For a bit of luxury on the Isle of Lewis then look no further than Lews Castle.
I headed to Stornoway after a few days photographing on the beaches of Harris. After several days outside on the beach making the most of some good decent weather on the outer Hebrides, we arrived in Stornoway ready for the treat that I had booked for myself and my two boys – two days in Lews Castle. And it definitely did not disappoint!
This Gothic revival style castle has recently been fully restored and opened for guests. The elegant surroundings and their sympathetic restoration, along with the newness of the freshly decorated rooms makes a fabulous first impression as we are shown around our suite by Marcus, the castle’s manager.
The history of the castle is interesting – Originally commissioned by Sir James Matheson in 1847 and taking seven years to complete, the castle was later sold to Lord Leverhulme along with the rest of Lewis. In 1923 Leverhulme gifted the Parish of Stornoway and the castle to the community. During World War II the castle was converted to a hospital and then in the fifties it became a residential school before finally falling into disuse in the nineties.
Everything about the castle reinforces you are staying in a tranquil, luxurious, country hideaway, and you would never guess you are just minutes away from the bustling town of Stornoway.
Entering the castle through the grand archway and then on through the heavy wooden doors leads you into the most spectacular hallway with an ornate ceiling dotted with stars.
Our suite is impressive and my two boys run about from room to room excitedly when we arrive. A beautiful corridor adjoins our three large rooms; all with high ceilings, old style with a contemporary twist – modern clean and fresh. The main bedroom has an antique roll top bath by the large sash windows. For me this is the deciding factor on absolutely having to return here again. It is so far removed from my normal home life, where I can barely squeeze a chair into my bedroom never mind a bath.
I have to admit I’m less inclined to get out and about than I should be. I’m torn between visiting the Callanish Stones and the Blackhouses at Arnol, amongst other things on my list, and just staying in the castle and lapping up every minute of its soothing atmosphere. We did in fact chose the latter for one of our days….
We did however, on this lazy day indoors, visit to see the Uig chessmen exhibit which returned to lewis last year when the museum opened just downstairs in the castle itself. I am intrigued by the story and remember in my early years my Grandma talking about the chessmen after her own visit to the Western Isles many years ago, so the exhibit was enjoyable.
Whilst in Stornoway we decided to have two things we wanted to do; one was visit the Callanish stones and the other to eat at Digby chick. Digby Chick is part of the Outer Hebrides Food Trails and well known for its food, so book early to avoid going hungry. I’ll be posting a more in depth review of the restaurant soon!
After two days at the castle I feel totally pampered and relaxed. There is something about the sheer space in the rooms and the quiet contemporary furnishings in this building full of history that relaxes me and makes me feel peaceful. I definitely leave much more chilled than when I arrived. I suspect another trip is going to be in my diary very soon.