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The following article has been published in issue no. 31 of the Sidecar Traveller Magazine, unabridged, although with different pictures.

Best friends with Lewis and Harris

Our buddies Lewis and Harris

Even if Lewis and Harris don't quite fit the conventional scheme of friendships, they are still some of the best we've ever made.

Flashback

February 2016 - three sidecar enthusiasts are planning their trip through Scotland. Literature is read and the internet is searched for information. Amongst all the common sights found, like Loch Ness, Ben Nevis, Edinburgh etc., another picture was discovered. Not quite Stonehenge, but apparently something even cooler:

A seemingly innocent discovery- with grand consequences
A seemingly innocent discovery- with grand consequences

Spontaneous Decision: We’re driving to those!

What are those stones though?
-The Callanish Standing Stones.
Huh.

And where are these thingies standing in the first place?
- On Lewis and Harris.
Huh.

Um, where exactly is that again?
- On the Outer Hebrides.
Huh.

And where was that again? Doesn’t matter- we’re driving to those!

----

Now, for a trip through scotland like this, there’ll have to be some more exact plans made. Here’s a first hint: when one comes from the Mainland he’ll arrive in the far east of the British Main Isles, as the northernmost ferry only goes up to Newcastle. The Outer Hebrides, however, are truly in the far west of the country. For someone who is also interested in other locations of Scotland, and doesn’t just want to speed down highways instead of taking more scenic routes, there won’t be much time left for the isles in the Atlantic Ocean. Of our two weeks time for the trip, only two days ended up remaining for Lewis and Harris. Well, at least it was two days. All the locations and sights were selected and an awesome tour across the Isles planned so we wouldn’t miss anything.

Our route - Up North and Down South, Check.
Our route - Up North and Down South, Check.

Hello Harris! Nice to meet you.

From the Isle of Skye we took the ferry to go from Uig to Tarbert.

Sometimes sidecars really have to squeeze in to get a spot on the car deck. Other times, they don’t.
Sometimes sidecars really have to squeeze in to get a spot on the car deck. Other times, they don’t.

According to our plan, we’d drive through all of South Harris on the arrival day, to then to move on to North Harris. We started with the beach at Luskentyre, a very caribbean plot of land that seemed rather out of place in the Atlantic. Only the weather was scottish and probably the only reason why we weren't greeted by hawaian flower girls putting a wreath of flowers around our helmets.
Luskentyre Beach - a must see, definitely.

Where are the drinks with tiny umbrellas?
Where are the drinks with tiny umbrellas?

Caribbean beauty wearing just a skirt of flowers - or a franconian sidecar traveler in a kilt?
Caribbean beauty wearing just a skirt of flowers - or a franconian sidecar traveler in a kilt?

The day was long and the route across South Harris was planned a little too optimistically. So we instead stopped to spend the night in Tarbert in a B&B. And with that our time plan for the trip to the Outer Hebrides lasted some good four hours. But who could have predicted from a desk in Germany how it would really be in Harris, and that relaxed driving and enjoying is just so much better than rushing frantically to visit as many sights as possible.
Very unexpected indeed.
In the B&B we were received British-politely, even though we truly differed from the usual customers. Those are usually golfers or aesthetes. And motorcyclists with muddy boots and dirty sidecars really don’t fit into either category.

Shoes belong in the designated spot! We did not dare dirty the wonderful shoe storage space with our muddy boots though.
Shoes belong in the designated spot!
We did not dare dirty the wonderful shoe storage space with our muddy boots though.

Culture in Tarbert: Ale and Tweed

We enjoyed dinner in the Mote Bar, the pub of Tarbert.
To classify: Tarbert is basically the capital of Harris and has around 550 inhabitants. Just so you can place the “city” and the general population of Harris...
There was lots of cultural experience to be made in the pub, specifically with two craftsmen from Glasgow.

Pro tip: You’ll understand a glasgower best after six beers. After drinking three you’ll feel like you were born in Scotland and your english was never better, especially not when sober. And after three beers are downed by the Glasgower, he only talks at about half the speed and starts repeating everything multiple times. But then, and only then, do you have a realistic chance of understanding at least a few bits and pieces despite the Glasgow accent.

