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The Crown Inn

Islands

Castle Street, Stornoway. HS1 2BD.

Tel: 01851 703734

http://www.crownhotelstornoway.com

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Our review

Many of Scotland’s hotels have a claim to fame, but few have a story to tell quite like The Crown Inn, Stornoway. As a young boy – 14 years old to be precise – Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and four of his classmates arrived in Stornoway after a day sailing the Gordonstoun school training ship. After giving his bodyguard the slip, he dropped by the Crown Hotel, as it was then known, and bought a cherry brandy for two shillings and sixpence (£0.125p).

Even then, in the summer of 1963, the legal drinking age in the United Kingdom was 18 years old, as it remains to this day. As a result, the young prince’s actions caused quite a furore in the British press, with much speculation as to whether he would be caned by the school’s headmaster upon his return – he confirmed only that ‘the school does keep a cane’ for use in serious circumstances. It’s not clear how the situation was resolved (a firm slap on the wrist seems likely) but nevertheless the tale of Charles’ childhood antics don’t fail to bring on a smile when perusing the newspaper clippings proudly displayed in the hotel’s reception.

One won’t find Charles sipping a brandy at the Crown today; however following an extensive refurbishment in 2015 it is certainly a place where visitors may enjoy a relaxing tipple themselves. Located within a five-minute walk of Stornoway’s ferry terminal and enjoying pleasant views of both the 19th Century Lews Castle and Stornoway’s harbour, the inn has reopened under the command of an enthusiastic new team, headed up by proprietor Tom Strathmore.

The ground floor is given over to the lively ‘Harbour Bar’, a pub that boasts an outstanding 45 different bottled craft beers, in addition to more conventional cask & keg offerings – all at very reasonable prices. Televisions showing sports and a pool table make it a firm favourite with the locals, and a great place for visitors to get to know Stornoway’s inhabitants. 

If you’re looking for a more sedate atmosphere while enjoying your drink, go no further than upstairs to the Crown’s lounge bar. Decorated in a ‘hunting lodge’ style, with low lighting and wing-backed chairs, the lounge has a relaxing and intimate atmosphere that makes it a perfect place to unwind after a day exploring the Isle of Lewis. Fans of gin are in for a real treat, as behind the bar one can find over 90 craft gins and even a few jenevers – gin’s historical, Dutch, predecessor. This represents a wider selection than is often seen in many metropolitan specialist gin bars and all are served with passion and knowledge by the team, who are very much engaged with the ongoing development of the drinks menu. If gin is not for you, a range of Scotch whiskies, beers and cocktails will surely satisfy. If you’re partial to a mid-afternoon treat, a selection of home baked cakes and other treats are also available here. This combines to make the lounge bar a reason to visit the property in its own right when in Stornoway.

When it comes to dining at the Crown, guests have plenty of choice. Two menus are available: the à la carte, belonging to the Harbour Bar, is principally more traditional pub fare, with some Scottish twists – including local mussels. The second, a generous two or three course set menu, is a hearty offering that includes a variety of roasts. To finish, be sure to try the homemade ice cream!  Breakfast is also served in the restaurant, and the continental option – which includes a good selection of meats, pastries, fruits and cereals – starts from the early hour of 5:30am, a great benefit for business guests or anyone catching an early ferry to the mainland. For those rising at a more sociable hour, the cooked to order menu has many Scottish favourites, including locally smoked kippers.

Bedrooms at The Crown Inn are compact, but modern, and many enjoy views of Lews castle. All have been recently refurbished, with new, comfy beds in all rooms. An extra bed can also be provided if travelling with a child and family rooms are available which can accommodate up to four. All rooms are equipped with an iron / ironing board as standard and there are even local biscuits on the hospitality tray. Spotlessly clean bathrooms have modern fixtures throughout and include Scottish Fine Soaps toiletries – a real point of difference at this price point. It is worth noting however, that Wi-Fi is not currently available in the rooms, but can be utilised in the lounge bar, and phone signal – which can be intermittent on Lewis – is strong.

The Crown Inn is a great base at the heart of Stornoway that delivers far more than one would expect of its very reasonable room rates. The experience is made all the more positive by the team’s warm and friendly hospitality, and the ‘local’ feel of an establishment that is clearly an asset for the Stornoway community. For those who feel like staying up late while on the island, it’s also a great place to start – and finish – an evening out, while still offering a quiet and comfortable night’s sleep if you’d prefer to turn in early.

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