The Norse Mill

This photo depicts the mill, the adjacent stream and the freshwater loch (top right)

One of the sights well worth a visit on the island of Great Bernera is a Norse Mill, which has been suitably restored to give an idea of how grains would have been milled, and flour produced, by former inhabitants of this remote outcrop. At one time there were evidently around 200 such mills on the Isle of Lewis.

The mill consists of two levels. The photo above shows the entrance to the lower level. The stone steps to the left lead to the doorway to the upper level, shown more clearly in this photo:

Stone steps lead up to the upper level of the mill

The walls of the mill would have been constructed from stones, peat and clay found nearby, and the roof from driftwood (or other wood) and covered with turf.

The upper level contains the millstones and a wooden ‘hopper’ to allow grain to flow into the hole in the centre of the stones.

The grain would have been funnelled through a wooden hopper into a hole in the middle of the millstones
The milled flour would have emerged from between the two millstones and been carefully gathered

In the lower level are the paddles, which are activated when water from the adjacent stream is chanelled through the mill chute.

The freshwater loch (Loch na Muilne) just above the mill supplies the running water which turns the paddles

The water comes from a freshwater loch located just above the mill (the loch can be seen at the top of the photo at the beginning of this post), and flows down a steep burn to join the sea right next to the mill. Sluice gates further upstream, whose remains are still visible, would have been opened to allow water to be re-directed towards the mill when required.

Sluice gates would have re-directed the stream seen here into the lower level of the mill to turn the paddles when required. The coastal location of the mill would have allowed for the relatively easy transport of grain in and flour out by boat.
This map shows the location of the Bernera Norse Mill in relation to our B&B.
The mill is around 4 miles from our B&B and would take a little over an hour to walk there

The mill can be reached by parking at the Community Centre in Breacleit (Breaclete) and walking eastwards for approximately 15 minutes. Sturdy shoes and a sure footing over uneven ground are recommended.

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