The historic town of Stornoway takes its name from ‘Sjornavagr’ the Old Norse for ‘steering bay’ and is the only town in the Isle of Lewis and the Outer Hebrides. With a population of around 7,000, the town is compact and easy to get around.

There are lots of activities, attractions, walks and places to eat and drink around the town and we have put together a few suggestions:  


Across from the harbour is the impressive Lews Castle with its stunning grounds. Built in 1847, by Sir James Matheson, following his purchase of the Isle of Lewis, it was completed in 1854. Sir James Matheson co-founded the Jardine Matheson Comapny and made his fortune from the Chinese Opium trade. In 1918, Lord Leverhulme (aka the soap manufacturers Lever Bros/Unilever), bought the Isle of Lewis. He had many ambitious plans, some which were followed through, many of which remained pipe dreams. In 1923 he gifted the Castle and grounds to the people of Stornoway. During the war, it was used as a naval hospital and the latter use was the first home of the Lews Castle College until 1988, now incorporating a hotel, cafe, museum and spectacular public rooms. 

Lews Castle offers a range of facilities including Museum nan Eilean where there is an opportunity to see six of the famous Lewis Chessmen that were found in 1831 in the Ardroil sand dunes of Uig Bay on the west coast of Lewis and which are currently on loan from the British Museum.

The Lews Castle Grounds are owned and managed by Stornoway Trust on behalf of the people of Stornoway. The Stornoway Trust is Scotland’s oldest community landlord and is responsible for the stewardship of the 69,000-acre estate which offers scenic cycling and walking trails, Treetops cafes and also The Storehouse Café which is located in Lews Castle.

For golf enthusiasts the Lews Castle Grounds are home to the only 18-hole golf course in the Outer Hebrides offering a challenging, undulating, scenic experience Stornoway Golf Club.

Just at the edge of the Castle grounds is The Hub, a great place to catch a bite to eat and hire a bike at Bespoke Bicycles!


Stornoway is proud of its many independent, welcoming, locally owned retail outlets, which offer a wide choice for visitors and local people alike.

Stornoway town centre offers a host of attractions and shopping opportunities including An Lanntair Arts Centre which offers a regular arts and cultural programme of events for all ages as well as a popular cinema, café and a busy shop. 

An Clò Hearach - Harris Tweed

The Harris Tweed industry remains a vital part of the island economy with the cloth being woven by islanders at their homes prior to its distribution to traditional markets in Europe, The Far East and North America and increasingly to Brazil, China and Indian. Come along to the Harris Tweed Story located in Stornoway Town Hall (Cromwell Street) to find out more about this unique cloth and the Act of Parliament that makes it the only cloth protected by the world-famous Orb Mark.

Biadh agus Deoch - Food and Drink

Visit the award-winning The Island Spirit Whisky Shop to view their extensive offering of wines and spirits including Harris Gin, Downpour Gin, Lewis Gin and the recently launched The Hearach Single Malt Whisky from the Isle of Harris Distillery.

For food lovers why not try some Charcuterie, Stornoway Black Pudding or Smoked Salmon?  

Our range of eating establishments includes hotel restaurants such as Eleven, The Boatshed and Cleaver at the Caberfeidh Hotel.  The Harbour Kitchen, The Fank and La Balena offer a wide selection of attractive options.

Cofaidh is Cèic - Coffee and Cake

Coffee and cake are always a good idea and Stornoway has an abundance of excellent places to go whether it’s for a Cappuccino, a Latte or a simple pot of tea! Some of the best include An Lanntair Arts Centre, An Taigh Cèilidh, and HS1 at the Royal Hotel.

Check out this Eat Drink Hebrides leaflet for the list of places to eat and drink and buy local produce.

Ealan is Cheàrdan - Arts & Crafts

Our arts and crafts sector in Stornoway has some amazing products on offer from some hugely talented local people including bespoke jewellery from Hebridean Jewellery; local arts and crafts at Empty House Traders; Harris Tweed products from Harris Tweed Hebrides; and a full list is available on our Made in the Outer Hebrides Guide.

Gàidhlig - Gaelic

The Gaelic language and culture has always been and remains at the heart of the Outer Hebrides and is visible and audible through literature, events and festivals, Gaelic TV and Radio, church services, Children and Youth activities, arts and crafts and education.

Some of our top attractions where the Gaelic language can be seen and heard in Stornoway include An Taigh Cèilidh (Stornoway), An Lanntair Arts Centre, Museum nan Eilean and Stornoway Free Church of Scotland.


Why not take a walk around the various historical and heritage sites in Stornoway which include the Italianate Clock Tower at the Nicolson Institute; Martin’s Memorial Church, built 1878; The Boatman’s Tower in the Castle Grounds and Stornoway Free Church.

The Iolaire HMY Centenary Art Installation (Sheòl nan Iolaire) located between Piers 1 and 2 at Stornoway Harbour commemorates the sinking of HMY Iolaire with the loss of 201 sailors on 1st January 1919. It sits on the beach between piers 1 and 2 and is lit up at night - and as it gets flooded at high tide. The memorial consists of 280 wooden poles, driven into the sand of the beach. They depict each of the 280 men on board Iolaire when she sank. Each pole is lit up in blue at night, except for 79 which are illuminated in red, depicting a survivor.

There are numerous walks in the Castle Grounds and you can stop off at The Storehouse Cafe or Treetops cafe in the Golf Club for a cuppa or some lunch.