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One of the top attractions on the Isle of Lewis has to be the historic Gearrannan Blackhouse Village on the west side of the island.
It’s a cluster of stone houses by the Atlantic Ocean that used to be a historic crofting township and community.
They were built in the 1800s and were occupied until the 1970s when it was eventually abandoned.
Today, the Garenin Trust has transformed these huts into a living museum and unique self-catering accommodation.
Here is a complete guide for visiting with all the best things to do in Gearrannan Blackhouse Village on the Isle of Lewis!
What is the Lewis Blackhouse Village?
So, I guess we should probably start off with the obvious question ‘what is a Blackhouse on the Isle of Lewis?’.
Well, it’s a term for a traditional dark stone house on Lewis and the term is thought to have originated as a way to separate these homes from other houses on the island.
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village is the remains of a secluded crofting township. It’s tucked away on the shoreline of the district of Carloway.
If you’re not aware of crofting, it is traditionally a small agricultural community that rent/build properties together and lives off the land.
Crofting communities grow their own crops and farm animals and any profits they make are shared with all. It’s something that is still practiced in the Scottish Highlands today!
Once a desolate ruin, Gearrannan Blackhouse Village has been beautifully restored by Urras nan Gearrannan (Garenin Trust) as a visitor attraction and comfortable self-catering accommodation.
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village history
The blackhouses found at Garenin were originally built in the late 1800s. Back then, each house only had one long room.
Historic Hebridean houses have drystone walls and thatched rooftops that are held down with fishing nets and stones.
The houses were designed to protect against the harsh elements that came with living in the Western Isles next to the Atlantic.
It would have a packed earth floor inside and the one room would house all their family members, farming tools, livestock, food stores, kitchen area, bathroom, and sleeping arrangements.
There would be an open fire in the middle to keep it warm and dividers would separate the space into ‘rooms’.
In the 20th century, the blackhouses were developed to have more modern comforts like panelled ceiling, flagstone flooring, and a built-in fireplace. There were also walls to separate the rooms.
The houses were occupied until the late 1970s when the families abandoned the village to move into more modern housing. The secluded village was left behind and eventually fell to ruin.
In 1989, the Urras nan Gearrannan trust worked to save the township and reconstructed the blackhouses here.
They transformed the village into a top tourist attraction which contains a museum and holiday accommodation to rent.
How to visit the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village on the Isle of Lewis
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village is located on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. This is in the Western Isles on the Outer Hebrides.
You cannot drive from the mainland of Scotland to the Isle of Lewis. You must take one of the CalMac car ferries from either the Isle of Skye (Uig) or Ullapool.
Once you’re on the Island, the Lewis Blackhouse Village is on the west coast in the district of Carloway. It’s 18 miles from Stornoway Harbour which is a 35 – 40 minute drive.
There is a bus that stops at the Blackhouse village from Stornoway. The W2 service from the Western Isles Hospital drops you off in the car park.
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village is a great place to visit as part of a trip to the Callanish Standing Stones, Bosta Beach, Uig Bay, and the Butt of Lewis as they are all on the west side of the island!
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village address is Garenin, Isle of Lewis, HS2 9AL. Click here for a Google Pin!
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village opening times & prices
The Gearrannan Blackhouse Village museum is open for tourists from late March until late September each year.
Opening times are Monday to Saturday from 9.30 am – 5.30 pm and, at the time of writing, ticket prices are £4.60 for an adult.
Although the museum is closed off for tourists over the winter, the Lewis Blackhouse Village is open for bookings in their accommodation all year.
Visiting in the off-season would be a great choice if you wanted a relaxing stay and to see the village without the crowds!
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village parking
There is free parking just outside the Lewis Blackhouse Village for those wanting to visit the museum. This is limited and on a first come first served basis.
You cannot drive through the village unless you’re a guest staying in their accommodation. Visitors will need to proceed to the museum on foot from the car park.
If you’re staying in the village, guests will have private parking that is available behind the crofting houses.
Things to do in Gearrannan Blackhouse Village
So, what is there to do at the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village while you’re here? Well, there’s actually a lot that makes it worth a visit.
You can learn about Scottish crofting communities and how they lived, see the world-famous Harris Tweed being woven, buy gifts, visit a gorgeous beach and even have lunch in their café.
Here are all the things to do in Gearrannan Blackhouse Village!
1. Gearrannan Blackhouse Village Museum
If you’re just visiting the village on the day, then all visitors must first visit the main house at the entrance to buy a ticket for the museum.
Here, you’ll find the gift shop, toilets, café, and the reception area. When you’re ready head through to the village to explore!
The museum consists of two blackhouses open to the public. One will be a 20th-century crofting house with two rooms and a storage area where you’ll get the chance to see Harris Tweed being woven.
Once you’re finished here, you can continue to the next hut which has a small exhibition and video about Gearrannan Blackhouse Village.
There are lots of pictures of residents and how they used to live and work as a community here. It’s very informative and gives a detailed insight into the Hebridean culture.
2. See Harris Tweed weaving
100% pure wool Harris Tweed is world famous and it’s made right here on the Isle of Lewis & Harris in Scotland!
Traditionally, Harris Tweed has been woven in the homes of communities on the Outer Hebrides. So, in the Blackhouse Village museum, you’ll be able to see it being woven by pedal in a traditional double-width loom.