Any visitor of Lewis and Harris should definitely look into buying some of the famous Harris Tweed. Traditionally made, each centimeter handwoven with unattainable quality which is sadly accompanied by prices just as unattainable. Well, at least you'll get locally created goods as far as you can get from any mass production from India. We ended up with many souvenirs for our beloved ones at home and a scarf that was specifically made for us - while waiting for it - as our desired motif wasn’t in the store, but the fabric for it was available in the stockroom.

Harris Tweed of the Isle of Harris - makes a lot of sense actually.
Harris Tweed of the Isle of Harris - makes a lot of sense actually.

The Most Beautiful Street in the World: The Golden Road

In 1897 it was decided on Harris that it was necessary to connect all the little settlements on the east coast with the “capital” by building a road - until then they were only accessible by sea. In practically no time, they managed to complete the road in 1947 which went along villages, Lochs, and hills. The population however, complained about the cost of the project claiming it would cost its weight in gold. The name stuck and today that’s even the official road sign. What made this road so golden for us though, was the fact that it is the most beautiful single-track road in scotland, most likely even of the entire world.

[Here’s one sentence that I wrote in german, showing my enthusiasm for this road. It turned out that these words are utterly untranslatable:
Die nahezu perfekt präparierte, sich schlängelnde, schlaglochfreie Straße führt einen durch eine lichtdurchflutete Landschaft, in der sich sattblaue Seen, atemberaubende Ausblicke, farbenfrohe Farmhäuser und herrliche Hügelpassagen in einen geradezu romantischen Reigen vereinen.]

Such beautiful scenery is truly rare. Scottish? Norwegian? -> Hebridean!
Such beautiful scenery is truly rare. Scottish? Norwegian? -> Hebridean!

Along the coast, rolling through the hills, a feast for the eyes and a pleasure to drive on!
Along the coast, rolling through the hills, a feast for the eyes and a pleasure to drive on!

Golden Road plus sidecar
Golden Road plus sidecar

Even offroad the golden road fun is guaranteed!
Even offroad the golden road fun is guaranteed!

Enjoying the road? Or taking pictures? A combination is better!
Enjoying the road? Or taking pictures? A combination is better!

Sidecars truly are all terrain vehicles.
Sidecars truly are all terrain vehicles.

As we were admiring the magnificent grave of the clan chief of the MacLeods from the 13th century at the St.Clements Church in the very south, a very important question came up: is the Golden Road just as much fun to drive on in the opposite direction?
Well, only one way to find out...

Pro tip: The Golden Road is even more beautiful when going the opposite direction. The important part is though, that it doesn’t matter which way you go first.

Typical hebridean tourism for the masses: At this legendary sight of Harris, we met two other visitors at the same time. Almost too crowded for us.
Typical hebridean tourism for the masses: At this legendary sight of Harris, we met two other visitors at the same time. Almost too crowded for us.

5.016 Years

Sadly, time ran out on us while we were having fun on the most glorious of all the roads, so we had to change our plans once again. Back to the basics, why are we here again? Ah yes - the Callanish Standing Stones of course! So we’ll have to postpone all those distilleries and other cultural sights until our next visit, and instead make haste to the legendary stones which have been patiently waiting for 5016 years just for us. Now, I haven’t been to Stonehenge myself, but according to the tour guides their beauty pales in comparison to the Callanish Standing Stones. You can look at it this way:
There are a bunch of stones placed seemingly randomly on a field - nothing that couldn’t be done with an ordinary excavator. Well, at least they look kinda nice.
Or:
Ginormous, multi-ton, magnificent stones that were put up here in 3000 B.C. without any kind of heavy machinery. Yet somehow they are standing in a perfect oval of which the symmetrical axis perfectly points east-west, and of which the meaning has been lost through the millennia. If you concentrate hard enough, you can imagine the pagan shamans covered in furs walking around the stones.

5.000 years of standing straight and not even tired - the Scots truly are steadfast.
5.000 years of standing straight and not even tired - the Scots truly are steadfast.

Modern lense-flare effect on not-so modern stones.
Modern lense-flare effect on not-so modern stones.

Many old things in one picture
Many old things in one picture

On the way to our next accommodation, we just had to stop and visit the Dun Carloway Broch. The 3.000 year old Broch, a kind of round tower from the Iron Age, was used as a house. For today's standards it’s completely inadequate. In no conceivable way could a sidecar fit through the narrow entrance - how would one be able to perform the necessary repairs without getting soaked outside?

