What to see this week: Lewis chessmen
These pieces of exquisitely carved walrus ivory belong to the famous set of Lewis chessmen dug up in 1831 from the sands of Uig on the west coast of Lewis. Probably made in Norway in the 12th century, there are 93 pieces, 11 of which are owned by the National Museums of Scotland ( NMS) and 82 by the British Museum ( BM). The BM has now returned six to Lewis on longterm loan as a star attraction of the new Museum nan Eilean, which opened last month on the site of the former palm court and conservatories of Lews Castle, a Tudor Gothic pile built above Stornoway harbour in 1847– 51 and given to the people of Lewis by Lord Leverhulme in 1923.
The castle has been rescued from near dereliction in a £19 million redevelopment that has converted the ground floor into an events venue, cafe and shop and will see the upper floors open next year. The museum, housed in a new building by Malcolm Fraser, focuses on the heritage of the Islands and has also put newly on display objects returned by the NMS that have never been seen in public before.