With a population of around 5,600, Stornoway ( Steòrnabhagh ) is the largest town in the Outer Hebrides and also its administrative centre. Almost 30% of the total population of the Western Isles, some 8,000 people, live within Stornoway or the immediately vicinity encompassing Laxdale (Lacasdal) and Sandwick (Sanndabhaig).
The church has a significant influence on Stornoway life. Almost everything is closed on Sunday, but things have eased in recent years: there are now flights and ferries on Sundays, a petrol station and a few bars and restaurants are now open.
Caledonian MacBrayne  operate a ferry service from Ullapool on the mainland - a journey of 2 hours 40 minutes. The ferry operates 7 days a week, with a restricted service on Sundays. The commencement of a regular, scheduled Sunday service in July 2009 has been a matter of enormous controversy on and around the islands as it runs against the islands' Sabbatarian tradition.
There are bus services available to almost all areas of Lewis from Stornoway. See the Council travel site for information on timetables and routes.
There are no national car hire companies on the islands. There are a number of small local operators.
Visit Stornoway in July around the Hebridean Celtic Festival and you will find the place transformed. This annual event attracts over 16,000 over its four day run and is a focus for friends and extended family to visit each summer. More information on the event from http://www.hebceltfest.com
Stornoway is the only place in the Outer Hebrides where you will find a selection of shops like in a mainland town. There are both multiples and several independent stores including bakers, a bookshop and an ironmongers. The local delicacy is Stornoway Black Pudding, a blood and oatmeal savoury sausage product.
A dwindling fishing fleet provides fresh fish and shellfish which can be bought fresh from the local fish shops. A good, traditional smokery cures the local fish (Stornoway Fish Smokers, Shell Street, Stornoway HS1 2BS, Tel 01851 702723) .
All shops are closed on Sunday except for Engebretsen's petrol station ( open 10am-4pm ) with a limited selection of groceries, wines, beer and DVD hire.
Most places to eat in Stornoway serve until 9pm with the exception of the Stornoway Balti House which serves until after 10pm. Scanned takeaway menus from a selection of the locals takeaways
Stornoway has a high density of pubs which reflect the absence of them around the rest of the island. Around half of them open on Sunday and the licensing hours are generally till 11pm on week nights and up until 1:45am on Fridays and 1am on Saturdays.
The Carlton Lounge ( formerly known as the Whalers Rest ) usually offers 2 cask ales, the only bar in Lewis to do so.
The Jâger Room is the only purpose built music venue in the Western Isles and serves cocktails as well as draft beers.
There is a local brewery in Stornoway, the Hebridean Brewing Company which offers 3 different types of bottled ale which can be found in some of the bars around Stornoway. There is one local whisky Abhainn Dearg, which released its first whisky in October 2011.
Advance booking is strongly recommended, especially for June/July/August. There are no national chain hotels in Stornoway. Arriving without an accommodation booking during Celtic Festival week (check website for dates) is highly inadvisable. Wild camping is mostly safe and permissible.
Bed and Breakfasts
If possible, always choose somewhere that is assessed and graded by Visit Scotland for Quality - there is a good listing on the Visit Hebrides website . There are other places to stay in and around Stornoway, but they are not members of the Visit Scotland Quality scheme for a reason. Don't be seduced by the blurb on a fancy website! The best choices are:
4 star Visit Scotland graded Stornoway Bed and Breakfast is found in the town centre, minutes walk from An Lanntair and the bus and ferry terminals. Luxury self catering accommodation can be found in and around Stornoway in five timber clad lodges provided by Hebridean Luxury Holidays
The Caladh Inn, Royal Hotel and Cabarfeidh Hotel are all run by the local Cala Hotels chain.
Stornoway has plenty to see and do for the visitor on foot, but travels further afield require bus or car transport. There are no railway lines on the island.