town on the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, UK

Stornoway (Gaelic Steòrnabhagh) is the main town on Lewis and the admin centre for all of Scotland's Outer Hebrides. Indeed it's the only town in these islands; it has the best amenities and transport links, and it's the obvious base for exploring both Lewis and Harris. It is industrial, and not particularly picturesque, but has lots to see. The population was 4800 in 2021, a sharp decline on previous figures.

Get in edit

By plane edit

1 Stornoway Airport (SYY IATA) (2 miles east of town on A866), +44 1851 702256. Stornoway has flights from across Scotland by Loganair, in twin-prop aircraft. These are not cheap, around £250 return and more at the weekend, but it's a full-service airline so a checked bag is included in the fare. (And think what petrol alone will cost if you drive then take the ferry.) There are four flights M-Th and two F-Su from Glasgow GLA taking an hour, one or two from Edinburgh, 1-3 from Inverness, and M-F one or two from Benbecula. Check-in an hour before flight is soon enough at Stornoway; allow the standard two hours at busy Edinburgh or Glasgow. The airport has toilets, a lounge and cafe. There's car hire but you need to book ahead. Bus W5 runs between town and airport five times M-Sa, taking 15 min. Another five buses M-F pass nearby on the highway out to Point. All the local taxi firms serve the airport, see "Get around".    

By boat edit

Calmac ferries sail to Stornoway from Ullapool on the mainland, taking 2 hr 30 min. There are two sailings year-round M-Sa, and on Sunday two Apr-Oct and just one Nov-Mar. Until end of March 2025, return fares are £121.30 per car, £22.30 per adult including driver, and £11.20 per child aged 5-15. These ferries often sell out in summer, so even foot passengers should book in advance. Be at the pier at least 45 min before sailing.

There is also a ferry from Uig on Skye to Tarbert on Harris, from where you can drive up to Lewis.

You can also sail to Lochmaddy on North Uist, or to South Uist or Barra, then work your way north by road and ferry, as part of a tour of the Outer Hebrides.

By bus edit

See Lewis for buses around the island, which all converge on Stornoway. They're sparse M-Sa with nothing on Sunday. The bus station is next to the ferry terminal.

A bus-ferry service runs up the Western Isles through Barra, the Uists and Harris to Stornoway, so M-Sa it may be possible to go the whole way in one day. There are half-a-dozen services part-route, but for the full route you need to set off from Castlebay on Barra at 6:20AM, Lochboisedale on South Uist at 9AM, Benbecula at 11:10AM, Lochmaddy on North Uist at 11:30AM and Tarbert on Harris at 4:20PM, to reach Stornoway by 5:30PM. Going south, you leave Stornoway 9:30AM to reach Tarbert at 10:45AM, Lochmaddy at 1:45PM, Benbecula at 2:25PM, Lochboisdale at 3:25PM and reach Castlebay at 5:35PM.

Get around edit

By bus: see Lewis for routes around the island, which all converge on Stornoway. The town is small and the only bus you're likely to use within it is W5, which runs east along A866 to the airport and away out to The Point. Northbound it runs along B895 up the east coast past the hospital towards Tolsta. About a dozen run M-F and five on Saturday.

Bus W1 (for the north tip of the island) and Bus W2 (west coast loop) run through town along A857 to Manors roundabout and the hospital before wandering off into the countryside.

Car hire: rental firms are Stornoway Car Hire (+44 1851 702658), Stornoway Vehicle Hire (+44 7502 156439) and Car Hire Hebrides (+44 1851 706500). They can all pick up or drop off at the ferry terminal or airport.

Taxi: the Stornoway airport website lists almost two dozen local operators.

