"STORNOWAY, a parish, post town, seaport, and burgh of barony in the island of Lewis, Western Isles, county Ross and Cromarty, Scotland. It contains a post town of its own name, the quoad sacra parish of Knock, and the village of Back. The parish extends in length about 19 miles, and is from 7 to 10 broad, comprising an area of about 160 square miles. It lies in the north-eastern part of Lewis Island, and is bounded by the Minch Channel, and by the parishes of Lochs, Uig, and Barvas. The surface is generally flat, the highest ground being a round hill about 700 feet in height, which serves as a landmark to vessels steering across the Minch. The predominant rocks are gneiss and granite. The shore is in some places sandy, but more frequently bold shelving rocks or precipitous cliffs, worn into caves and fissures, and indented by numerous bays and sea-lochs. Until very recently the only cultivated portion was a narrow belt of land along the shore, the rest being barren moorland and moss; but immense improvements have been effected by the present proprietor, Sir James Matheson, M.P. for Ross-shire. The surface is watered by a number of small freshwater lakes, and by several streams, the largest of which has a course of only 10 miles. Stornoway, which is considered the capital of the Outer Hebrides, is situated on the head of a bay called Loch Stornoway, and has a convenient quay and docks. The town is built round the bay, and the houses are well built. The principal public buildings are the town-house, custom-house, prison, erected in 1845, a branch of the National Bank, savings-bank, assembly rooms, two hotels, Masonic lodge, and a lighthouse and beacon on Arnish Point, at the S. side of the entrance of Loch Stornoway. A little to the W. of the town stands Stornoway Castle, erected by Sir James Matheson, on the site of Seaforth Lodge, the seat of the former proprietors of Lewes. Two steamers ply regularly between Stornoway and Glasgow, and there is a mail packet twice a week, via Poolewe to Dingwall. Many of the inhabitants are employed in the coasting trade, and in the herring, cod, and ling fishery; there are besides, saw, carding, and corn mills, two rope walks, and an extensive distillery. Seals are taken on the coast. Stornoway was first erected into a burgh of barony by James VI., with the design of promoting the civilisation of the Western Isles, but continued an insignificant fishing village till of late years. It is now governed by two bailies, a treasurer, and six councillors. A sheriff's court sits every Thursday, and justice of peace, commissary, and baron baillie courts are held as occasion requires. The parish is in the presbytery of Lewes and synod of Glenelg, in the patronage of the Crown. The minister has a stipend of £159. The parish church was erected in 1794, and repaired in 1831. There is also at Knock, in the district of Eye, a church founded by the government as a quoad sacra parish church. There are three Free churches in the parish, situated respectively at Stornoway, Knock, and Back, also an Episcopalian chapel. The parochial school is an efficient establishment, conducted on the plan of the Glasgow normal seminaries; there are also two schools for girls, having a department for Ayrshire needlework, the materials of which are supplied by Glasgow houses, who pay the pupils for their work. The charities include a dispensary, sailors' home, and several friendly societies. There are horticultural, literary, and farmers' societies. The antiquities consist of an old castle of the Macleod's, once occupied by Cromwell, but now in ruins, a large cairn on Gress-moor, and the remains of ancient chapels at Gress and Eye, formerly considered as sanctuaries. An annual fair is held on the second Wednesday in July for cattle."
Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)