Safe Road Travel in the Outer Hebrides

Taking a road trip is an excellent way to explore the Outer Hebrides and see the breath taking scenery, and this along with active travel tourism like walking and cycling are becoming increasingly popular.

Rural life may have a different pace from the city but rural roads pose their own set of challenges, not least alternating between single track roads with passing places, which have their own user code of etiquette and more standard double track roads.  Additional hazards include roaming livestock, deer, mud on the roads, slow moving vehicles like tractors and campervans and adverse weather conditions.  Visitors from outside the UK face the additional challenge of negotiating rural roads whilst remembering to drive on the LEFT rather than the right hand side of the road.

To raise visitor awareness, the Outer Hebrides Community Safety Partnership in association with Police Scotland and Road Safety Scotland are jointly campaigning to advise overseas drivers and motorcyclists on the correct use of ‘Single Track Roads’  to ‘Drive on the Left’ at all times and to be especially mindful of the vulnerability of pedestrians and cyclists.

Commenting on the road safety initiative, Councillor Uisdean Robertson, Chair of the Comhairle’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said, "We welcome all visitors to the Islands and wish them a safe and pleasant journey.  Driving and cycling on single track roads can be tiring and needs concentration to properly negotiate the passing places along the routes. 

Remember, single track roads mean just that: one lane of tarmac for all traffi c.  If drivers respect other road users and comply with the advice on passing places and overtaking the pace of travel and driver appreciation will add to the holiday experience."

Endorsing the campaign, Police Scotland’s, Inspector Angus Stewart, Divisional Road Policing Unit, said: "We would urge drivers/riders to be aware of their own vulnerability and travel according to the prevailing road, weather and traffic conditions. We want people to enjoy their time on the Islands, but more importantly we want them to get home safely."

The Outer Hebrides Community Safety Partnership advises all visitors to fully familiarise themselves with road signs, markings and expectations that are part of driving in the UK. The following information is intended to raise awareness to Island road travel and to prevent avoidable accidents from occurring:


Every year a number of road traffic accidents are caused by visitors straying on to the wrong side of the road; a momentary lapse in concentration can prove fatal.

Remember To Drive On The Left, Particularly When:

There is little or no traffic on the roads (no visual cues to tell you which side you are on) Starting off from the side of the road It is early in the morning or late at night Coming out of a rest area Turning from one road to another Travelling on a road with little traffic Using a roundabout (On roundabouts remember to give way to traffic coming from the right.)

Single Track Roads And Passing Places:

Single Track Roads are only wide enough for one vehicle.  Stop in a passing place on your left to allow approaching traffic to pass. Do not hold up following traffic.

Stop in a Passing Place on your left to allow them to overtake.  Be prepared to give way to traffic coming uphill. Important: If the Passing Place is on your right, wait opposite to allow traffic to pass.  You must stay on the left and not cross to a Passing Place on your right. If you are overtaking a vehicle that has stopped in a Passing Place, look out for approaching traffic Do not park in Passing Places Watch out for animals on all unfenced roads, particularly deer and sheep.

Look Out for Cyclists

Expect cyclists in unexpected places – always check your mirrors for cyclists before turning. Watch out for cyclists coming up on your near side when turning left or moving over to the left – check mirrors and blind spots carefully.

Give as much room as practically possible when over-taking a cycle – Highway Code Rule 163 illustrates one car's width – they may have to move out to avoid hazards like drains, potholes or debris on the road that you may not be able to see.

When parking check the door mirror and look behind you before you open the door to make sure you don't hit a cyclist.

When turning left allow any cyclist ahead of you to pass the junction rather than overtake them and turn sharply across their front wheel.

Don't overtake a cyclist if you can see that the road narrows ahead – if they're travelling faster than you think you could end up squeezing them off the road.

Don't drive aggressively around cyclists or sound your horn. Cyclists may be travelling faster than you think (could be 20mph plus) – judge their approaching speed with care before pulling out at a junction.

Be prepared to wait behind a cyclist turning right in the same way you would for a car – rather than squeezing past or getting impatient.

Match your speed to the conditions and make sure you will be able to stop well within the distance that you can see to be clear – on country roads there could be a group of cyclists, a horse rider or pedestrians around the next bend.

At night, use dipped headlights when approaching cyclists as you would when approaching any other road user.

Allow cyclists extra room in wet weather as surfaces will be wet and slippery.

Safety Information For Cyclists

Remember: the ‘Drive Left’ message also applies to you, as does observing passing place etiquette. Be aware of the driver's blind spot when passing lorries and buses.  It's often safer to hang back.

Pay attention to what is going on around you and be aware of what other road users might do. Try to make eye contact with drivers so that you know they have  seen you.

Ride assertively, away from the gutter.  If the road is too narrow for vehicles to pass you safely, it may be better to ride in the middle of  the lane to prevent dangerous overtaking.

Use appropriate hand signals when making a left or right turn.

Wear bright clothing in the day and reflective clothing or accessories at night.

Wear a safety helmet.

The Outer Hebrides Community Safety Partnership advises all visitors to fully familiarise themselves with road signs, markings and expectations that are part of driving in the UK. 


"Làithean-saora, sàbhailte, sona dhuibh uile!"

"Have a safe and happy holiday everyone!"