See edit

Lews Castle and Museum
  • 1 An Lanntair, Kenneth Street HS1 2DS, +44 1851 708480, . M-W 10AM-5PM, Th-Sa 10AM-11PM, last Su of month 1-4PM. Arts centre hosting exhibitions, concerts and films; the name means "The Lantern". The cafe and bar are open daytime and some evenings.    
  • Highland Cow is a monster statue opposite the Coop on Bayhead the main road north. Useful to knowː you can actually buy model cows like these on Amazon.
  • 2 Lews Castle (Museum & Tasglann nan Eilean), +44 1851 822746. Museum Apr-Sep: Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM; Oct-Mar: Tu-Sa 1-4PM. The castle was built in the 1850s for Sir James Matheson, who made his fortune in the far eastern opium trade. To build it he demolished the remnants of the preceding medieval castle, whilst losing the "i" from Lewis. It was later sold to Lord Leverhulme the soap tycoon. In the 20th century it was used as a navy air base and as student accommodation then fell into disuse, but was refurbished from 2011. It now houses Museum & Tasglann nan Eilean, the museum and archive of island life. The ballroom is used as a ritzy event space, and there's expensive self-catering apartments available. The extensive castle grounds are always open to stroll. Donation.    
  • 3 Old Gun Battery is just a pair of 19th-century Royal Naval Reserve 6-inch guns at the entrance to the power station. The battery was in use 1876-1919: it was just a training facility. It was built over by the power station but these guns were recovered from the site. You can continue out along the causeway to the marina, though the area is industrial.
  • 4 Iolaire Memorial: in the early hours of New Year's Day 1919, HMY Iolaire was bringing home sailors demobilised at the end of the Great War, but she struck a rock at the entrance to Stornoway harbour and sank. The official death toll was 205, mostly local men, but the boat was overcrowded and it may have been higher. The memorial is at Holm east of town, follow the lane south just before the airport entrance.

Do edit

An Lanntair
  • What's on? Read Stornoway Gazette or listen to Isles FM on 103.0 Mhz.
  • Lews Castle Grounds are woodlands always open to stroll, and there are 20 miles of off-road bike trails.
  • Golf: Stornoway GC is on Lady Lever Park just west of town. White tees 5010 yards, par 68, visitor round £40.
  • Boat trips: Stornoway Seafari go wildlife-spotting May to mid-Oct.
  • Stornoway Historical Society occasionally holds exhibitions and events.
  • Hebridean Way is a way-marked hiking and cycling trail the length of the Outer Hebrides. Northbound the 12th and final stage for hikers is from Balallan to the Woodlands Centre. Cyclists get to within 7 miles of town at Langabhat, but turn west to follow the coast road all the way to the Butt of Lewis.
  • Football is played only at amateur level. The soccer team play in the Harris & Lewis League Mar-Oct. The rugby union club are made of sterner stuff and play through the winter.
  • Hebcelt music festival is at multiple venues but mostly in the grounds of Lews Castle and at An Lanntair in town. Flights, ferries and accommodation are booked solid while it's on. There's no camping within the venues, and no dogs allowed. The next is 17-20 July 2024.

Buy edit

Never on a Sunday: Lewis Sabbatarians are fighting a bitter rearguard action. They've been unable to resist the ungodliness of flights and ferries on a Sunday, but all shops remain closed except Engebret's filling station, and the majority of eating and drinking places. On Saturday night, pubs and entertainments halt by midnight.

Several shops sell Harris Tweed, either by the metre or made into clothes and bags.

  • Cash: ATMs are at Tesco, RBS by Crown Hotel, Bank of Scotland on Cromwell St and Co-op Food on MacAulay Rd.
  • Tesco is 100 yards east of the pier on Ferry Rd, open M-F 6AM-midnight, Sa 6AM-10PM
  • Co-op Food main store is north side of town on MacAulay Rd, off Bayhead main road, open M-Sa 7AM-22ː00. The smaller Co-op on Cromwell St in town centre has the same hours.
  • Stornoway Smokehouse, 10 Shell Street HS1 2BS (near Tesco and the pier), +44 1851 702723. Tu-F 9AM-5PM. A good traditional smokery cures local fish.
  • Harris & Lewis Smokehouse is next to the Caladh Inn and has a cafe.
  • Baltic Bookshop, 8-10 Cromwell St HS1 2DA, +44 1851 702082. M-Sa 9AM-5:30PM. Books, including a large selection on island interests, with newspapers, stationery and gifts.
  • Hebridean Tea Store, 22 Cromwell St HS1 2DD, +44 800 228 9294. M Tu Th-Sa 10AM-4PM. They stock a wide range of premium loose leaf teas (and some coffee), many blended to their own recipe.
  • 1 Engebret Filling Station, Sandwick Road HS1 2SL, +44 1851 702303. M-Sa 6AM-11PM, Su 10AM-4PM. Filling station and convenience store, it could be your lifesaver on a Sunday.
  • Pharmacies: Boots (corner of Cromwell Rd and Point St) is open M-Sa 9AM-5:30PM, and KJ MacDonald at 20 Cromwell St has the same hours. These are just about the only pharmacies on Harris & Lewis. There is also a non-dispensing Superdrug near Boots.

