Thursday 5 March 2015

Outer Hebrides Special

Last week on Twitter I jokingly said I'd do an Outer Hebrides Special as I thought it just about the only place no one else would want to do too. I seriously thought it would be a couple of transit minibuses with a sheepdog on the front seat. But no. The bus services in the Outer Hebrides are ridiculously complex and FREQUENT!!! It puts rural Suffolk to shame. For example the tiny island of Eriskay has a population of just 143, and has up to 9 buses a day linking it to the ferry and the main Hebridean islands of Harris and Lewis. My village has a population of 400 and in a few weeks will have 4 buses a week. However, for this post I'll concentrate on Harris and Lewis.

The Outer Hebrides lay off the North West Coast of Scotland, comprising of over 65 islands, of which 15 are inhabited. The main islands of Harris and Lewis cover an area of 841 sqaure miles. To put that in perspective if you draw straight lines between Norwich, Lowestoft, Felixstowe and Stowmarket you have an area of around 745 square miles so we are talking a big area. However the population of Harris and Lewis is 21,000, which is 6,000 less than attended the Norwich/Ipswich football match on Sunday. So it's not a lot of people spread over a wide area. The main port is Stornaway on Lewis, and there are no less than 24 bus routes. Click here to see the list of services operating in Lewis and Harris. There appear to be 8 main operators spread throughout the islands including one simply called Lochs, and sadly even right out there there is no escape from the E200. The pic is by Daniel Acott whose Flickr page you can access here.

Lochs E200 YX60 DXR at Stornawat Bus Station    pic by Daniel Acott
Indeed I am grateful to Daniel as the two main photographers on the islands seem unwilling to share their photos, which is a shame. Hre are some of Daniel's other pics.

Bus na Comhairle Optare Solo YJ14 BDV on a Stornaway Town Circular     pic by Daniel Acott
 Bus na Comhairle literally mean Bus of the Council so is basically the equivilant of Norse in Suffolk and Norfolk. Here is one of their school buses.

BMC Falcon YK05 BAU on a Lewis school contract     pic by Daniel Acott
MacLennan Coaches also operate services on the island, and here is one of their coaches on the W2 heading for Shawbost. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find out anything else about the coach.

MacLennan Coaches MJZ 3685     pic by Daniel Acott
One thing I have noticed is that there are a lot of coaches operating bus services on the islands. I just wonder how much things will have to change next year when DDA regulations for single deckers comes into force. One vehicle that won't have to be changed though is rather a rarity. Bus na Comhairle have this Plaxton Centro bodied DAF SB200 which has me rather shuddering as the only other Centro bodied buses I have been on have shaken me to pieces. I hope the roads of the Outer Hebrides are smoother than those of Suffolk!

Plaxton Centro bodied DAF SB200 on the W7 Town Circular    pic by Daniel Acott
I might do a part two of this looking at the smaller islands, but only if I can get the pics to go with it. I really can't believe just how complex the bus system in the Western Isles is, and as well as being pleasantly surprised, it has also left me a little depressed at the comparision between the most rural part of the UK compared with the rural parts of East Anglia.


  1. viewfromthesouth6 March 2015 at 15:49

    MJZ3685 is a Volvo B12M with Jonckheere Mistral coachwork. New to Parks of Hamilton as LSK876

    1. That's brilliant, mate - thanks very much for filling in the gaps.