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  • Custodians of 150 years of tradition

Our History

We are located on Shell Street, Stornoway in the Scottish Hebridean Isle of Lewis.

Stornoway is one of the best natural harbours in the world, a fact early recognised by the Vikings.  They named the place ‘Sjornavagr’, the steering bay and a town grew up at its head.  The Norse dominion of the Hebrides lasted from 800 to 1266 AD.  Little is known of the earlier inhabitants of the island though signs of neolithic activity have been unearthed near Stornoway and we have the famous Callanish stones and Dun Carloway broch as reminders of their existence.

From the 1850’s on, Stornoway grew with the fortunes of the herring industry becoming the most important herring port in Europe.  On one Sunday in 1899 it was reported that 930 boats were berthed in the harbour!

Initially herring was exported split, salted and cured but with the advent of kippering, this method of conservation grew in importance until at its peak tens of thousands of boxes of kippers were exported daily all over the world.  So many boxes were required that there are still people in Stornoway who remember as boys making good pocket money from making boxes.  The two world wars caused the decline of the herring industry further hastened by fishing bans in 1977-1978 and changing tastes in this country.

Though much reduced it thrives still on a small scale and the Stornoway Smokehouse strives to uphold the tradition of smoke curing herring and salmon, the latter done in a more traditionally robust way.

In recognition of the importance to it of the humble herring, the Stornoway town council incorporated three small fish in its armorial bearing and the words ‘Gods providence is our inheritance’.