Eat edit

Stornoway Black Pudding
  • Cameron's Chip Shop is at 33 Point St opposite Crown Hotel, open M-W noon-8PM, Th-Sa noon-9PM.
  • Istanbul Restaurant on South Beach next to An Lanntair is actually Indian.
  • The Fank is a cafe bar at 3 Cromwell St open W-Sa noon-4:30PM, 5:30-8:30PM.
  • Harbour Kitchen is a seafood restaurant at 5 Cromwell St open Th-Sa 5-9PM.
  • Golden Ocean is a Chinese restaurant next to the Library at 12 Cromwell St, open M-Sa 11:30AM-10PM, Su 4-10PM.
  • Good Food Boutiqueis a deli at 59 Cromwell St open 8:30AM-5:30PM.
  • The Boatshed is the restaurant within Royal Hotel on Cromwell St (see Sleep), open daily noon-9PM. HS-1 is the Cafe Bar.
  • Peking Cuisine, 30 Church St HS1 2JD (next to Police Station), +44 1851 705548. W-M 4-9PM. Chinese takeaway, quick, inexpensive and filling. Cash only.
  • 1 Thai, 27 Church St HS1 2JD, +44 1851 701811. M-Sa 4-10PM. Mixed reviews for this Thai restaurant which also does takeaway.
  • Bangla Spice at 33 Church St also gets mixed reviews. It's open Tu-Sa 5-9PM.
  • Eleven is the restaurant within Caladh Inn (see Sleep) at 11 James St. Breakfast is served M-F 7-9:30AM, Sa Su 8-10AM, and the carvery is open daily noon-9PM. Booking essential as residents have first dibs. They also do takeaway.
  • Fusion, Perceval Rd South (by Cabarfeidh Hotel at Manor roundabout), +44 1851 706373. Tu-Th noon-2PM, 4-10PM, F Sa noon-11PM, Su 1-9PM. Chinese takeaway at the north edge of town. It's convenient for the Cabarfeidh and Laxdale caravan site but the food is mediocre.
  • 2 Woodlands Centre, Castle grounds, +44 1851 706916. M-Sa 10AM-5PM. Serving coffee & snacks.

Drink edit

Stornoway's concentration of pubs reflects the absence of them around the rest of Lewis.
  • Crown Inn on Castle St (see Sleep) is the bar where the 14-year-old Prince Charles (now King Charles III) came on a sailing outing from his school Gordonstoun. Locals recognised the boat and crowded round. The prince fled in here and ordered the only drink he knew the name of: a cherry brandy. His forebear Bonnie Prince Charlie could have drained the bottle in a trice, but the young prince was under age. His bodyguard (his only friend and confidant) was sacked, and Charles was thereafter closely confined to his school regime of cold showers, dawn runs, and bullying, bullying, bullying
  • McNeills, 11 Cromwell Street HS1 2DA (block west of County Hotel), +44 1851 703330. M-W noon-11PM, Th-Sa noon-1AM, Su noon-5PM. Sports bar with live music Thursdays, no food.
  • The Criterion, 32 Point Street HS1 2XF, +44 1851 288030. M-W 11AM-11PM, Th-Sa 11AM-1AM, Su 12:30-11PM. Good trad bar, dog-friendly.
  • New Lewis Bar, 8-10 North Beach HS1 2XP (Castle Street), +44 1851 704567. M-Th 11AM-11PM, F 11AM-1:30AM, Sa 11AM-12:30AM, Su noon-11PM. Welcoming pub with food, dog-friendly.
  • Star Inn by the harbour gets dismal reviews.
  • Distillery: Abhainn Dearg makes malt whisky. It's at the northwest end of the island, see Lewis#Drink for tours. Tarbert on Harris also has a distillery.

