Stornoway in Scotland is a beautiful, bustling town in the wilds of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland that welcomes weary travellers into its corner of the world with good food, beautiful sights, and Harris Tweed.
This stalwart town is the capital city of the entire Western Isles and unites the Outer Hebrides islands of Harry and Lewis.
Most importantly, it’s filled with amazing attractions that proudly shows the vibrant culture and history of Stornoway, with places that call on its past like the Lews Castle, empower artists like at the An Lanntair, and imbue Outer Hebrides culture like HebCelt Festival.
That being said, Stornoway is overflowing with so many exciting activities, events, stories that it’s difficult to plan what you should be doing in Stornoway.
We’ve put together this guide of things to do in Stornoway so that your holiday will be filled with the attractions and events that cater to your specific interests in this amazing city.
Museum & Tasglann nan Eilean
If you’d like to get an in-depth look into the history of Stornoway, Outer Hebrides, and mainland Scotland, then there is no better place to do so than the Museum nan Eilean.
Funded in part by the Western Isles Council (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar) and home to the Stornoway Historical Society, this museum was opened as part of Lews Castle and now is the best place to witness and engage with the history that Stornoway offers like the Lewis Chessmen.
The museum is home to a wide range of artefacts, clothing, maps, and papers that take you from the beginnings of Stornoway to the present.
To fully appreciate the town of Stornoway and understand how far it’s come, take an hour or two at the Museum nan Eilean.
Harris Tweed Story Room
There’s no tweed as well-known and spoken of like Harris tweed, and its origins start in Stornoway and the Outer Hebrides.
The Harris Tweed Story Room and Harris Tweed Hebrides is a brilliant way to engage with a crucial part of Stornoway’s growth and notoriety, with authentic tweed machines, clothing, and samples that weave the material’s narrative from the past to the present.
Lews Castle Grounds
At the heart of Stornoway town is the gorgeous Lews Castle, styled in the classical Scottish baronial architecture and is a building, once owned by Sir James Matheson, that has been a part of Stornoway and Lewis since 1847.
Sometimes known as Stornoway Castle and restored by the Western Isles Council, the surrounding castle grounds now play host to cosy accommodation and many vibrant shops. A stroll around the grounds is the perfect way to watch the hustle and bustle of Stornoway town centre while having a picnic with the family.
The Stornoway Trust has also constructed a series of woodland walkways around the grounds for visitors to enjoy as they admire the well-maintained grounds.
With free access grounds, you won’t even need to worry about paying fees for entry!
If you’re craving a bite to eat as you’re exploring the city or waking up from your accommodation at a place like Caladh Inn, there’s no better place to sit down in the Outer Hebrides than the Storehouse Cafe on Stornoway Castle grounds.
The cafe offers excellent coffee and cake and has some incredible local flavours to offer for lunch, right in the heart of Lews Castle.
The Cafe is perfectly placed on the ground floor of Lews Castle and allows you to dine whilst also basking in the opulence that surrounds you.
An Lanntair Arts Centre
Whether it’s the sounds of music, an art gallery museum, or a thrilling performance, you can be sure that it’s happening at the An Lanntair Arts Centre, right next to the harbour.
An Lanntair is one of the most visited locations in Stornoway and has won many awards for its contemporary art venue, theatre, cinema, and concert hall.
The Arts Centre is an absolute hub of culture and activity throughout the year and the perfect place for you to experience the wide variety of creativity that Stornoway offers.
Whatever your tastes and preferences, An Lanntair has something for you to enjoy.
With how remote the Isle of Lewis of the Outer Hebrides seems to be compared to the rest of the world, you’d think there wouldn’t be any music festivals to enjoy. You’re mistaken.
The HebCelt Festival is the celebration of music and life of the Outer Hebrides that will, without a doubt, get your feet moving with the locals.
