Adventure

Question: The Outer Hebrides? Answer…

A few days ago, I posted an article to CyclingEurope.org about the possibility of visiting The Outer Hebrides this coming summer and cycling the Hebridean Way. The response was one of the best that any article on CyclingEurope.org has ever received. On the website itself and on social media, the comments came in thick and fast and such were their quality that they merit a post of their own. They are collated below but before you read them, I suggest you first of all read the original post that was published on May 23rd:

“I cycled this route in September 2019, possibly the best tour I’ve ever done. Stunning and ever changing scenery at every turn. I met some wonderful friendly people who were genuinely interested in me and what I was doing. The weather can change suddenly during the day, I had one nasty day of torrential rain and 50mph winds but it was a southerly so blew me along! I’d thoroughly recommend it. Do it.”

Peter Adcock

“I cycled from Barra to the top of Lewis a few years back. Beautiful scenery and lovely people, and the best beaches I’ve ever seen anywhere. A word of warning though – if you’re heading North there is a steep hill about 5km out of Tarbert where the winds can be problematic. I know because I was blown off the road. I was pushing up the slope and a gust ripped the bike out of my hands, lifted it clean into the air, and hurled it down the slope. It flew 5m across the road without touching the tarmac, and that’s with a tent and 4 full panniers. I was prone on the tarmac and the wind dragged me across the road and to the edge. I wouldn’t have believed it possible if it hadn’t happened to me. Apparently that stretch of road is notorious.”

Pagan Cidergood

“I’ve been thinking about this too, Andrew. However being in Winchester I couldn’t be much further away in the UK. Still very attractive as my usual French or Spanish tours seem unlikely this year. “

Brian Leech

I suggested to Brian that the Caledonian Sleeper service might be a solution. He was sceptical having experienced the Azuma trains elsewhere in Britain which, despite being very new, have pitiful arrangements for carrying bicycles. That said, I don’t think that the Caledonian Sleeper makes use of the Azuma trains. More details on the Caledonian Sleeper website. I’m struggling to find pictures of bicycles on board the Caledonian Sleeper – the rolling stock has changed since I used the service back in 2014 – but there is a blog post about a bike journey to Scotland on the modern sleeper – with some wonderful photographs – on the following website:

This is what I wrote about my own Caledonian Sleeper experience back in 2014:

“The highlight of the day must be this Scot Rail sleeper train to Inverness. Well, Perth. The line had been washed away north of Perth (I’m sure it’s just a few bits but let’s not get facts in the way of a dramatic headline) so at 5:30am we will all be woken and put on a bus. I’m not sure how that will work with Reggie but if the level of customer service that I have so far experienced continues beyond 5:30am he will no doubt be given the five seats at the back of the coach all to himself. It’s not the smoothest of rides here on the train (why so fast?) but I’ve found my position in the buffet car and am imaging that I’m reliving Murder on the Orient Express. I’m expecting a snow drift – probably at some point north of Newcastle – after which we will all be summoned by a short man from Elgin (it’s nearly ‘Belgium’) with a moustache to be told that there have been dastardly goings on in the English Midlands. Unless of course it is me who is the victim in which case this may be the very last thing…. Ouch!

Back to the comments about cycling The Outer Hebrides…

“When Ultravox released their video for One Small Day back in 1984, my gang decided that during the summer hols we’d ride to the location of the shoot, the Callanish standing stones. It didn’t quite work out like that. My mates got there in 1988, me in March 1991. Weirdly when I later read Iain Banks’s The Crow Road, a key event in the story happens at the Butt of Lewis at the time I was actually there. There’s a bleak beauty to the place. Ullapool on the mainland is a gem of a town and I keep meaning to go back. And the run downhill to Durness is a joy. My one enduring memory of the north coast of Scotland was that all the guesthouses were run by English emigrés!”

Simon Garland

I pointed out to Simon that my experience of Ullapool had been equally positive (especially in the bar…) but as I was cycling north to south in 2014, his ‘run downhill to Durness’ was a hellish crawl fighting horizontal rain for me… Fond memories however:

There is, of course, a man who has visited most places on his bicycle… Rob Ainsley:

“I had a range of weather when I did it in 2013, but yes, it’s something very special – hard to think that it’s ‘Britain’! Well worth the effort of getting there, I reckon.”

Rob Ainsley

Read more about Rob’s experiences on his website.

Meanwhile a selection of comments from over on Twitter:

“Linda and I have just spent 9 nights on the Islands, although in a motorhome with bikes onboard. Fabulous, can’t recommend it enough. The scenery is fantastic, the campsites are good and the people are really friendly.”

@RealAleBill

“Rode the same route thirteen years ago, fantastic. Highly recommended.”

@MalcolmBadger

“Six year ago we got the ferry from Oban, rode up the Outer Hebrides, the ferry from Stornaway to Ullapool and back down over Skye and Mull back to Oban. Superb.”

@AlanNeverTooOld
@AlanNeverTooOld

“I rode in September 2019 solo from south to north, one of my best trips. Stay in the Tractor Shed at Paible

@PeterAdcock8 (again…)

“This is a wonderful part of the world. Check out the Gatliff Trust hostels. In fabulous locations and always busy with like minded people. Remember the midge spray though!”

@JeffTrueman1

And a couple from Facebook:

“We have done the Hebridean way in May south to north & last year in August north to south and back – the wind makes its own mind up which way it’s going so don’t let that decide which route . Midges were fine last year . Very few food opportunities from Callanish to Butt of Lewis so be prepared – enjoy.”

Jocasta Fletcher

“I did it August 2014 solo. I sailed to Barra from Oban and back from Stornaway to Ullapool. Fabulous trip (I only had 1 day of rain). I used hostels and B&B. The only one I would not recommend is Berneray Hostel.”

Jacqui Edwards

You heard it here first…

Header image credit: Alan Hardy

Categories: Adventure, Cycling, Travel

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