Grinneas nan Eilean

Shieling at Cuishader, Ness, Isle of Lewis


An Lanntair’s annual open art exhibition, Grinneas nan Eilean, opens tomorrow (Saturday December 3rd) and runs until January 29th 2012. Grinneas is held annually and hosts work by sculptors, photographers and artists from around the Outer Hebrides. My contribution to this year’s exhibition consists of four limited edition prints, all shot at night during 2011. Three of the prints feature shielings at Cuishader, Isle of Lewis. The fourth is of a ruined stone house in Manish, Isle of Harris. The photos in question gained a little publicity in the Scottish media over the past week as a result of my association with the newly opened Grasshoppers Hotel in Glasgow.  The photos are shown further down this page, but first the hotel’s official press release:

Grasshoppers Logo

Harris artist wowing guests at Glasgow arts hotel

Former Buzzcocks star has visitors singing his praises

A new luxury arts hotel in the heart of Glasgow is wowing guests with its striking images of Lewis and Harris.

Grasshoppers Glasgow, a new penthouse hotel overlooking the city’s Central Station, is showcasing works by former Buzzcocks drummer John Maher, now a Harris based photographer – one of a series of artists promoted by the hotel.

Maher became a hit with guests after Grasshoppers owner Barrie Munn invited him to showcase his work in the hotel. A selection of Maher’s night time images of Lewis and Harris adorn the hotel’s corridor walls, alongside engravings of Glasgow produced by well known Scottish artist Ian McNicol, screenprints by Glasgow based artist Rachel Duckhouse, and striking images of Glasgow’s Buchanan Street by Ayrshire artist Michelle Campbell.

Three of Maher’s evocative photographs are on display – two of ruined Sheilings at Cuishader, Ness on Lewis, and another of a derelict stone house in Manish, Harris.

Hotelier Barrie Munn hopes Maher’s works will encourage visitors to explore the Western Isles.

He said: “It’s fitting that we should showcase artists from across the country at Grasshoppers because Glasgow is very much a gateway to the rest of Scotland, and has such a strong affinity with the Western Isles. We have an opportunity to promote Scottish artistic talent to guests from across the UK, Europe and beyond. Our art displays have become something of a talking point for guests, particularly John’s stunning night-time images of Lewis and Harris. When we explain that they’re the work of the former Buzzcocks drummer, now living in Harris, they’re amazed!”

Maher himself recently stayed as a guest at the hotel.

He said: “I think it’s wonderful that a hotel in the centre of Glasgow is choosing to showcase images of Lewis and Harris to its UK and international clientele. I was delighted when they asked if I would like to display some of my prints at Grasshoppers. It’s great exposure for the Western Isles. Having stayed at Grasshoppers myself, it’s good to see a Scottish hotel showcasing Scottish art in a way that reaches such a diverse audience.”

The 30 bedroom boutique hotel is located on the sixth floor of the city’s historic Caledonian Chambers building, overlooking Central Station, built by celebrated Glasgow architect James Miller, the visionary behind many of Glasgow’s best loved buildings.

The derelict top floor of the building was painstakingly refurbished and transformed into a £1.25 million boutique hotel, in a joint venture with Network Rail.

The hotel’s Scandinavian style bedrooms feature Caledonian oak floors, ash laminate furniture, specially designed and made for Grasshoppers, handmade king size beds with Egyptian cotton sheets, and individually designed wallpaper and wood paneled walls.

The stylish, comfortable bedrooms enjoy views across Europe’s largest glazed roof overlooking Central Station and across the city to one of Glasgow’s masterpiece buildings by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the Light House.

The hotel’s central location, sandwiched between Buchanan Street and the International Financial Services District, and its focus on service, style and value – rooms are available from just £85 per night – have proved a winning formula with business travellers and holidaymakers.

The new hotel has become a firm favourite on TripAdvisor, overtaking leading international brands to become one of the top rated hotels in Glasgow.

Mr Munn said: “We are amazed and very humbled at the response we have received from our guests, who have really warmed to the Grasshoppers approach of providing service, comfort and value for money.

“In a market dominated by international chains, it’s difficult for smaller, independent hotels to make their mark. We’ve tried to create a different kind of hotel, with many of the comforts of a traditional luxury hotel but where the feeling of home is central to the hotel experience. It is essential to Grasshoppers that our guests feel at home throughout their stay.”

Councillor Gordon Matheson, chair of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau and Ayrleader of Glasgow City Council, said: “Glasgow has an outstanding range of top-quality hotels, and I am delighted by the success of Grasshoppers as one of the latest additions to this roster.  As the city becomes an ever more popular tourist destination, our ability to offer a range of hotels becomes very important, and a penthouse hotel such as this plays a vital role. I wish Grasshoppers Glasgow every success in the future.

