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Scotland’s Outer Hebrides

We plan to visit Lewis and maybe Harris in September but use public transport. Will that be a problem? What sites are recommended?

Posted by
741 posts

Paradoxically Lewis and Harris is/are one island. However getting about by public transport will be difficult if not impossible, as, although my experience is admittedly a while back, public transport appears sparse if not non-existent. I suspect to see the most you can in the time you have, a hire car will be the only practical way to cover the ground.

As in all things, I stand to be corrected...

The Outer Hebrides are wild and beautiful, especially if the weather is fine. I hope you have a great trip.

Ian

Posted by
941 posts

Hi, vikilgore,

Bus service on Harris and Lewis is surprisingly comprehensive, covering almost the entire island, and travelling to places as exotic and out of the way as Butt of Ness, Scalpay, Leverburgh, and Husinish. Bus service is operated by Lochs Motor Transport, and most buses operate Monday through Saturday, but never on Sunday.

All of the schedules for Lochs Motor Transport can be found on line. Their telephone number from outside Scotland is 44 1851 860288. Using the schedules, you can get to most places on the island, and have enough time to wander about before catching a return bus.

Buses serve all ferry ports on the island - Stornoway in Lewis, and Tarbert and Leverburgh in Harris. Some buses operate on school days only, so you have to check the schedules very carefully.

Some of the best places to visit on Lewis are the Calanish Standing Stones, the Carloway Brochs, and the Gearranan Blackhouses. All are accessible by bus, but because of the infrequent service, you may have to visit those sites over a two day period.

On Harris, the beaches are amazing. The best of the bunch is Luskentyre. The bus only stops at the shelter at the end of the road leading to Luskentyre, and it's about a two mile walk in. However, the islanders are a very friendly lot, and if there are only two of you, you're bound to be offered a lift. If you take the bus down to the turnaround at Northton, there is a really easy hike out to a ruined church along the Atlantic shore. The hike passes some very scenic small beaches.

Other bus destinations on Harris are the island of Scalpay, the sprawling village of Leverburgh, the beach at Husinish, and Amhuinnsuidhe Castle. There is even a bus, the W13, operated by South Harris Coaches, which travels the "Golden Road" from Tarbert to Leverburgh. Now that would be a journey! You could take that bus one way, and take the Leverburgh to Tarbert bus by the main road going the other way.

The disadvantage of taking the buses on Lewis and Harris is that you are subject to the vagaries of the weather. If you are caught out in a downpour, it may be a while before your return bus arrives. If you plan on using buses exclusively on Harris and Lewis, best to invest in some light weight wet weather gear, or at least ponchos.

If you can somehow manage it, having a car would greatly add to your enjoyment of the northern part of the Outer Hebrides. You could go at your own pace, and not have to be limited by the bus schedule. There is taxi service on the island, from both Tarbert and Stornoway, but as of yet, no Uber.

Best wishes for your holiday!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
741 posts

Thanks Mike - I stand corrected. Although I have to say during my week or so there I can’t recall seeing a bus once! Maybe we were in the school holidays. But I’m glad the OP at least has options.

Ian

Posted by
941 posts

Hi, Ian,

You probably didn't see any buses because you weren't looking for them! :) Check out the Harris Taxis website www.harristaxis.co.uk You'll see a bus waiting by the ferry in Tarbert in the first photo, and three buses waiting in the car park by the TI office in the second photo. So they're definitely out there!

Slainte!

Mike

Posted by
741 posts

Hi Mike -

I have in fact caught the bus from Tarbert up to Stornaway. My recollection is they meet the ferries as they sail in and out - it was a very long time ago when we were staying on Skye. We were on a day trip and figured we had a little over an hour in Stornaway until we had to catch the bus back to get the ferry back to Uig. We arrived arrived about lunchtime and everything promptly shut down for lunch! Not sure that would happen these days but the ‘everything closed on Sunday’s’ rule still applies - we’ve actually seen the swings in a children’s playground chained up so they couldn’t be used on a Sunday! Anyway we had a fairly academic mooch round Stornaway looking in the windows of the closed shops before taking the return bus back to Tarbet having time for a quick ‘livener’ in the hotel bar before the ferry arrived to take us back to Skye.

The bus trip was an interesting revelation though as much of the on board conversation between the other passengers was in Gaelic - talk about being a stranger in your own land!

Ian