland brings you to the chapel.

Mealasta: From Aird Uig retrace your route to Timsgearraidh. Keep to the coast road past Uig and Mangarstadh to the former township of Mealasta.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.1 St Columba's Church

    This late 14th century church - named after St Columba - was later extended in the 15th and 16th century.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.2 St Moluag's Chapel

    This restored chapel is dedicated to St Moluag or Moluoc. The building is flanked by two small side chapels to the north and south, creating a T-shaped outline.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.3 St. John's Chapel

    Head west from the crofting township of Bragar to find the medieval chapel of Teampull Eoin - St John The Baptist - on a small headland next to the beach.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.4 Uig Peninsula

    It is worth heading to the Uig Peninsula not only for the sites relating to early Christianity but also for the stunning beaches of Uig and Mangarstadh.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.5 Teampall Chaluim Chille, Eilean Chaluim Chille

    The small island of Eilean Chaluim Chille has probably been connected with Christianity since the 7th century. It sits on the eastern extremity of Loch Erisort as it leads out to the Minch.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.6 Northton Chapel

    Northton Chapel faces south across the Sound of Harris looking towards the Uists. It sits on a small headland - Rubh’ an Teampull - at the foot of Ceapabhal hill.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.7 St Clements

    This is the largest medieval church in the Outer Hebrides. Of all the churches in the islands, only Iona is larger. It was built in the 16th century but there is some suggestion that there may have been an older monastery on the site.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.8 Church of the Holy Trinity

    Teampull na Trianaid sits on a mound beside the village of Carinish. There are views west towards the low-lying island of Baleshare. The remains of the Teampull na Trianaid dominate the site.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.9 Chapel of the Virgin Mary

    The ruined medieval chapel sits in a graveyard which is still in use. The chapel was rectangular and would have had a pitched roof. The walls would have been much higher - you can see the top part of the door in the west wall.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.10 Howmore

    The township of Tobha Mor - or Howmore - lies between the main north-south road on South Uist and the beach which forms much of the island’s west side.

  • Dunadd Fort, Argyll.

    9.11 Kilbar Church, Barra

    Cill Bharra is the remains of a 12th century church dedicated to St Barr. The site is thought to have been used for Christian worship since the 600s when there was a chapel here dedicated to St Barr - probably the same saint as St Finbarr of Cork.