The Outer Hebrides – or the Western Isles, as it is also known as – is a seemingly up-and-coming popular tourist destination, with more people making their way there each year. You may know of some of its popular tourist attractions like the Callanish Standing Stones and Luskentyre Beach, but what should you know before you go? We’re here to help you out!
1. Hire a Car
Hiring a car is a must if you want to get around the Outer Hebrides with ease and efficiency. Our previous post mentions the car hire company we used as well as another option. Cycling is also a popular way to get around and public transportation is of course available, but if you’re perhaps a bit limited on time and want to get around quickly, driving is the way to go.
2. Understand Single Track Roads
Understanding how to drive on single track roads is a must not just for the Outer Hebrides, but for many rural areas of Scotland. On lesser-frequented roads, there are single track roads with passing places. We’ve observed many instances in which these were not used correctly, which is likely caused by people not being used to driving on the other side of the road and not understanding single track roads!
Remember that in the UK, you drive on the left side of the road. If a car is coming towards you and the passing place is on your right side, stay on the road and let the other car go into the passing place!
3. Book Ferry Tickets in Advance
During busier months, if you’re driving and don’t already have a ferry reservation, you may not be able to board the ferry if there isn’t enough car space. Be sure to book your tickets in advance on the CalMac website. We provide an overview of the essential ferries in the Outer Hebrides in our previous post.
4. Be Wary of Sheep & Other Livestock on the Road
Sheep and other livestock do wander onto the road at times so you do need to be careful of them. Slow your pace, especially on single track roads, to ensure you don’t accidentally hit one should one pop up on the road.
5. Petrol Stations are Few and Far Between
You’re not in a city anymore! Some of the smaller islands, like Barra and South Uist, have petrol stations few and far between. Barra, for example, only has one petrol station and it’s in Castlebay, on the south end of the island.
The Visit Outer Hebrides website lists the petrol stations available on each island, though they do seem to be missing the one on Barra.
6. Grocery Stores Tend to Close on Sundays
As small islands with small populations, many grocery stores will close on Sundays, as places traditionally did in the past. If you happen to be visiting the Outer Hebrides over a Sunday, be sure to do any grocery shopping on a Saturday.
7. But Debit/Credit Cards are Generally Accepted
Despite the above point, most places will accept card payments. During our time in the Outer Hebrides, we never had to worry about needing to take out any cash.
8. Bring Waterproof Clothing
And finally, as with everywhere in Scotland, the weather can be unpredictable. Your best bet is to either wear waterproof clothing or bring waterproof outer layers. You never know when they might come in handy!
Want to virtually experience landing on the world’s only beach runway? Check out our YouTube video on landing at Barra Airport!
We hope you found this list useful! What tip surprised you the most? Let us know in the comments!