Sleep edit

HebCelt Festival by the castle

Advance booking is essential June-August, and advisable any time of year.

Budget edit

  • Wild camping is mostly permitted, but overnight parking is not.
  • 1 Laxdale Holiday Park, 6 Laxdale Lane HS2 0DR (off A857 a mile & half north of Stornoway), +44 1851 706966. Clean efficient place with good facilities open Apr-Oct, with 35 pitches for tents and 19 hook-ups for caravans, plus static caravans, bunkhouse (no dogs) and wigwams. Tent pitch £15.
  • Heb Hostel, 25 Kenneth Street HS1 2DR (next to County Hotel), +44 1851 709889. Friendly well-run central hostel open Apr-Oct. No pets. Dorm bunk £23, double £70, shepherd's hut £80.

Mid-range edit

  • 2 Jannel B&B, 5 Stewart Drive HS1 2TU (near hospital and golf course), +44 1851 705324. Friendly comfy B&B at north end of town. B&B double £140.
  • 3 Crown Inn, Castle St HS1 2BD (entrance is on Point St), +44 1851 703734. Small hotel, dog-friendly, some street noise. With a public bar (the one where Prince Charles asked for a cherry brandy) and upstairs restaurant. B&B double £120.
  • 4 County Hotel, 12 Francis Street HS1 2XB, +44 1851 703250. Small central place, comfy enough but pricey for what you get. B&B double £150.
  • 5 Caladh Inn, James Street HS1 2QN, +44 1851 702740. Simple hotel with 68 rooms, handy for the ferry and the bus station. Most rooms are comfy enough but the economy singles are horrid little broom cupboards. B&B double £130.

Splurge edit

  • 6 Royal Hotel, Cromwell St HS1 2DG, +44 1851 702109. Comfy hotel on waterfront with 24 rooms and Boatshed restaurant. Built in 1845 and the state of some facilities confirms this. B&B double £180.
  • 7 Cabarfeidh Hotel, Manor Park, Perceval Rd South HS1 2EU, +44 1851 702604. Hotel with 46 rooms and Solas restaurant north side of town, often caters to weddings. Overpriced for what you get. B&B double £250.
  • Lews Castle, HS2 0XP, +44 1625 416430. 17 luxury self-catering apartments. The castle has a cafe and a bar, see website for seasonal restaurant. Accommodation management is outsourced to a third party based in Wilmslow, Cheshire. Double (room only) from £170.

Connect edit

"You weren't thinking of leaving us?"

As of Sep 2023, Stornoway has 4G from EE, which extends along the island roads. You might get a signal in town from O2, Three or Vodafone. 5G has not yet reached Lewis and Harris.

Stornoway Library, 49 Cromwell Street HS1 2DA, +44 1851 822744. Tu-F 10AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-4PM. This has internet access.

Cope edit

  • 1 Bayhead Bridge Centre, Bayhead HS1 2EB, +44 1851 705808. Laundry M-Sa 8AM-7PM. Community centre with inexpensive laundrette and public showers. Also has a cafe and student rooms for longer stays.

Go next edit

  • The rest of Lewis is easiest to explore by day-trips from Stornoway, for example the Callanish Stones. You need your own vehicle.
  • Great Bernera is an island linked by road to Lewis. It has accommodation.
  • Harris is more rugged and scenic than Lewis. It is within range of a day-trip from Stornoway, or you might move base to either Tarbert or Leverburgh.
  • Berneray, reached by ferry from Leverburgh, is the next island on the chain leading south, with a good paved road all the way down through the Uists.

This city travel guide to Stornoway is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.