Lews Castle is situated in a spectacular position overlooking Stornoway harbour and was built by opium baron Sir James Matheson in 1847. The Castle was later owned by Lord Leverhulme who gave it and the surrounding estate to the people of Stornoway in 1923. After several years as a college, the Castle fell out of use and has now undergone a phased four year period of renovation and redevelopment.
The first phase of the project involved essential repair and conservation work on the existing Castle. Following this, a new extension containing a museum and archive was created, which is linked to the restored public rooms of the Castle. This was to create a new Hebridean heritage hub allowing for some of the islands' historic treasures and documents, including some of the world famous Lewis chessmen, to return to the island. The link to the castle is created by a glass roofed courtyard over the former service quarters, which incorporates a café and shop. The final phase of the project involved development of the upper floors of the Castle to provide luxury holiday accommodation featuring 24 bedrooms, some with adjoining living spaces.
The £19m project is led by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland, the Scottish Government, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, the European Regional Development Fund and a private sector partner.