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Wander around the Castle Grounds to work off your lunch. Here you can enjoy the greenery on the mile-long walk along the Creed River, watch for the wildlife that lives in the woods, or encounter the remains of local history and legend, like the mournful-looking statue at Lady Matheson’s Memorial. One thing you can’t miss is the Castle itself, standing steadfast on the green in full view of the town.
An Lanntair – meaning ‘lantern’ in Gaelic – is the name of Stornoway’s art centre. It’s an appropriate one, given the architectural appearance of the place. Here you can seek out unique souvenirs at the quirky gift shop, or admire the (often local) artwork in the adjoining gallery. The cafe-bar brings in islanders and visitors alike; as a location for performances, plays, shows and new cinema releases, the building is always busy. In the evening, you can unwind while watching the ferry return from the Scottish mainland, glass of wine in hand, from your vantage point in the glass-fronted restaurant. For culture and cuisine, there's no other 'lantern' quite like it.
Crossing the Creed River into the Castle Grounds, you are welcomed by a life-size Lewis Chessman as you escape into near-seclusion at the Woodlands Centre. This casual cafe is all wood framing and floor-to-ceiling windows, with Gaelic poetry imprinted into the glass. Sit outside in the sun, or lounge upstairs on the comfy couches with friends. Sandwiches, soups and tasty sweet treats are all on offer here – the scones with clotted cream and jam are something special. Pick up some local trinkets too, from the small shop at the back of the building.
A favourite find in Stornoway is By Rosie, a cute and quirky Harris Tweed accessories shop run by a sunny seamstress of the same name. Rosie Wiscombe hand crafts all the bags, purses, and bits and pieces available for purchase, artfully displaying them in vintage suitcases and on antique dressing tables in her studio-come-shop. It's a modern - and popular - twist on the generations-old Tweed tradition in the Hebrides.
Don’t miss out on Stornoway’s speciality, the famous Stornoway Black Pudding, sold far and wide and now protected under European Law. Ingredients include blood, onions and oatmeal – and you won’t find any better black puddings than the ones made here. Buy them at any butcher for a full breakfast fry-up, or sample them as part of fine dining in one of Stornoway’s restaurants, like HS1 or Solas.
The saying goes that there’s a pub and a church on every corner, but the best place for a dram is McNeill’s, a Stornoway staple on the corner of pedestrian thoroughfare Cromwell Street. In the summer months you’re likely to be surrounded by patrons from across the country and the continent enjoying the atmosphere and Open Mic nights. Whatever time of year you take a tipple, you’ll be assured an excellent island welcome in this cosy, traditional bar.
On one of the main Stornoway streets sits the retail outlet of Harris Tweed Hebrides, the largest textile company championing the luxury, local, hand-woven fabric seen on catwalks around the world. Created by weavers in their homes throughout the islands, the “champagne of fabrics” is government-protected, and finished at the textile mill on the west side of the Isle of Lewis before being stamped with the world-famous Orb trademark. Currently enjoying an international renaissance, Harris Tweed is used by designers near and far (think J Crew, Chanel, and Alexander McQueen) to create everything from couture coats to iPad covers. The flagship store in Stornoway has an upscale atmosphere and hosts a sleek selection of items made from the cloth. For high-class Harris Tweed, this is certainly the place to part with your credit card.
Grab a coffee at Delights to keep you going – the ladies behind the counter are lovely – and ask for it to go so you can savour the flavour as you experience the sights of Stornoway. Home baking, cute kitchenware and interesting ingredients are also available at this fine food store, not to mention fresh pates, pies and quiches all made from local ingredients to tantalise your taste buds.
To start your day in Stornoway, navigate the Narrows – the streets in the centre of the town, like Cromwell and Point Street – and browse the independent shops that line them. There are new businesses and local entrepreneurs starting up all the time, showcasing the island’s creativity at its best. Let yourself be charmed by the cobbled streets, Gaelic street signs, and colourful doorways on display.
Fishing has always featured strongly in the history of the Outer Hebrides, and today there are still a few who make their living from the sea. Soak up the island atmosphere with a walk by the town’s harbour, breathing in the strong salty air and counting the myriad colours of the fishing boats by the docks.
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