08 March 2017

Formal Opening of Lews Castle, Museum and Archive

Right Honourable Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister of Scotland, officially opens landmark Stornoway building.

Lews Castle Museum and Archive in Stornoway has officially been opened by the Right Honourable Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister of Scotland. The opening marked the completion of a flagship cultural and economic regeneration project led by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and delivered by GRAHAM Construction.

The £19.5 million project, undertaken in phases over a 5 year period, has fully restored Stornoway’s main landmark building as a visitor and hospitality destination.

The official opening will celebrate a range of local and national partnerships which have been crucial in bringing this challenging project to fruition. Representatives of a wide range of partner organisations and funders attended the opening, including National Museums Scotland (NMS), the British Museum, the Heritage Lottery Fund and local heritage organisations.

Since public opening in July 2016, over 34,000 people have visited the museum and archive, with many more enjoying the beautifully restored public rooms of the castle, the Storehouse Café in the dramatic glass roofed courtyard and the adjacent Outfitters Shop.

The restoration by GRAHAM Construction of Lews Castle fulfils a long-held aspiration of the local community to see the iconic building brought back to life. The 19th century castle had lain vacant for almost 20 years and was at risk by the time the initial repair works started in 2012.

The main public rooms on the ground floor of the castle have been restored to their Gothic Revival glory, including ornate plaster ceilings and a fabulous 19th century wall mural in the Morning Room. A spectacular Adam style ballroom, which Lord Leverhulme extended and re-modelled in the 1920’s, has been restored in that style. The ballroom and other public rooms have already hosted a wide range of functions including what is believed to the first wedding ever held at Lews Castle.

The final phase of the project has created luxury holiday accommodation on the upper floors of the Castle with 23 bedrooms in a flexible configuration of individual suites and apartments with one to three bedrooms. The accommodation is scheduled for launch by Natural Retreats in April.

The Lews Castle Museum and Archive project has been funded by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Historic Environment Scotland, the Scottish Government, the European Regional Development Fund and Bord na Gaidhlig along with significant private investment in the hospitality elements from Natural Assets, the parent company of the Castle operator Natural Retreats.

First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “The Comhairle and its partners must be congratulated on developing what is now a beautiful venue for both local residents and visitors to the island to enjoy, telling the unique story of the islands in an amazing setting. It will also be a fantastic boost for the local economy, increasing tourism, creating jobs and bringing additional revenue to the islands.”

Comhairle Leader and Chair of Lews Castle Project Board, Cllr Angus Campbell, said: “I am delighted that we are at the stage of officially opening this iconic Outer Hebrides landmark, which is a truly magnificent facility for visitors and residents alike. The Castle has already proved to be hugely popular, as evidenced by the large numbers of visitors in the first few months.

“The Comhairle and the whole community can be extremely proud of what has been achieved and I am confident that the benefits of this substantial investment will be felt right across our islands in the years to come.

Gary Holmes, Regional Director of GRAHAM Construction said: “At Lews Castle we have delivered an award-winning restoration and refurbishment project of an A-Listed building, and we’re proud to be leaving behind a lasting legacy of skills, employment opportunities and support for the community. Nearly 75% of those working on the project were from Scotland and half of those have been from Lewis.”