The Uig Chessmen are renowned on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and their ambiguous history is all part of their charm. The original chess pieces are believed to have been made from walrus ivory in the 12thcentury in Norway but were discovered in a sand bank in Uig in 1831.
The medieval chess set is referenced in popular culture including children’s picture books, an episode of Dr Who and in a Harry Potter film.
Sadly, the set is not displayed or even kept together – 82 pieces are owned by the British Museum in London with only 11 in the possession of the National Museum of Scotland.
There is no shortage of ‘Scotland’ souvenirs available to tourists but the Uig Chessmen are a souvenir specific to the picturesque Isle of Lewis. Wish I’d bought a set. Next time…