North Tolsta, Isle of Lewis
Tolstadh fo Thuath, Leodhas

My mother, and my father's parents, are from a place called North Tolsta (Tolstadh fo Thuath) which is on the Isle of Lewis (Leodhas). The Isle of Lewis is part of the Western Isles and is located off the north west coast of Scotland.

You can get to the Island by way of ferry from either Ullapool to Stornoway, or from Uig on the Isle of Skye to Tarbet on Harris. Both routes are very scenic and make for an enjoyable drive and ferry crossing.

Of course you could also fly there from Inverness or Glasgow, but you wouldn't see any of the beauty of the Highland countryside.

North Tolsta (Tolstadh fo Thuath) my spirited and hereditary home lies about 14 miles north of Stornoway (Steornobhagh) on the east coast of the Island. The name Tolsta is purely Norse and first appears in historical records in 1590. The Norse raiders first arrived in the early ninth century, and the sight of these Dragon Ships must have struck terror in the hearts of what would have been a fairly settled Christian community.

Tolsta is the last village on the road from Stornoway along the east coast of the Island. Before getting to Tolsta you pass several villages including Coll (Col), Back (Am Bac) and Gress (Griais) to name but a few. Plans had been made many years ago by Lord Leverhulme, then owner of the Island, to build a road linking Tolsta with Ness on the West coast. Although there are signs of the start of this road on the Tolsta side it was never completed. There is renewed talk of completing this link again, however this time only as a footpath/bikepath. Who knows, perhaps in the near future we will be reading about a "Round Lewis Marathon Race" in the Stornoway Gazette.

North Tolsta has two of the finest beaches in Lewis (and perhaps all of Scotland) at the north end of the village. The largest, "An Traigh Mhor", is a stretch of pristine sand of over 1.5 miles long. The other beach, Garry Beach, although smaller but more sheltered is the more popular of the two. At the south end of the beach there are 5 rock pinnacles. On top of the largest can be seen the remains of an ancient fort hence the rocks' name "The Castles". These are the remains of "Caisteal a' Mhorair" or Mormaear's Castle.

There is another beach in Tolsta at the south end of the village called "Gladach Ghiordail". This beach is not as popular due to its more rocky landscape. However it is well worth the visit, and provides for an invigorating walk, especially on the way back as you climb up to the village. As you struggle to make the climb just think back to the days when the fishing boats landed here and the women carried the days catch up the hill on their backs! As someone who as spent too much time on the flat prairies of Manitoba, I certainly wouldn't want to do it.

If you feel a bit energetic a walk up to the top of "Muirneag" will give you a panoramic view of the Tolsta area.

The most common name in Tolsta is MacIver which could be due to the fact that the early tacksmen was a MacIver who probably came from Ross-shire. There are two lines of MacIvers, one being from the original tenants of the land and the second from Murdo Mor MacIver whose ancestors came from Ness. There is a strong connection with Ness and a lot of the people of Tolsta are of Ness descent.

Perhaps, as a result of its Norse roots and the strong strain of Viking blood in the Lewis people they seem to have ever wandering feet and you will find Tolsta folk the world over. Their sea-faring roots still show in many local men having Masters' and Skippers' tickets and many became members of the Merchant Navy. Even in out standing professions as the CID in London you will find Tolsta people. The earliest emigrant family left Tolsta about 1842 bound for Quebec, Canada and since then Tolsta has seen a lot of its natives bound for Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and other locales.