Driving in the Outer Hebrides
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When you think of the Outer Hebrides, you normally think of sandy beaches, ancient standing stones and lilting Scottish accents. You don't normally associate the Outer Hebrides with some of the best driving in the British Isles...
I certainly didn't expect to enjoy the driving so much when I visited the Western Isles (the other name for the Outer Hebrides) in Scotland recently.
It certainly isn't speed that makes the roads in the Outer Hebrides so exhilarating. In fact, for much of the time I didn't get out of third gear...
The roads are often single track with passing places. And where they are single track, often there are rocky ditches either side of a surprisingly narrow track. If you are at all in doubt of the width of your car, don't drive on the Outer Hebrides!
If the width of the roads wasn't enough, there are other distractions to keep you busy. The first are sheep. There are several times as many sheep on the Outer Hebrides as there are people, and for some reason sheep enjoy standing around in the middle of the road. Lambs are particularly lively and you have to take care when passing.
The other distraction is the often jaw-dropping scenery. Sometimes it's all too tempting to look at the view when you should be watching the road...
The roads themselves are often sinuous, snaking their way through rugged scenery. You can't relax for a moment when you're behind the wheel in the Outer Hebrides.
Fortunately there isn't much other traffic. And while it's always polite to wave to someone who pulls over to let you pass (and return their wave), you quickly find that everyone waves anyway ' even where you don't need to pull over. (One chap painting his fence even waved as we drove past.)
The combination of sinuous, single-track roads with awesome scenery populated by obstructive sheep and polite drivers makes driving in the Outer Hebrides such a pleasure.
My top tips for driving in the Outer Hebrides:
- Makes sure you have a car with a good third gear. You'll send most of your time in third.
- The B8011 from Calanais to Uig Sands on Lewis is fantastic. The beach at Uig Sands is wonderful, but it's worth going there for the drive alone.
- If you have a passenger with you, get them to help by spotting approaching cars. An extra pair of eyes can be invaluable.
And although I have now returned from the Outer Hebrides, I have found that I've brought a little of the islands with me: I'm much more patient and polite than I used to be behind the wheel ' and that can only be a good thing.
Steve Hatherley enjoys driving in Yorkshire as well as the Outer Hebrides. He is also a fan of murder mystery games murder mystery games ( http://www.great-murder-mystery-games.com )