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.
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.
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.
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.
Bòrd na Gàidhlig
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