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4 - Rock of Ages

MapThe rock of the Outer Hebrides is almost entirely Lewisian gneiss and associ

ated formations within that. The area around Stornoway, from Griais to Garrabost and including all the area under the town, but not the Castle Grounds, is a much younger rock, known as the ‘Stornoway Formation’. This is a multi-layered sandwich of red coloured sandstones and conglomerates, the only unaltered sedimentary rocks in the Outer Hebrides. They can be seen on the headlands north of Stornoway and in the low cliffs between Aiginis and Garrabost and at Suardail. The rock tends to be friable and wears easily, some layers being softer than others, leading to erosion. The red sands on the beach at the Bràigh contrast with paler sand of the machair.

 

The conglomerate is a sandstone containing pebbles of varying sizes, sometimes known as ‘puddingstone’ because of its appearance. The pebbles are mainly gneiss, derived from a former hill range to the west, and washed into river gravels at a time when rivers were draining from the north and west.

The slightly better soils of the Stornoway Formation. benefited the local farms at Coulregrein, Plasterfield and Mealabost.


Stone from the Stornoway Formation has been used in the building of Eaglais na h-Aoidhe, in the walls and some of the shaped stones such as the quoins and window surrounds at the west end.

The earliest inhabitants

Mace HeadArchaeological finds show that this area was occupied by farming people in the Neolithic period up to 6000 years ago.
Midden deposits containing winkle, limpet and mussel shells, fishbones, animal bones and stone tools have been exposed along the shore, evidence that people have built houses, cooked food and worked here over several millennia before Eaglais na h-Aoidhe was built. Deposits resulting from these
activities have built up to more than 2m in height.Tags

Evidence of later occupants close to the site of the church was found in 1937. This was the remains of a small late Iron Age or early medieval stone building with a hearth on an earth floor, associated with pottery and animal bones, and traces of iron objects and bloomery cinder. After destruction the building was covered by wind-blown sand, above which another midden deposit developed. This suggests that an established community lived in the locality when the first emissaries of the new Christian Church arrived.

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