How Stornoway's Stag Bakeries combines tradition with innovations that are bang on trend

Tradition is clearly important to Stag Bakeries, based in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis and family-run since 1885. However, it hasn’t stopped the award-winning craft bakers teaming up with that most modern of celebrities – a TikTok star.

The new range was conjured up in cahoots with Coinneach MacLeod. Image: Sophie Carson
The new range was conjured up in cahoots with Coinneach MacLeod. Image: Sophie Carson

Many things have changed in the years since the bakery’s foundation but traditional recipes and time-honoured methods remain at the heart of the venture.

Charlie Macdonald, Stag’s main man, has owned the bakery since 1993, and there are currently three generations of his family working in the business.

An integral part of the landscape of the Isle of Lewis, the bakery is best known locally for its plain loaf, which won Best Bread in Scotland in 2019. However, the Hebridean dough-punchers also make a wide range of sweet and savoury biscuits which are available in more than 1,000 outlets internationally, including the House of Bruar and online supermarket Ocado.

Charlie was instrumental in the decision to utilise locally sourced sea salt and has also introduced a successful range of seaweed products – oatcakes and water biscuits – that pair well with such traditional Scottish fare as smoked salmon and artisanal cheeses.

There must be something in Lewis’ salty air that sharpens the appetite and hones the palate, as the Stag’s newest range is in collaboration with a local lad who’s love of baking has won him a global following.

Coinneach MacLeod shot to international fame in 2020 as the Hebridean Baker after his TikTok videos that mix recipes, stories and – perhaps most importantly, his wee West Highland Terrier, Seòras – went viral.

“I needed a creative outlet in lockdown,” Coinneach explains. “I started posting recipes and maybe got two likes or one retweet, then I started doing TikTok and was getting half a million views. For someone from a village of just 30 people, it’s hard to put into context.”

Coinneach is now the author of two incredibly successful cookbooks. His latest, My Scottish Island Kitchen, is currently the number-one best-seller in Amazon’s “Scottish History” list; move over Neil Oliver, there’s a new – and considerably less controversial – beard in town.

A collaboration seemed a natural fit, so Stag Bakeries partnered with Coinneach to create a range of traditional Scottish sweet biscuits. After a year of taste trials the range launched at London’s Speciality & Fine Food Fair in September.

The selection of delicious oatcakes and shortbreads has an enjoyably rustic, homely quality and have a taste redolent of their Stornoway origins. The oaties come in mixed berry, chocolate and lemon, and ginger flavours, while the shortbreads are infused with locally sourced marmalade, heather honey and whisky.