Arnish Point Lighthouse marks the entrance to Stornoway Harbour. As such, it is often referred to as Stornoway Lighthouse. It was the Northern Lighthouse Board’s first prefabricated lighthouse.
The island of Lewis was owned by Seaforth Mackenzies, but following bankruptcy, Sir James Matheson bought the island in 1844.
By 1850 the town of Stornoway was developing as a commercial entity, providing the best harbour on the northwest coast of Scotland.
In 1852 Arnish Point Lighthouse was established marking the way for vessels entering and leaving the harbour. The lighthouse was designed by Alan Stevenson. It was made of sheets of cast iron and lined with timber, making it easier to assemble, since its location made it difficult to approach by land or by sea.
1881 the timber wharf at Stornoway was extended, and further quays and wharves were built. The fishing industry was growing rapidly by this time.
Matheson died in 1879 and the island was sold to Lord Leverhulme by Major Duncan Matheson in 1918.
In 1919 the yacht Iolaire was sailing home with sailors who had fought in the First World War. As the vessel approached the harbour, she struck the Beasts of Holm rocks and sank. She was only a few yards away from land, and about a mile away from Stornoway Harbour. However, the sailors were unable to reach the shore, and 205 crew died, of whom 181 men were islanders. A memorial is located close by.
The lighthouse cottages behind the tower were sold off following automation in 1963.
In 1976 the outer limits of Stornoway Harbour were extended, for the first time since 1865. These now run from the southern point of Holm Island to the southern point of Rudh’ A’Bhaigh Uaine. The harbour has since been developed further with new facilities for deepwater vessels and marina moorings.
On the opposite side of the harbour is Lews Castle and Museum. The former first-order optic from Tiumpan Head Lighthouse is on loan to the museum.
In November 2008, Arnish Point Lighthouse came under the authority of the Stornoway Port Authority.