Wednesday 24 June 2015

Isle Of Harris Special

It has taken a long time for me to get round to this but back in May I went up to the Outer Hebrides for a couple of days, staying in a quite delightful guest house in Stornoway. Now obviously going up there you are playing roulette with the weather, but the one full day I was there was sunny and fairly warm so the gamble paid off. Although I was staying on Lewis the dramatic scenery is in Harris, and as the islands have a bus service that is the envy of rural Suffolk I worked out I could travel around the Isle of Harris going down to the ferry port of Leverburgh via the west coast one way, and returnng by the quite remarkable east coast the other.

A little bit about the bus services out there. They are all sponsored by the local council, and run from 6am till gone 11pm on Friday nights. They are extremely frequent taking into account the remoteness of the area. There are no Sunday buses, but shops don't open either - not even Tesco. There are very few proper buses on the islands - no double deckers for obvious reasons as winds can get extremely high. There are 4 14 reg Optare Solos, an E200, of which more in another post and a school bus. Everything else is either operated by coaches or small minibuses. After getting into Stornoway on one of the Solos (more in a future post) my first vehicle on the long journey down to Leverburgh was Volvo B10M Paragon T599 BRG operated by Hebridean Transport based in Tarbot on Harris. New to Snaith of Otterburn near Newcastle I was pleasantly surprised by the quality this coach was still in, and it gave a ride nearly as good as the views.

Hebridean Transport Volvo B10 Paragon T599 BRG with friends at Stornoway Bus Station 20th May
Taken out of the window. A tad more dramatic than Gorleston High St.
At the halfway point of Tarbot there was a surprise. We were told to get off the coach and get on a rather smaller Transit minibus. I assumed this was due to the mountainous terrain, but no - politics rears its ugly head and the (same) driver revealed the council only paid for a 14 seater on that part of the route so that's all it got. When I enquired what happened if more than 14 people wanted the bus the simple reply was "they get left behind". Ooookay! Luckily there were only 10 of us so we all got on! After more spectaular scenery we arrived at the bustling (slight exaggeration) ferry port of Leverburgh.

That's what the council pay for so that's what you get!
As if to rub salt in the booted off the coach wound as we arrived at Leverburgh I saw this rather smart coach waiting to board the ferry. SP64 LYN is a Van Hool TX15 Alicron belonging to Aberfeldy Motor Services of Perth.

Aberfeldy Van Hool SP64 LYN pretending to be an HGV
It's a delicate business getting on something a little smaller than you find at Dover or Harwch

Easy does it!
 However in this remote part of the world was an oasis - the only thing better than a bus is a bus that does bacon sarnies, and the wonderfully named Butty Bus at Leverburgh does just that. New to Avis of Heathrow J906 OAY is a Caetano bodied Toyota now providing solace and nourishent to hardy travellers such as myself. If Carlsberg did buses.......

The Butty Bus at Leverburgh
After a stroll around it was time to get on another Transit minibus around the lunar like landscape of the east coast back to Tarbot. Space Odyssey was filmed there and you can eaily see why. That is when you're not holding on for dear life as this route is the closest you will come in the UK to a bus rollercoaster. Simply exhilarating and I am going to have to return to that route to take pics of some of the remotest bus shelters you wil ever find. Next time I'm getting rained on at Wangford which has no shelter I'll think of them. What a route. Anyway thanks to the efforts of my rally driver we got back to Tarbot in time for the connection back to Stornoway - the same coach that brought me out. It is a journey I will definitely repeat.


  1. Deferably on my WTGT list now ! Lovely post mate just makes you think its not all the same all over

  2. Did you see the X shapped bus shelters with a roof on so that no matter what way the wind/rain is coming you can get out of it. Wish they had them in Norfolk.

    1. yes, very ingenious. I saw some sheep making use of them!

  3. The B10M Paragon is actually a Premiere........