The Festival takes place between 13 – 16 July and has many local and international music celebrities hopping on the stage and showing off their talents. The Festival also raises money for the HCF Trust every year, so your money will support local artists.
Grab your tickets now and don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to experience the HebCelt Music Festival.
Stornoway Old Town Hall
Near the historic Lews Castle and town centre sits Stornoway Town Hall, where many of the crucial decisions of the administrative centre that shaped Stornoway were made.
Today, Stornoway Town Hall is pristine and intimidating with the Scottish baronial tower architecture that is present in many of the more established buildings in Stornoway.
Found near Cabarfeidh Hotel and Caladh Inn, Stornoway Town Hall sits on the west side of the town and can be seen towering over the surrounding buildings.
Stornoway Town Hall holds a piece of history that is amazing to behold and will only give it up if you visit the Old Town Hall.
Bethesda Charity Shop
Those thrifty visitors to the Isle of Lewis will be doing themselves a disservice by not visiting Bethesda Charity Shop, near Cabarfeidh Hotel & Caladh Inn.
All pre-loved items you can find here go to a great cause, so you won’t feel bad about purchasing yourself an entirely new wardrobe while here.
You won’t find better bargains on high-quality thrift clothing than at Bethesda Charity Shop. Who knows, you may even find yourself a bit of Harris Tweed.
The Isle of Lewis Sports Centre
If you’re keen to keep your health and fitness while on holiday or want a way for you and the family to spend some time together, there is no better place than this sports centre.
Right in the heart of the town of Stornoway, this hub of activity and adventure is easy to enter and has something for everyone.
With plenty of amenities like a swimming pool, fitness suite, and climbing wall, this sports centre is perfect for whatever kind of exercise you’re looking to do, as long as it’s active!
Stornoway Golf Club
Why wouldn’t you want to work on your handicap while visiting Stornoway? And at Stornoway Golf Club, it’s difficult to resist the urge to tee up.
This golf club has 18 incredible and unique courses to line up your shot for and is a great way to enjoy a calming morning or afternoon golf session while at Stornoway.
After your golfing session, feel free to sit and admire the beautiful, well-maintained greens of the Club at the cafe and bar that overlooks the whole range of courses.
If the full 18 holes don’t fit with your schedule or you want something more family-friendly, then Bayhead Playpark is a great alternative for crazy golf.
Stornoway is a large city to explore, and it’s easy to forget how tiring walking around can be when you’re lost in the fantastic sights it offers.
Segway Hebrides is the ultimate way to traverse around places like Lews Castle grounds and fit more into your day than you ever could walking around the city.
Glide around Stornoway Castle Grounds with guided segway tours and experience the city like never before while being informed of local curiosities and history every step of your way.
Food is best enjoyed when in good company and incredible surroundings, and the Woodlands Centre can provide both with nature being the focus of the dining experience.
The Centre also has outdoor seating and serves as an excellent pet-friendly place to eat, a crucial bonus to natural retreats like this one.
The excellent dining experience offers great meals like soups, sandwiches, incredible coffee and cakes, and holiday specials galore.
Stornoway Balck Pudding is especially a local Outer Hebrides delicacy worth trying at the Woodlands Centre and their fantastic selection of brunch items and local coffee and teas.
Arnish Point Lighthouse
Constructed in 1852, the Arnish Point Lighthouse has acted as a guardian for Stornoway and the Outer Hebrides ever since and now proudly stands on the south beach between the Isle of Lewis and the ocean.
Just a short trip from Stornoway, the Arnish Point is a pretty highlight as you continue the road along the east coast of the Isle of Lewis.
A highlight of a visit is when walking around Arnish Point and witnessing the incredible views towards the Inner Hebrides and the beautiful south beach.
The heart of Stornoway is Stornoway harbour, an amazing place to sit and witness trade flowing in and out of the Outer Hebrides while eating at one of the many restaurants on Cromwell street.
