Stornoway, Scotland, UK

Stornoway, which is located in the Scotland Western Isles, is a place of harmony and diversity. Both Gaelic and English is spoken, eagles live close to otters, both hint at the unity of the community. I

f you’ve ever listened to the famous UK shipping forecast, you’ll have heard the name Stornoway mentioned in the cryptic but soothing relay of crucial information to seafarers.

Embark on a cruise to Stornoway and you will enter one of the most scenic natural harbors in the Outer Hebrides. The town on the Isle of Lewis has earned its reputation for having a particularly welcoming port as it is deep and sheltered, justifying its name, which means “steering bay.” The pier was built on the original site of Stornoway Castle, which was destroyed by Cromwell’s forces in 1653. The beauty of the harbor belies its bustling energy and thriving businesses of freight, ferry and leisure traffic, as well as a busy fishing industry.

Because the majority of the islanders live in the center of Stornoway, there are vast, sparsely populated areas with small rural communities hugging the coastline. In the summer you will still see people cutting and stacking the peat to burn in the winter when it delivers a fragrant scent as peat smoke drifts in the air.

The beaches nearby Stornoway are vast and unspoiled, protected in the main by shifting sand dunes. If it is a sunny day they sparkle but, even when it is stormy, they possess a dramatic and mysterious character that cleanses the soul. There are many opportunities for visitors to explore the wildlife of the region with sightings of seals, porpoises and dolphins being common in the area. Keen bird watchers are treated to huge colonies of gannets, shag, black guillemots and kittiwakes. From Stornoway, the west and north coast are both less than an hour’s drive away, and there you will find many opportunities for scenic walks and photographs of stunning, windswept terrain.

The people of Lewis are very welcoming. Traditional values are at the core of communities and there is a strong observance of the sanctity of Sunday when most businesses close in favor of family and rest. Gaelic heritage is also important and the traditional arts and crafts are celebrated in the nearby Ness Museum. Exhibits demonstrate and explain crafting, wool working, and other folk crafts.

Locally produced food is part of the region’s traditional culture, with perhaps the most famous of the local food being Stornoway’s black pudding. This delicacy of blood and oatmeal can be seen on the menus of some of the world’s best restaurants as far away as New York, and is certainly worth a try.

Surrounded by the deep clear waters of the Atlantic it is no surprise that seafood, caught off the islands shores, is also a staple of the local diet. Stornoway town center even has its own smokehouse producing delicious fresh smoked salmon and kippers.