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Oct 31 2014

Hop on the Post Bus in the Western Isles

While I was in the Outer Hebrides, there were times when I wished I had a car.  It would have been so much quicker and easier, and I would have been able to see so much more.  However, the more bus journeys I took, the more I realised that I would have missed something if I had given in and hired a car.  I would have missed out on the opportunity of meeting some local characters and learning about what it’s like not to have a car on the islands.  There was one particular type of bus I wanted to go on once I had been told about it: The Post Bus.  Purely by chance, I got the opportunity and this turned out to be my favourite bus journey of all in the Outer Hebrides, which is why I chose it for this week’s Foto Friday.

The Post Bus

I didn’t realise you could ride on post buses.  I would never have known if someone hadn’t told me.  I had to wait until I got to the Uists for this experience, but it was worth the wait.

I was in Daliburgh, on South Uist, and I wanted to go to the Isle of Benbecula.  I waited for the bus outside the hostel I had been staying at.  I was expecting one of the minibuses I had gotten used to travelling on.  A Post Bus drove past and I wondered if that was the bus I was waiting for.  It didn’t look as if the driver was going to stop, so I assumed not.  Since that was the only bus to drive past, I guessed that was the bus I wanted.  A short while later, the Post Bus came steaming along in the other direction.  It was going at quite a speed, but the bus stopped when I put out my hand.  I asked the driver if she was going to the Isle of Benbecula.  She said she was, so I got on.  It was an old-style vehicle and I felt every single bump and pothole in the road.  It was an experience and I loved every minute of it.

Shortly after I got on the bus, the driver stopped at the local post office.  She had to pick up keys and post.  As it turned out, the keys were to open the post boxes.  Well, it was a Post Bus.  We set off again.  I was the only one on the bus at the start.  Morag, the postwoman, was lovely.  She chatted away about her family, the decline of the Post Bus, and life on the islands.  She’s very entrepreneurial, but I suppose you have to be on small islands like that.  She has a smallholding with sheep (everyone on the islands I spoke to seemed to own sheep), a B&B, as well as being the local postie.  We travelled through the villages and I got to see places I wouldn’t have seen if I had taken the ordinary bus.  She made frequent stops along the way to collect the post and pick up passengers.   She knew all the passengers by name.  She chatted away to them in Gaelic.  It was funny being in Scotland and not able to understand a word, not because of the accent, but because it was a language I was unfamiliar with.

She is a real character.  She said there is a chance that the Post Bus service may not be available for much longer.  That would be a real shame, but it is probably inevitable.  The services have ceased on some of the islands already. That will make it more difficult for those who live in the villages and don’t have cars.  The Post Bus I was on was full at one point, not with tourists, with locals.  There was a brother and sister in their teens off to see their friends for the day.  Two women were on their way to work and one man was going to the doctor’s.  I will keep my fingers crossed that the service will continue to serve the local community for many years to come.. It’s a great, environmentally-friendly idea to collect people as well as post along the way.  In other countries, like Albania, they do it the other way round.  Buses primarily take people, but they also transport packages.

If you are thinking of travelling around rural Scotland, check out the Royal Mail’s route finder on their website here.  By the way, if you look at the bus timetables on the Western Isles, PB means Post Bus.  I know it’s obvious, but it took me a while before the penny dropped.


You can see on the map the route from Daliburgh, in South Uist, to Benbecula.

Center map
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Have your say

Have you been on a Post Bus or any other type of interesting local transport?  As always, I’d love to hear your stories.


1 ping

    • John D on 02/11/2014 at 17:05

    Fab’…. I love the old local rural ways, where life though sometimes trying and hard can also seem so easygoing and peaceful .

  1. Yes, that’s true. It’s great to get an insight into what life is like. It’s amazing how, from a simple bus ride, I gained so much information about the people and life on the island.


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