Those brave enough should also join one of the many guided boat tours available from Stornoway Harbour that allow you to explore the Outer Hebrides, Steering Bay, and the Isle of Lewis from the waters.
As the lifeblood of Stornoway, missing out on a visit to Stornoway Harbour is like missing out on Stornoway itself.
Hebridean Adventures is your guide to seeing the wildlife hidden beneath the waves of Stornoway.
Their cruises guide you through the Outer Hebrides’ waters and reveal Scottish whales, dolphins, and even more of the ocean’s splendid creatures.
The cruises leave Stornoway harbour through the Steering bay and into the waters beyond, so make sure to book a trip, so you don’t miss their next departure!
- Columba’s Church
Angelic choirs echo through Stornoway when mass occurs at the St. Columba’s church, named after the Irish Abbot who spread Christianity throughout Scotland and the Outer Hebrides.
It sits in Stornoway as the go-to temple for residents on the Isle of Lewis, with much of Stornoway and Lewis observing closures on Sunday to rest.
Whether your visit is for religious reasons or you want to look at the beautiful colours and atmosphere that St. Columba offers, it’s well worth the site search to appreciate this stunning church.
Tiumpan Head Lighthouse
Watching over the Outer Hebrides, with its powerful light rhythmically flashing over the Western Isles in the distance, is the spectacular Tiumpan Light House.
This feat of engineering is a beautiful working lighthouse complex that’s just a short walk through grassy pastures. It gives onlookers incredible views not only of this regal white-and-gold lighthouse but of the beautiful ocean beyond it.
The Tiumpan Head Lighthouse is a great way to appreciate the true isolation of the Point on the Isle of Lewis.
Walk the Hebridean Way
There is no better way to fully experience the wondrous Outer Hebrides than to walk the 252-kilometre Hebridean Way.
This daunting task is not for the faint of heart but will give you an adventure like none you’ve experienced before.
The Way begins at Vatersay and ends in Stornoway, the perfect place to finish the incredible island journey. It certainly beats landing by plane at Stornoway airport.
Isle of Lewis First World War Memorial
Standing tall on the highest point of Stornoway, this magnificent World War Memorial presents the lives lost in the First World War with the utmost respect.
More castle than a memorial, its architecture honours both the historic Isle of Lewis heritage and provides a place for those who lost family to mourn their loss.
The World War Memorial is too close to the main town of Stornoway to miss out on and deserves a visit while you explore Lewis.
Cameron’s Fish Shop
Nothing beats a fish and chip shop in a harbour town, and Cameron’s Fish Shop sits as one of the best fish shops on the Isle of Lewis. It can be found on Point Street within Stornoway town centre near the harbour.
Enjoy traditional delights of a fish ‘n chippy with favourites like fish & chips, scampi, chip butty, and pickled onions.
Cameron’s is definitely worth going out of your way when you’re craving the wonderful flavours that this main port town offers.
The Boatshed Restaurant
Perfectly situated in the Royal Hotel, the Boatshed Restaurant of Stornoway will serve you a delicious dinner of local specialities and hand caught seafood that rivals many of the best dishes you’ve had.
Enjoy a variety of amazing dinner courses like local hand-dived scallops, mussels, and sustainable creel caught langoustines being just a few of the dishes prepared by the experienced kitchen team.
The Boatshed Restaurant is a refined dining experience for those that enjoy finely crafted and expertly cooked meals, with the confidence to try local flavours like Stornoway black pudding.
The best way to visit Lewis is through the Stornoway Airport, with multiple daily flights in and out of the Scottish mainland.
Stornoway Airport is the gatekeeper between the Isle of Lewis. It is a lovely airport to travel into when you consider it’s the only airport on the island, so take an afternoon to watch unique and interesting plane models fly in and out of the airport.
Next time you’re travelling to the largest settlement on the Isle of Lewis, treat yourself to a trip via Stornoway Airport.
