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Lewis and Harris logistics

Hello there! I am planning to travel to Lewis and Harris (via Skye or maybe Ullapool or both) in late March. I am trying to figure out where to stay, and I will be hiring a car. My question is about distances on the island. Is it possible to stay in one place and then do day trips around the two islands, or is the distance/time too great? I wonder if I should stay in the north for a few days and then in the south. I would love to have one home base, but don't know if this will work. 
I am also wondering about hiring a car on the islands. Would it be worth taking a train/bus combination to Uig and traveling as a pedestrian on the ferry, then hiring a car when I arrive? I would really love to take the train from one of the main cities to Mallaig or Kyle of Lochalsh as I always drive and am so tired by the time I arrive. Then on the way back, if I come through Ullapool, is there public transport service from there back to Inverness?
Thanks for any and all advice for this trip!


  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    Hiya @historynurse, I know the answers to all your public transport questions. I hope someone else can answer the car hire Qs (I know car rentals exist on the island)

    There is a Scottish Citylink bus from Ullapool to Inverness that connects with the arrival of the ferry. This timetable shows the ferry + bus connection timings.

    Reaching the Isle of Harris from Glasgow / Edinburgh as a train + bus passenger is pretty tiring too and you may need to spend a night at Uig before travelling to Harris the next day. The earliest you can get to Mallaig from Glasgow by train is 12:28 PM by catching the sleeper to Fort William. Plus you'll need multiple buses within Skye to reach Uig from Armadale.

    The most efficient public transport route is actually the Glasgow - Uig 6:50 AM bus arriving Uig at 1:48 PM. That makes it possible for you to take rest at Uig before catching the evening ferry to Tarbert. You can potentially take the morning train to Fort William and connect to this bus making the ideal solution.

    For the centrally-located base question, it depends on how much you're willing to drive in a day. My hunch would be to base yourself near Tarbert for a few days and near Stornoway for the rest. The bus service connecting them is reliable and the island beauty will convince you to drive less and enjoy the scenery more :wink: Hope this helps.
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, DunoonSpeyside)

  • Thank you. That really helps. I think it will be worth having the car before I get on the ferry, since it will be so hard to get across Skye. The islands info is helpful too. I was thinking basing near Tarbert and then Stornaway might be easier. I love to drive, as I usually stop many places along the way, so long times in the car during the day are fine. I will still try to work in a train ride on the mainland, as I have wanted to do that many times, but always end up driving. 
  • thank you! That sounds exactly like what I would like to do. 
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