The three photos on display at Grasshoppers are also on show at An Lanntair during the Grinneas exhibition, with the addition of another one of the Cuishader shielings (Cuishader Green) in a special limited edition print, sized at 36″ x 24″.
This makes a for a set of three Cuishader shielings: Cuishader Red (top of page), Cuishader Yellow, Cuishader Green plus the Manish Ruin (Broken Home).

Cuishader Yellow

Cuishader Yellow


Cuishader Green

Cuishader Green


Broken Home

Broken Home

I made Cuishader Green larger than the others because I wanted people to see the ‘happy faces’ carved into the  concrete scratch coating on the walls. It was only when I was viewing the photo on my monitor the day after I took the photo that I noticed the figures on the wall. They don’t show up on an A3 print but you can see them on the 36″ x 24″ print. Here’s a close-up:

Happy Faces

Happy Faces on the wall at Cuishader


By way of contrast, I’ve included one photo shot during daylight hours, albeit indoors and using a couple of flashguns. It’s a framed print of  an abandoned house in Geocrab, Isle of Harris:

"One day son..."

“One day son, all this will be yours”

If you’re in Stornoway on Saturday Dec 3rd, come along to the official opening at 5pm and check out the happy faces.

See you there 😉

5 thoughts on “Grinneas nan Eilean”

  1. thanks very much for the post,photos of the sheilings are great,did you wander up Cuishader glen as far as Bridge of Allan – quite amusing,the majority of the Cuishader sheilings are great for photographing apart from the new one which I think is totally out of place in this setting

  2. Hi Iain,

    I have to confess I don’t know Cuishader that well… the only time I’ve been there is in the middle of the night!

    When I took these photos, I had clear skies and bright moonlight. By the time I got to the shieling with the green tin roof the sky was clouding over and it was getting tricky to see where I was going. If the weather had cleared I’d have continued further in search of more shielings. To the best of my knowledge, if I’d carried on walking I’d have been heading in the direction of Tolsta. Does that make sense? If it does, are you familiar enough with the shielings in the pics above to know which way I was heading? Do you know if there are several more along that route?

    I like the new shieling. Couldn’t believe my eyes when I stumbled across this mini ‘Grand Design’ creation in the middle of nowhere! It’s interesting to see the variety of designs, from ancient mini black house style, all the way through to timber frame construction complete with double glazing 😉
    I got a photo of the new shieling that night – it appears as part of this post: http://www.theflyingmonkblog.co.uk/2011/03/03/cuishader-shielings-ness-isle-of-lewis/

  3. /Users/iainmacleod/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Previews/2011/10/12/20111012-150705/P4040620.jpg/Users/iainmacleod/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Previews/2011/10/12/20111012-150705/P4040627.jpg/Users/iainmacleod/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Previews/2011/10/12/20111012-150705/P4040732.jpg

    worth going in daylight,if you take the track from the end of Skigersta rd and carry on you will eventually arrive at the shielings and the track to Tolsta begins there.From the green shieling if you had carried on you would have come across a further grouping and Bridge of Allan.There is another track from the main rd to the hill called Campair! you will see some buildings on top(ness waterworks) from there its a short haul to the Green shieling and some other interesting ones,suitable vehicle required for both tracks as the going can be pretty wet at this time of year,if you head towards Tolsta you will come across a house ruin on the very cliff edge,apparently all materials for its construction were hauled up the cliff by rope if you do go look out for crumbly cliff edges – can be scary.

  4. Cheers Iain, priceless info! Confirms my suspicions another trip will be well worth the effort.

    I’ve heard about a ruin on the cliff edge from a couple of other people. If we’re talking about the same place, I understand it used to be a church?

    Is the waterworks tower you’re referring to the one right next to the road? If it is, I drove past it several times that night, not realising I could access the shielings from that direction. Truth be told, I’d lost all sense of direction while walking around the shielings so have no idea exactly where I was in relation to any of the local landmarks. Like you say, a daylight reconnaisance mission would be advisable before heading back at night again.

    BTW can’t get your image links to work. Keen to see what you’ve posted. I’m not sure the ‘comment/reply’ section of the blog can cope with images. If they’re hosted on the web, post the full address (http://www. etc etc) so we can click through to them. Failing that, mail them to john(at)theflyingmonk(dot)co(dot)uk

    Thanks again

  5. House and church on cliff edge – some guy called Nicolson built both I believe and there are published accounts of the area which you can probably access at Commmun Eachdraidh Nis.
    Next time you visit take the turn to Cross Stores and drive on for a couple of miles about half a mile from the Skigersta junction on the right you will see the only dominant hill with buildings and antenna on top and keep your eyes out for the track.About 1 mile out into the moor.
    will resend images

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