Blackhouse Village

(Gearrannan Blackhouse Village)

Located on the seaward side of Garenin, 1¼ miles (2 km) northwest of Carloway, the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village lies on the exposed Atlantic coast of the Isle of Lewis and comprises a unique group of traditional crofting houses dating from the late 19th century. These were restored by the Garenin Trust (Gael: Urras nan Gearrannan) between 1991 and 2001. Representing the last surviving group of black houses on Lewis, they were abandoned in 1974, and became derelict, when the last residents moved to modern public housing nearby. Designated an outstanding conservation area in 1976 recognising the unique character and attractive setting of the village, the Trust was set up by the Western Isles Council in 1989 to ensure its protection.

The restored village was officially opened by HRH the Princess Royal on 5th June 2001. Traditional methods were used to sympathetically restore the houses, with their dry-stone walls and thatched roofs, recreating an authentic settlement which offers visitors modern facilities discreetly integrated into a historic environment. Nine houses have been restored and now serve as a museum and interpretation centre, craft shop, restaurant, as well as providing holiday lets and a simple youth hostel, which was opened by writer and broadcaster Magnus Magnusson on the 3rd July, 1992.

In this remote location, village life was traditionally hard; electricity only arrived in the village in 1952, and then was only used for lighting. It was not until the 1960s that piped water was available from a stand-pipe in the village street. Every year until the Second World War, women would travel to the East Coast of Scotland and then follow the herring fisheries south as far as East Anglia. and the men were involved in the South Atlantic whaling industry until the 1950s.

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