Shining a Light on Western Isles Architecture

  • Published on: 3rd March 2017
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Press release

Shining a Light on Western Isles Architecture


An Lanntair and the Western Isles Architects Group are excited to announce three nights of illuminations to celebrate the diversity of Architecture in the Western Isles as part of the “Building our Islands” project on Friday 24 March in Rodel and Saturday 25 & Monday 27 March in Stornoway.


After a public vote as part of the 2016 Festival of Architecture, three buildings were selected.

The Boatman’s Tower, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis

Nicolson Institute Clock Tower, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis

Store Girnal, Rodel, Isle of Harris


Western Isles Architects Group chairman Stuart Bagshaw said:

“The Western Isles Architects Group is proud to have created this project with An Lanntair, which has demonstrated so much interest in our local built environment. All buildings help to define our culture and this illumination event will help showcase what the islands have. The Architectural trail showing notable buildings around the islands will be coming out soon and the Western Isles Architects Group and An Lanntair hope this ‘Building Our Islands’ event will stimulate more discussion about what makes good architecture.”


Everyone is invited to join in on shining a light on the architecture of the Western Isles, by creating their own ARTitecture to be projected onto the three buildings.   From 4 -21 March, the public are invited to stop by An Lanntair or Museum Nan Eilean to pick up their “canvas” of one of the three buildings.  Using the three nominated buildings as inspiration, you can design your own work of art, or just have a doodle! Completed ARTitecture canvases will be projected on the respective buildings as the cornerstone of the illuminations programme.


The Architecture of the Western Isles will be further celebrated by projecting a montage of notable buildings, photographed by acclaimed photographer John Maher, giving a preview of the Architecture Trail, soon to be published in conjunction with Outer Hebrides Tourism.


John Maher, said

Talking to people I’ve met on my travels and researching some of the history associated with the buildings has been a fantastic experience. I hope my pictures will assist in delivering at least some of the additional insight into the history and culture of the Outer Hebrides that I’ve gained as a result of my involvement. I’m proud to have been a part of it!”

More details of local artists contributing to the illuminations will be announced closer to the event.


Local schools will also be joining in by constructing lanterns inspired by architecture. These lanterns will start the Friday and Saturday events with a Lantern Parade to the projection sites, with prizes for the best lantern.  A Lantern Building Workshop for Adults will be held on 22 March and the Saturday Art club on 25 March will feature lantern building.


The Illuminations will take place in Rodel on Friday 24 March, with the Lantern Parade setting off from Rodel Church at 7.15pm and projections continuing until about 9pm.


The Stornoway illuminations will take place on Saturday 25 March with the Lantern Parade setting off from An Lanntair at 7.15pm, arriving at the Nicolson Institute Clock Tower at approximately 7.30pm, and then at Bayhead overlooking the Boatman’s Tower at approximately 8pm and the projections continuing until about 10pm.  The projections will be repeated on Monday 27 March from 8.30pm. The full schedule and route of the events will be available at, where lantern parade participants can book their free place.


These three buildings are having a sustainable lighting plan designed, which along with the Architectural Trail will serve as a lasting legacy of the “Building our Islands” project, inspired by 2016’s Festival of Architecture.


This is a joint project by An Lanntair and theWestern Isles Architects Group,  supported by HIE and CNES along with a number of other funders, including Tighean Innse Gall, The Royal Institute of Scottish Architects and The Big Lottery Fund Awards for All.


Further information on the nominated buildings

  • The Boatman’s Tower, Stornoway Isle of Lewis – Built in the grounds of Lews Castle (1847-51), designed by Charles Wilson in a Tudor Gothic style, the boatman’s tower probably followed later in the foreshore works along with the development of Cuddy Point, the Matheson Monument and the Lodges (Creed, Marybank and Porters).The boatman’s tower, it was home to the boatman and his family and he ferried people to Stornoway from the Grounds.


  • Nicolson Institute Clock Tower, Stornoway , Isle of Lewis – Built in 1873, an Italianate tower is all that survives of the elementary and infant schools on Sandwick Road, demolished amidst much controversy and replaced by a Sports Centre in 1975.


  • Store Girnal, Rodel, Isle of Harris – estimated 18th century iron-roofed structure perched above the harbour, its ground floor entered from the rear, and a roofless granary with ventilation slits. The rear enclosure, with thick, buttressed walls, suggests an earlier building, but possibly the ‘kepping house’ for which blacksmith John Morrison received a payment for ‘dressing the locks and bonds of Macleod’s keeping house and girnels at Roudill’ in 1708.