January 2015, Isle of Lewis, Holy Wells and Chapels, Roads and Rust

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Lewis, a landscape that calls to be experienced during the winter months, somehow this feels like the island’s season. Walks along the western coast were driven by a desire to find the remains of medieval chapels scattered along the edge of Lewis.

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These chapels survived until the reformation and are cherished by local historian and writer, Finlay MacLeod. Finlay took us to Teampall Eòin near Siabost, standing on the edge of the shoreline with the Atlantic crashing in beyond its walls; its tenacity and beauty were evident. In Finlay’s words, “It is surprising how the chapels have survived, unattended but undamaged during the Islands’ numerous church vicissitudes. But they survive in silence; with little interest in them and little done to bring them to the attention of the Islands’ young or to revive them in any form of art or festival.”

At many of the chapel sites there is either physical evidence or local knowledge of a spring or well nearby. On another walk we found the remains of St. Brighid’s well, close to the site of Teampall Bhrìghid.

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Bhrìghid, Brigh, Bridgit, St Bride of the Isles, Innis Bhrighde, Ey-Brides, or as we know them, the Hebrides, owe their name to the legend of Bridgit, the Celtic Goddess of fire and later in Christian lore, the milk mother of Christ. Brìghid links the cave on Skye to the holy well on Lewis and to many sites throughout the Hebrides.

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