The Museum opening drew a strong crowd of visitors

Chair of the Lews Castle Project Board, Comhairle Leader Angus Campbell took 'great pleasure' in opening Museum nan Eilean to the public today (Thursday, July 14th).

The 'soft opening' – the Museum's official opening will take place later this year – drew a strong crowd and the displays, artefacts, interactive features and histories proved popular with young and old alike.

Marking the occasion was the 7Scots Pipe band, which performed in the Castle Courtyard before Cllr Campbell rang the Castle bell, for the first time in many, many years, he said, to welcome people into the new facility.

The 7Scots Pipe band helped celebrate the opening of the new museum

Comhairle Leader Angus Campbell rang the Lews Castle bell for the first time in 'many, many years' to mark the museum open

Cllr Campbell paid tribute to the numerous partnerships, both at local and national levels, which have played part in achieving the museum project.

He said the Comhairle had worked very well with local organisations the Stornoway Trust, UHI Lews Castle College, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Comainn Eachdraidhs throughout the islands, from Ness to Barra.

“The new museum and archive at Lews Castle will encourage visits to the unique networks of Comainn Eachdraidh across our islands,” Mr Campbell said.

The museum's digital and interactive displays prove popular with everyone

He continued that the Lews Castle Project attracted wide interest and Museum nan Eilean is officially a Partner Gallery of the British Museum, highlighting the six Lewis Chessmen housed in the new museum which form part of the permanent displays; and thanked national partners The British Museum, National Museums Scotland and National Records of Scotland.

The chance to see six of the Lewis Chessmen in their 'home' is a draw for many visitors

Thanks was also paid to the project's funding partners Heritage Lottery Fund; Historic Environment Scotland; the Scottish Government; Highlands and Islands Enterprise; EU-ERDF funding and Bord na Gaighlig; as well as private sector partners Natural Retreats.

“Our private sector partner Natural Retreats have invested substantially in the project and will operate all the hospitality in the Castle,” Cllr Campbell said.

“This includes the cafe and shop which open today and the public rooms of the Castle, which also open today and will be available for functions.”

The lives of islanders past and present are highlighted throughout the museum displays

Mr Campbell also highlighted the complexity and wide range of professional and technical  Design, Construction, Conservation and Project Management skills required in the project's completion, with thanks to the design team.

And the Comhairle Leader paid special tribute to local contractors and sub-contractors who worked on the new museum – Graham Construction and local sub-contractors, as well as Patton & Neil Mackay in previous build phases – who took on and trained local apprentices during the project.

“Special mention to Graham Construction and their sub-contractors (local and further afield,” he said, “for the quality of the work and embracing the many challenges presented by the Castle and for delivering community benefits in various ways.”

Museum nan Eilean is now open for public visitors and to celebrate its first day open, local band Faram will be performing throughout this afternoon.

Well worth a visit!

A fantastic film of the Western Isles which is projected onto the walls gives visitors a real insight and enjoyable trip around the islands