Ten of the Best from the 2010s

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Bad news sells - there is a reason why you see more negative headlines compared to positive stories.

The newspaper business, which must keep its eye on the bottom line more than ever these days, relies on the public’s appetite for doom, gloom and sensationalism and it feeds this craving conscientiously.

However, not all the news is grim and it is easy to forget the positive and the high points of a year or a decade.

This week the Stornoway Gazette reminds its readers of some of the positive stories which grabbed the headlines in the 2010s and we will see that Islanders have had their fair share of reasons to be hopeful of the future.

September 2011 - Argos on the Stornoway high street

It was announced that giant superstore Argos was opening up a shop in Stornoway town centre in September 2011.

The retailers confirmed they would be taking over the premises of Furniture and Interior World at 21 Cromwell Street.

The premises actually opened in Stornoway in January 2012.

The cold weather and strong winds did not deter keen shoppers with more than 50 people waiting outside the store for it to open.

June 2012 - Olympic Spirit

The dramatic backdrop of the Callanish Stones at sunrise heralded the arrival of the Olympic Flame on Western Isles soil in June 2012.

The torch may have stuttered a little at the ancient site, but with the help of a backup flame its continuity and symbolism remained intact. Soon the Torch was on its way to Stornoway and with the aid of a 15-strong group of Torch Bearers it made an elegant lap of the island’s capital warmly cheered by a large crowd who braved the chill of the early morning to catch this once in a lifetime scene.

April 2014 - Marinas ahoy!

Stornoway Port Authority announced in April 2014 that they were accepting berth applications for its new marina, which is located right in the heart of the town centre in Stornoway’s inner harbour.

The new 70 berth marina can accommodate yachts up to 24 m length on a year-round basis.

The 2010s also saw the development of marinas in Barra, North Uist and Harris.

Later this year there will also be another new marina in Stornoway, at a site off Newton, creating an additional 75 berths for leisure craft.

September 2014 - Scottish Independence Referendum

The Scottish Independence referendum dominated debate in 2014 and the Gazette held a ‘Big Referendum Debate’ and ballot on September 1st to air the questions and to try and judge which way the Islands would vote.

The results of the ballot cast by the audience at the Stornoway debate event was a tie. Two-hundred and fifty people packed out Stornoway Town Hall to watch the debate.

In total 203 audience members voted - 99 of whom voted yes for Scottish independence, 99 voted no, with five undecided and posting blank ballots.

As it turns out this did not indicate which way the Western Isles’ electorate would vote in the official ballot, which took place on September 18th when 53% (10,544) voted no to independence, with 47% (9,195) voting yes to independence.

February 2015 - MV Loch Seaforth sails on the Stornoway to Ullapool route

The £42 million MV Loch Seaforth started her service on the Stornoway to Ullapool route in February 2015 and an open day for visitors saw a throng of Islanders eager to see for themselves the interior of the new vessel.

The vessel is currently the largest in their fleet and boasts a top speed of 19.2 knots.

The Loch Seaforth brought a faster crossing for passengers, in a much more comfortable setting.

However, the ferry has proved controversial, as it replaced two vessels: the MV Isle of Lewis and a freight ferry service on the route.

Following its introduction there has been a rising level of criticism that it has not delivered better transport links to the Isles due to constrained capacity, particularly in the summer months.

October 2015 - Cheers to Isles’ new distilleries

The official opening of the Harris Distillery took place in October 2015.

It was hoped the distillery would become a focal point to showcase the Harris area around the world.

The distillery was soon churning out its first batch of Isle of Harris gin, kickstarting the Isles’ love affair with this particular spirit. Now many visitors to the Isles make sure they stop off in Tarbert to top up on this dram.

Hot on the heels of Harris Gin the Isles also saw the development of the North Uist Gin ‘Downpour’ and the Barra Atlantic Gin, which are also proving popular.

July 2016 - Winning move for Chessmen

The Lewis Chessmen arrived on home soil in July 2016 to go on display at the purpose-built museum at Lews Castle.

Six pieces were returned to the Western Isles, where they were discovered more than 150-years ago, with a King, Queen, bishop, knight, warder and pawn making up the stunning display.

Figures from the Lewis Chessmen had only previously been displayed on the islands on a short-term basis, but 2016 marked a permanent return to the Isles, as part of a loan agreement between the Comhairle and the British Museum.

Their return proved a welcome boost to visitor numbers at the museum with many wishing to stop-by and see the quirky figures in their home-setting.

July 2016 - Debut for EDF

July 2016 was also significant, as the Eilean Dorcha Festival (EDF) in Benbecula took place for the first time.

Hosted in Lionacleit EDF proved popular straight away by pulling in crowds of over 3,000 music lovers at its debut event.

The first festival was headlined by Runrig’s Donnie Munro.

The event has gone from strength to strength with this year’s festival planned for the weekend of July 24th to 26th - tickets are already on sale for the 2020 event.

April 2017 - The jewel in Stornoway’s crown shines in its setting once again

Lews Castle reopened its doors to the public in an open day event in April 2017 following an extensive regeneration of the building.

Natural Retreats, who run the iconic Stornoway landmark as a luxury 23-bedroom hotel, encouraged the public to view for themselves its transformation.

Although, the lower more formal parts of the castle had been completed for some time, the upper floors were only finished this month and the building was fully reopened.

Lews Castle is a category A listed building designed by Charles Wilson in the 1840s, it was built around the remnants of the 1680s Seaforth Lodge for Sir James Matheson. In 1918 the castle was bought by the industrialist Lord Leverhulme, he later gifted the building and grounds to the parish.

The building is also home to Museum nan Eilean.

April 2017 - Taking postitive steps with The Hebridean Way routes

A new tourist attraction - The Hebridean Way Walking route - was officially launched in 2017.

The route takes in 10 islands, six causeways and two ferry crossings and covers 156 miles of the Outer Hebrides, from Vatersay in the south to Lews Castle in the north, giving visitors a chance to immerse themselves in ever changing island landscapes.

The route is broken down into 12 sections, with each, representing a single day’s walking for experienced hikers.

The Hebridean Way Walking route complements the separate 185-mile cycling route.

This route was launched in 2016 by cyclist Mark Beaumont (pictured), who completed it in just 24 hours.