Google 2 3



Dec 05 2014

An Iron Age Beach House

Without a car, getting to see everything I wanted in the Outer Hebrides was a bit of a challenge.  One area I was particularly interested in exploring was on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis, although trying to suss out how to get to these places by bus wasn’t easy.  There were some that I could get to, but I couldn’t get a bus back.  Obviously, that was a problem.  Thankfully, one place I managed to get to was Great Bernera, albeit via two buses.  I really wanted to visit this area because I had heard there were some interesting archaeological sites.  One of these was an old Iron Age settlement on a beach, which happens to be this week’s Foto Friday.

Iron Age house

It wasn’t until 1996 when a storm exposed the remains of some ancient stone buildings that the discovery was made.  These were the remains of a Norse village.  However, when archaeologists started to excavate the site, they found that underneath the Norse buildings were the remains of older houses.  This was a significant find because they are thought to date back as far as the 6th century AD when the Picts, apparently, dominated much of Scotland.

You can’t tell from the outside, but on the inside the house is divided into two rooms, a large one and a small one.  Because of its structure, this type of house is referred to as a figure of eight design or a jelly-bean house.  I have no idea how many houses they discovered but, apparently, they were all connected to each other by underground tunnels.  The contents within the houses were well-preserved.

The original site of the village was closer to the sea than the replica house that you can see in the photograph, which was built in 1998.  It might not be original, but it offers great insight into what it would have been like to live in one.  The guide, Elizabeth, a local woman who was on the same bus as me is very knowledgeable and she has a keen interest in the history of the village and surrounding area.  It was fascinating talking to her.  Even though the house doesn’t officially open until 12pm, she allowed me and another person, who was on the same bus, inside because it was a cold and drizzly day.  The fire in the centre of the main room took a while to get going, but once it did, it definitely warmed up the place.

She explained that the front door was probably located on the left of the house, so the wind could sweep round to the left and radiate the heat from the fire over to where the occupants slept on the right.  There was an area, a bit like a mezzanine floor, which could have been where the children slept.

The smaller room was probably for storage of important things like meat and milk.  There were insets in the wall, like shelves, which could have been used to keep things cold.

The house was well-built.  When you’re inside, you can’t hear the wind or rain and the rain doesn’t come through even though there’s a vent for the smoke to escape.  When you’re outside, it looks as if the house is on fire because you can see the smoke escaping from the gap between the wall and the roof.  If you look closely, you can see that in the photograph.


It’s a fantastic location.  Even if you aren’t particularly interested in the history of the site, it’d be a great place to wander about on a sunny day.

Center map
Google MapsGet Directions

If you’re heading there by bus, take the W2 from Storonoway to Garynahine and then pick up the minibus to Bosta (Bostadh).  Be sure to check the time of the return bus with the driver because, however nice it might be there, you wouldn’t want to be stuck there.

Have your say

Are you headed for the Outer Hebrides soon?  If so, would you be interested in visiting this location?

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

Have your say...

Customized Social Media Icons from Acurax Digital Marketing Agency
%d bloggers like this: