The largest town on the Isle of Lewis in the remote Western Isles of Scotland, Stornoway is a busy town by local standards and its port is an important hub for maritime transport in the area. The town's routes date back centuries, with the town's name thought to derive from the Norse term for 'Steering Bay'. The name would certainly be appropriate, as Stornaway is blessed with a natural sheltered harbour that has provided a port in many a storm for seafarers. The town's earliest buildings date back to the 12th Century, when Stornaway Castle provided a landmark for the town. The castle was totally destroyed in the 1650s by Cromwell's army, but the ruins of the castle were incorporated into the building of Stornoway's pier in 1800. Stornoway is a popular destination among golfers and anglers and its picturesque harbour is one of the Outer Hebrides' key ferry terminals. Air and sea connections provide links to the mainland of Scotland. The town has a good tourist infrastructure, with plenty of guest houses and restaurants and makes a great base for exploring the rugged countryside of the Isle of Lewis.
Stornaway's airport links the town and the Isle of Lewis, directly with Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Inverness, along with internal destinations at the towns of Benbecula and Barra. A scenic way to arrive at the town is to take the ferry, which can be boarded at the Isle of Skye or at Portree, or at Ullapool on the Scottish mainland. Once on the island, public transport links do exist but are limited, especially on Sundays. A hire car is a good idea for visitors who want to be able to explore the island at their leisure.
Things to See and Do
Stornoway and the surrounding area are awash with opportunities for outdoor pursuits – from nature rambles and mountain bike rides to fishing and sailing. The rugged landscape lends itself well to adventure sports and there are some challenging hiking opportunities to be found on the Isle of Lewis. Golfers can enjoy a round or two at Stornaway's popular 18-hole golf course and there is an official trout angling club based in the town.
The town is the main hub for tourist activity on the Isle of Lewis and there are plenty of shops in the town centre, stocked with everything from local handicrafts and tourist souvenirs to outdoor clothing and adventure sports equipment. There are several tourist attractions in the town and on the island, including the Town Hall, inside which visitors will find a museum dedicated to the history of the island and its people. The 18th Century Episcopal Church, St Peter's, is well worth a visit. There is an art centre on the island where visitors can view and buy works by local artists and the Lewis Loom Centre provides an interesting insight into this traditional handicraft. Visitors can take guided tours, watch demonstrations and learn about the history of the famous Harris Tweed. Visitors arriving in Stornoway to coincide with the Hebridean Celtic Festival will find the town lively with traditional local song and dance and other cutlural activities.
Drinking and Dining
Stornaway is not the best place to head for if you're looking for a wild clubbing scene, although there are several lively bars and a couple of nightlclubs in the town, but there are plenty of traditional pubs in the town that provide many a memorable evening getting to know the locals over a whiskey or two. Many of these pubs also serve excellent quality food and the town has an esteemed reputation among foodies, with renowned farmers' markets and a host of highly-regarded restaurants. Carnivores shouldn't leave the town without trying the local speciality – black pudding. The version made here is exported worldwide.
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