The weaver first has to tie all the threads into the loom and then use the foot peddles to work the machine that weaves the Harris Tweed in a pre-determined pattern!
It was a great opportunity to watch as you don’t get to see the weaving process in any of the Harris Tweed shops on the island.
You can buy some of their homemade products after your visit in the gift shop.
3. Take a walk to Dalmore Beach and Dalbeg Beach
The Outer Hebrides is home to some of the top-rated beaches in the entire world. In fact, on a sunny day, these white sand beaches with crystal clear waters can look like you’re in the Caribbean (shame it doesn’t feel that way with the temperature)!
Right at the bottom of the Lewis Blackhouse Village, you’ll find the secluded Dalmore Beach which is tucked into the coastline.
It’s gorgeous on a sunny day and you can take a short walk from the village to the beach to enjoy a paddle in the ocean.
If you’re up for more of an adventure, you can follow a route to Dalbeg Beach over the clifftops. It will take you around 3 hours as it’s 4 miles (6 kilometres) but well worth the effort.
4. Visit the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village café
The museum has a great café that you can visit while you’re in the Blackhouse Village by the ticket entrance.
It serves up coffees, teas, light lunches, and cakes throughout the day. Food stops being served around 2.30 pm but they still serve drinks and cake until around 4 / 5 pm.
This is a great option if you wanted a little pick me up on your visit as restaurants can be few and far between on the Isle of Lewis!
5. Buy souvenirs at the gift shop
They have lots of souvenirs that you can buy at the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village gift shop!
There are all sorts of hand-woven shawls, table clothes, and souvenirs in the famous Harris Tweed.
You’ll also find a wealth of postcards, key-rings, mugs, and Isle of Lewis souvenirs. The only thing I couldn’t find was a magnet which was a shame as I’m a bit of a collector.
6. Admire breathtaking views over the Atlantic
The views from the Lewis Blackhouse village were unbelievable, especially if you took the higher paths on the hillside.
You can look over the township towards the coastline and see the gorgeous sandy beach beside the Atlantic ocean.
The Isle of Lewis is quite remote anyway so the Blackhouse Village can feel very secluded. You can steal a moment of peace and just enjoy travelling back in time for a while!
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village photography
Beyond learning about the history, the main reason why I wanted to visit here was to take some photos of this spectacular village.
I’d seen this place on social media way before my visit and have had this place on my bucket list for years!
I’ve never seen anything like it before. It honestly felt like I was walking through a fantasy movie set.
Although I visited in the peak season of July, I found this place to be pretty peaceful and it’s easy to avoid crowds.
The best photography location of the Blackhouse Village has to be up on the hillside at the very start of the village before you head down to the blackhouses.
I took the photo below with my iPhone, tripod, and a self-timer app called Lens Buddy. It required a bit of a steep climb up and down and can be quite slippy. But, it was the only way to get a good view from above (like the postcards) with no drone required!
Can you stay in Gearrannan Blackhouse Village?
YES, the Lewis Blackhouse Village is designed as unique holiday accommodation that you can rent on the Isle of Lewis!
So, if you wanted to stay in a traditional home with character and history then Gearrannan Blackhouse Village would be an excellent choice.
There is a wide range of self-catering accommodation here. There are houses for couples or a family of four. There’s even a house that sleeps 14!
There is usually a minimum number of nights stay required in the High Season (June – August) and prices start at £250 a night.
If you’re backpacking around the Isle of Lewis, did you know that there is a Gearrannan Blackhouse Village hostel?
There are 10 beds available and the prices are £25 a bed. There is also a family room available to book for £85 which accommodates 3 people.
Staying here would certainly make a unique and memorable travel experience in Scotland!
Is visiting Gearrannan Blackhouse Village worth it?
100%! Even if you’re not staying here, you must visit the Blackhouse Village on the Isle of Lewis.
Not only is it gorgeous and unique, but it’s also a chance to learn about the people who lived and worked in this crofting township years ago.
It will feel like you’ve travelled back in time and, honestly, it looks like a Viking film set or a fantasy village.
Personally, I loved the spectacular views of the Atlantic and I would go back in heartbeat. You must add this to your Isle of Lewis & Harris itinerary in Scotland.
Looking for more things to do on the Isle of Lewis & Harris?
There are plenty of historic attractions on the Isle of Lewis to visit after the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village.
If you’re interested to see more history, there are many Blackhouse museums you can visit like the Arnol Blackhouse which is a few miles down the road from Gearrannan.
You can also visit the Norse Mill & Kiln which are FREE to visit on a short walk from Shawbost.
The Callanish Standing Stones are a must-visit on the island, a stone circle dating back to 5,000 years ago. Fans of Outlander will love this as it was the inspiration for Craigh Na Dun!
Bosta Beach on the Great Bernera is home to an Iron Age hut and you can visit Uig Bay where they found the famous Lewis Chessmen. Potterheads will recognise these as the inspiration for Wizards Chess pieces.
Or, you can drive to the very top to visit the Butt of Lewis with the lighthouse, Port of Ness, and Eoropie Beach!
On the Isle of Harris, you can stroll along the famous white sand beaches of Luskentyre or Seilebost. Also, the historic St Clement’s Church is very impressive.
Eilean Glas Lighthouse is a walk I wouldn’t skip on the Isle of Scalpay. It has spectacular views towards the Isle of Skye and there’s a small tearoom.