Part of one of Scotland’s most popular artworks will be on display in Benbecula during November and December.

In partnership with Museum nan Eilean, 30 panels from the Great Tapestry of Scotland will be on display at Sgoil Lionacleit from Saturday 14 November to Tuesday December 22. A number of events for all ages will be held at the exhibition.

The 142 metre tapestry, which is the brainchild of bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith, depicts the history of Scotland from the landscape’s geological formation to the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

The story is told in 159 boldly designed and intricately stitched panels that are the work of over 1,000 stitchers of all ages and both sexes from across Scotland. It is one of the nation’s largest community arts projects and 30 of these unique panels will be on display in Sgoil Lionacleit.

Since its debut exhibition at the Scottish Parliament in September 2013, the Great Tapestry of Scotland has been taken to the hearts of Scottish communities. Over 325,000 visitors from all over the world have visited tapestry exhibitions there and at other venues including Stirling Castle, Paisley Thread Mill, New Lanark, Aberdeen Art Gallery, and Ayr Town Hall.

Visitors have been amazed over by the tapestry’s epic scope and fascinated by the details of its stitching.

Mr McCall Smith, who spoke at an unrelated event in Lochmaddy earlier this year, said: “I am delighted that The Great Tapestry of Scotland is coming to the Western Isles. The Western Isles have made a great contribution to the history of Scotland and this is reflected in a number of the tapestry’s panels. I hope that as many people as possible will take the chance to see this magnificent and moving work of art.”

The project’s co-chairman and historian, Alistair Moffat, said: “This is a history of all of Scotland, and one that attempts to compass not only the whole nation but also all of its people as it tells the stories of shepherds, weavers, ploughmen, crofters, fishermen and all of the people who made our story come alive. Kings, queens and other powerful people have their place, but this is a unique way of telling our history – because it was made by the people of Scotland, a thousand stitchers, from Berwickshire to the Butt of Lewis.”

Trish Campbell Botten, Principal Officer Libraries & Heritage with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said, “We are delighted to welcome the Great Tapestry of Scotland to the Outer Hebrides in our council museum space in Benbecula. This is a wonderful opportunity to see such an impressive piece of art and history on our own doorsteps and to see the work created by local stitchers.”

Five of the tapestry’s stitchers are residents of the Western Isles. Margaret Macleod and Mary Macleod, the Lewis Stitchers, combined to make an early panel representing the visit of the Greek traveller Pytheas, who took a reading of latitude at Calanais in the fourth century BC. A stitching group who named themselves ‘The Sea-Mistresses’ worked on the panel depicting the loss of HMY Iolaire in 1919. This group consisted of Tracey MacLeod and Gillian Scott-Forest from Harris and Moira Macpherson from South Uist. Over the months of winter stitching, this group sent their panel back and forth to each other via the Leverburgh-Berneray ferry.


November opening hours: Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat 10am-1pm & 2-5pm; Thur 10am-1pm & 2pm-7pm; Closed Sun & Mon.

December opening hours: Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sat 10am-1pm & 2-5pm; Fri 10am-1pm & 2pm-7pm; Closed Sun & Mon.

FREE ADMISSION; Tapestry merchandise is available, payment by cash or cheque only