Return of Lewis Chessmen

I am absolutely fascinated by these little chess pieces and have written numerous times about them.  If you are interested in reading my past posts, please see my list of tags on the left side of the page and click “Lewis Chess Men”.

News came out this week about an agreement that has been made  between Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) and the British Museum.

Beginning 2014, the Museum will loan six pieces to the new Lews Castle museum in Stornoway.  The Chess Men have previously only been displayed on the islands on a short-term basis but there was a five-month exhibition last year which brought an audience of more than 23,000 visitors.

They were originally discovered on the west coast of Lewis, beneath a sand dune near Uig, at some point before April 1831.

Photo from BBC article.  For more information, please see here.

Lewis Chessmen meet Dr. Who

The Lewis Chessmen have once again popped up in the news.  They are magnificent chess pieces, believed to be from the 12th Century and in 1831, more than 90 pieces were found buried in a sand dune on Lewis.

Ayrshire-born Jenny Colgan has written a new Doctor Who book, Dark Horizons, that includes the historic Lewis Chessmen.  The story involves Matt Smith’s Doctor being on the Western Isles to play the famous boardgame.  Vikings, a kidnapped princess and the islands under attack by a mysterious fire are all part of the plot line.

For more information on this BBC book, please see the website.

Lewis Chessmen in Shetland

National Museums Scotland


I have had a bit of writer’s block today.  I wanted to write something that I was passionate about, something i could get excited about and i was coming up against a brick wall time and time again.  Lots of lovely things, some interesting developments in David’s Tower at Edinburgh Castle (, lots of great places to see and stay but somehow my heart wasn’t engaged with any of  it at the moment.

however, then i found my old friends, the Lewis Chessmen who i am fanatically interested in.  they are now being shown at the Shetland Museum and Archives from Friday 21 January – Sunday 27 March 2011 and it is FREE!  fantastic, now if only i lived a bit closer to the Shetland Islands.

it appears that there are four sets of the Chessmen in a hoard of 93 pieces, including kings, queens, bishops, knights, warders and pawns.  National Museums Scotland owns 11 pieces, including …

1.  a king on his throne, looking unhappy and holding a scabbard across his knees.

2.  another king with an open four-trefoiled crown and his hair in long braids down his back.  wearing a long mantle and underneath, he is dressed in a tunic and vestment with sleeves and slit sides.

3.  a disgruntled-looking queen seated on a throne and cradling her chin with her right hand, while holding a drinking horn in her left hand.

4.  another queen, this time wearing a veil beneath a crown that covers her hair and she is sitting on a throne decorated with delicate foliage design.

5.  a bishop standing while giving a blessing with his right hand.  he is wearing a mitre on his head and holding a crosier in his left hand.

6.  another bishop wearing a floor-length cape over his shoulders (one similiar to those worn by the clergy today).

7.  a berserker who,  according to Old Norse literature, was notorious as fighting uncontrollably in a trance-like state.  he has bulging staring eyes and bites his shield in anger, ready for battle.

8.  a knight, wearing a protective coat, divided at the front and back for ease of movement.  he is carrying a kite-shaped shield and a lance.  he is also sitting on a horse, which appears to be the size of a Shetland pony.

National Museums Scotland postcard


i was also quite chuffed to find an online store where you can buy all sorts of gifts related to these lovely little people  there are full chess sets, single full replica pieces, books, bottle stops, key chains and for those of us who are a bit limited in cash, 50p will buy you a postcard (as shown above).

website for more info is or you can click on my Tags under “Lewis Chessmen” as i’ve written a couple of other posts on them.

Year in Review

89 posts later and it’s the end of the year.  i have been so happy blogging this year … thanks for joining me.  i can’t believe i only started in April this year and i’ve written so many.  it has been fun!

Cheese, deep fried mars bars, jewellry, films, castles, art, Christmas in Scotland to name but a few.  i had a look back and picked a few of my favorite posts.  i apologize in advance as i haven’t quite mastered the art of pinging back , or whatever it is called, to the previous post so hopefully you get there. 🙂


Lewis Chessmen ( 78 chess pieces of perfection held in the British Museum.  i think they are absolutely fantastic!  i had the opportunity to see them on exhibition and they are stunning. 


Briggait Glasgow ( ( fascinating use of space.  take one old building and reconfigure it and create space and community for artists.  i’d love to see it some day.


The Three Chimneys ( ( amazing accommodation and cuisine on the Isle of Skye.


Danny MacAskill ( this guy is a legend.  phenomenal bike riding.  the video is worth watching a second or third time.

well, these are just a few of my favorites.  please let me know which ones were your favorite this year.  i’m looking forward to a new year and more writing.  my uni courses are all finished for now so i will have more time to blog.  a very, very happy new year to everyone!


Lewis Chessmen


The Lewis Chessmen, or Uig Chessmen, named after their find-site, are a group of 78 chess pieces from the 12th Century, most of which are carved in walrus ivory, some even from whale’s teeth.

They are currently owned by British Museum in London (having 67 of them) and the Royal Museum in Edinburgh (having 11 pieces).

They were discovered in 1831 on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland although the  chessmen were probably made in Norway . The 78 pieces consist of 8 Kings, 8 Queens, 16 Bishops, 15 Knights, 12 Rooks and 19 Pawns.

Some pieces had traces of red stain when they were found, showing that red and white were used to distinguish the two sides, rather than the black and white, used in modern chess.

I saw them recently and I was amazed at the detail on the chess pieces.  I think they are just fabulous.