Discussion at the Broch - Where would you add the garage for the sidecars?
Discussion at the Broch - Where would you add the garage for the sidecars?

Typical Broch: Double walls, multiple floors, too narrow an entrance door for any sidecar.
Typical Broch: Double walls, multiple floors, too narrow an entrance door for any sidecar.

Gearrannan Blackhouses

This probably only exists in Scotland, a completely restored open air museum with the traditional Blackhouses is offered to travelers as shelter for the night. Who has stayed in a historical farmhouse with double stone walls and a thatch roof? US!

They have to be built so low and strong if they want a chance of resisting the hebridean elements.
They have to be built so low and strong if they want a chance of resisting the hebridean elements.

And so we took joy in witnessing one of the most breathtaking sunsets over the Atlantic - the sea in front of us and the Blackhouses behind us, together with the good feeling of being at the right place at exactly the right time.

Coarse coast with it's rough charm
Coarse coast with it's rough charm

Stones, Sun, Sea
Stones, Sun, Sea

Relaxing in the sunset
Relaxing in the sunset

It’s summer! And Not Windy Today Anyways

The proud inhabitants of Lewis designate the northernmost part of their island as “The Butt of Lewis”.
Anyone who already is in the far west of Scotland should also go to the very north of the far west. So we crossed Lewis to conquer the lighthouse on the Butt of Lewis.

On our way there we truly came to understand just why Lewis is described as “wild, windy, and exposed to the rough sea” in many of the tour guides. In the past few days we had already been driving with an extra pullover under our motorcycle gear, but in Lewis everyone had to wear just about all of the clothes available. The wind rules in this flat, barely inhabited area. The wonderful month of May gifted us with the meagre temperature of about 5°C. And while we moved further north, while shivering, we encountered a native on his tractor. Without gloves. Without a hat. IN A T-SHIRT!
Whoever wasn’t cold before seeing that image was freezing now.

As we arrived at probably the most windy gas station on earth to get a refill for the machines we really should’ve expected to hear “Why windy? It’s a beautiful summer day with hardly a breeze!”. That even the heavy metal trash bins had to be secured with straps just to prevent them  from being blown away seemed apparently completely normal here.

The gas stations are in this sparsely populated area the market for everything. Just looking at it I’d say there is nothing missing from the assortment.
The gas stations are in this sparsely populated area the market for everything.
Just looking at it I’d say there is nothing missing from the assortment.

The Butt of Lewis

We were met at the Butt of Lewis with a wonderfully fresh breeze. No wonder, we were closer to Iceland than our home town after all. Again, without another human soul nearby, we went to play with our motorcycles. We won’t be told by some street how far we can go north!

Go north!
Go north!

I Spy: Find the two sidecars in the rough background
I Spy: Find the two sidecars in the rough background

Scotland’s best sausage

No trip to the United Kingdom is complete without a culinary highlight;
Of course we couldn’t leave Lewis without trying the famous Stornoway Black Pudding by MacLeod. We were already blessed with some of it at the B&B breakfast, so we just had to stop by at the MacLeod’s butcher to buy some of the, as The Guardian proclaimed it in 2010, “best sausage made in the UK”.

Source: Taken from Charles MacLeod, but it looks so tasty! http://www.charlesmacleod.co.uk/collections/puddings
Source: Taken from Charles MacLeod, but it looks so tasty!

Black pudding, white pudding - in Scotland you get to buy pudding at the butcher.
Black Pudding, white pudding - in Scotland you get to buy pudding at the butcher.

The butcher’s answer to our question about how thick one should slice the Black Pudding. Aha! Exactly this thick!
The butcher’s answer to our question about how thick one should slice the Black Pudding.

Aha! Exactly this thick!

The ferry brought us from Stornoway back to the Main Isle to Ullapool. From there we drove without haste, but straight back to Newcastle to the bigger ferry. Not without a stopover at Kyle of Lochalsh tough, where we picked up our third motorcycle which had undergone an adventurous repair. That this freshly repaired bike had a breakdown just about 3 kilometers later is a story for another time.

Conclusion

We have experienced Scotland as a wonderful country for traveling. The streets exactly right for adventurous sidecar travelers, the landscape took our breath away and the Scots were very welcoming and friendly. We will return, after all there still are those few highlights we missed...

Scotland - motorcycles with sidecars - kilts. These truly belong together.
Scotland - motorcycles with sidecars - kilts. These truly belong together.

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