There’s no shortage of Hebridean hospitality in Stornoway, the main town on the Isle of Lewis.
This bustling port – named “Steering Bay” by the Vikings – has a diverse range of cultural attractions and its partly pedestrianised centre offers a great selection of shops, hotels, pubs and eateries.
Immerse yourself in local history at Museum nan Eilean where there are artefacts, photographs, paintings and archives tracing the archaeology and the social history of the Western Isles.
The An Lanntair gallery is a superb showcase for the visual arts and music, while the Lewis Loom Centre explains the making of Harris Tweed with a guided tour and demonstrations.
The grounds of Lews Castle comprise extensive mixed woodlands planted in the mid-19th century and now owned by the community. A wide variety of trees can be admired, including some rare foreign species.
Stornoway is the perfect base for exploring the spectacular landscapes, white beaches and abundant wildlife of Lewis and Harris, as well as the ancient past as represented by the world-famous Callanish standing stones where a visitor centre is open throughout the summer.
Stornoway’s harbour is a hive of activity with more than 1000 vessel movements recorded annually, from commercial ships to cruise liners and yachts, as well as the car ferry linking Stornoway to Ullapool in Wester Ross.
The ruins of Stornoway Castle – destroyed by Cromwell’s forces in 1653 – lie near the ferry terminal. The harbour is also associated with the darkest moment in Stornoway’s history: on January 1, 1919, the ship Iolaire foundered on rocks and 205 Lewismen returning from the Great War were drowned within sight of home.
Seals are frequently seen in and around the harbour, and wildlife-watchers may be lucky enough to spot dolphins, whales and sharks if they venture further out.
Stornoway airport has services to Aberdeen, Benbecula, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.
Visitors should bear in mind that there’s a strong tradition of Sabbath observance in the Western Isles, and therefore many businesses and transport links do not operate on a Sunday.