Cromwell Street is one of the bustling streets that lead off the sheltered harbour in Stornoway, with Gaelic street signs, plentiful shops, petrol stations, and superb accommodation all in one.
Book yourself into luxury Scottish comfort at accommodation like the Crown Inn, Cabarfeidh Hotel, and Caladh Inn.
The street is also parallel to Point Street, another street filled with bustling shops and activities for you to pursue as you venture into the largest town on the Isle of Lewis.
The Good Food Boutique
If you’re hungry but not sure what you want to eat, this boutique has you covered!
As the name suggests, the boutique offers an incredible smorgasbord of high-quality, artisanal food products that will make your inner foodie squeal.
The boutique, run by local foodie Emma, is a welcoming and lovely visit to those that have a craving that they just can’t fill anywhere else.
Hebridean Tea Store
The Hebridean Tea Store is one of the only shops on the Isle of Lewis. You can get a wide variety of high-quality teas from local Scottish and international brands, herbal and fruit-infused blends, and many more calming remedies.
The exclusivity of the Hebridean Tea Store is reason enough to visit, but trying the incredible selection of teas is one of the best ways to spend an afternoon while enjoying this island harbour and its traditional businesses.
The Isle of Lewis boasts some spectacular coastlines and views that only can truly be appreciated from the water.
Stornoway Seafari provides excellent and informative tours of the island and wildlife within its waters. The team is happy to personalise your tour to the specifics you want to learn about the island.
Experience the Isle of Lewis from the water and admire the jaw-dropping sights, with easy bookings from the Stornoway harbour.
The Stornoway Ferry terminal travels throughout both the Outer Hebrides and the Inner Hebrides, allowing easy and smooth travel on your island journey.
Enjoy the boat ride as you make your magical voyage towards the Isle of lewis from the Scottish Mainland, filled with imaginings of what your Stornoway holiday will entail.
The Stornoway Ferry terminal is also the best way to travel into the Isle of Lewis and Stornoway, offering an adventurous way to arrive in the harbour and fresh to start your Stornoway journey.
Just outside of Stornoway lies the Island Darkroom, a traditional darkroom in the Outer Hebrides Scotland.
Here you can treat yourself and see the beautiful photographs of the Isle of Lewis and the Outer Hebrides processed with the traditional use of a Scottish darkroom.
Whether you’re leaving Stornoway to your next destination or just taking a quick look around the harbour area, the Island Darkroom is a must-see on your bucket list.
Try Stornoway Black Pudding
Black Pudding is one of the local delicacies you can try at one of the many shops in town, and there’s a bit of a competition going on about who has the best one.
Black pudding is delicious, made from pork or beef blood and mixed with oats into a sausage shape.
The top contenders for the best Black Pudding on the Isle of Lewis are Charlie Barley’s, Willie John, and MacLeod & MacLeod, but it’s definitely worth it to try them all to see what your taste buds prefer.
The beautiful Gress beach is just outside of Stornoway, with sublime white sands and gorgeous blue water that’s perfect for a beach day with the family and a relaxing afternoon filled with sunbathing and sandcastle-building.
If you can summon the courage to enter the colder Hebridean seas like the locals, this beach is a peaceful place to dive and enjoy the refreshing seawater and air.
Want a second away from the hustle and bustle of Stornoway? Gress beach is the perfect place to do so.
Alladin’s Cave is an adorable novelty shop found by the harbour of Stornoway. It is a family-owned business that sells a wide range of toys, gifts, local fabrics and materials but is primarily known for its knitting yarn and needles.
As you’re wandering the town’s streets, it’s difficult not to be caught by the colourful shop and its many intriguing items on display.
They cater to the many realms of arts and crafts with paints, maps, pins, posters, and tapestries to hang up in your study or on your wall back home.
Whether you’re interested in looking just for the novelty or serious about taking home a souvenir for your friends and family, Alladin’s Cave is just the place to spend your time exploring.