Adventure

Cycling The Outer Hebrides: The ‘Ready-To-Pounce’ Plan

So… the Outer Hebrides. I have posted two articles recently about my proposed cycle along the Hebridean Way and, after a nice ride over the Pennine moors this afternoon, I am in the mood for adding a little flesh to the bones of my plan. It’s all weather-dependant of course. I have no wish to travel to the north-western corner of the British Isles if the outlook is not looking that great (I learnt my lesson the hard way back in the ‘summer’ of 2014…) but, whenever I do decide to go, I need to be able to pounce with a plan!

Here’s what I wrote a couple of weeks ago…

…and here is a second post summarising the comments that were made in response to the original post:

Now the Hebridean Way route itself is only 297km. But I’m in no rush whatsoever so, although the suggested split is as follows:

…I’d be happy to take a few days more. Let’s say 10 days. Two of those days would be travelling to and from Scotland (from and to Yorkshire) of course leaving me plenty of wiggle room to either take an extra day with any of the suggested sections above or sit out a day because of the weather or because, well, I just fancy doing very little. That said, if I want to exploit the in-built flexibility of cycling, I will need to compromise of having accommodation for most of the journey that hasn’t been booked in advance. In these days of COVID, is that asking for too much? Last year, as I cycled around the UK, many campsites required prior booking – and that’s what I did for the first section of my journey from Yorkshire to Edinburgh although by the time I arrived in Wales later in the trip, I realised that some campsites were a little more flexible. But by no means all. It was a similar situation with the hostels which, in addition to requiring prior booking, had very limited capacity. All the ‘staycationers’ might scupper my plans. But this is, of course, Scotland; the home of wild camping! I’m far from an expert when it comes to wild camping, however. Warmshowers? The Outer Hebrides boasts only three Warmshowers hosts, all three in Stornaway but, crucially, they appear to be active users having all logged on to their account in the past 24 hours. (Does that mean they are inundated with requests to host?)

I feel the need for some kind of chart. Here we go… but be warned! THIS IS VERY MUCH A WORK-PROGRESS CHART!!

JourneyCycling
Distance
Accommodation
1Halifax to Oban
Cycle to Huddersfield
Train from Huddersfield to Glasgow (5 hrs)
Train from Glasgow to Oban (3.5 hrs)
10 kmOban
?
2Oban to Castlebay
Ferry from Oban to Castlebay
(1pm, 5 hrs)
Castlebay
?
+1Vatersay to Daliburgh
Cycle
41 kmDaliburgh
?
+1Daliburgh to Clachan
Cycle
59 kmClachan
Gatliff Trust Hostel (Howmore)
– 14 km south of Clachan?
+1Clachan to Berneray
Cycle
44 kmBerneray
Gatliff Trust Hostel (Berneray)?
+1Berneray to Tarbert
Cycle
34 kmTarbert
Gatliff Trust Hostel (Rhenigidale)
– 8 km east of Tarbert?
+1Tarbert to Callanish
Cycle
61 kmCallanish
?
+1Callanish to the Butt of Lewis
Cycle
58 kmButt of Lewis
?
+1Butt of Lewis to Stornaway
Cycle
46 kmStornaway
Warmshowers host?
+1Stornaway to Halifax
Ferry to Ullapool (7am & 2pm, 2.5 hrs)
Cycle to Garve (on the A835 – busy?) or
Cycle to Achnasheen* (on the coast – long)
Train to Inverness / Edinburgh / Glasgow**
Train to Huddersfield
Cycle home
51 km (A835) or
136 km* (coast) +
10 km
Edinburgh?
Glasgow?
Home?
* Spare day
– needed for Achnasheen option
** Spare day
– day in Glasgow / Edinburgh?
Spare day

OK, I admit it. That’s more than 10 days. To save you counting, it’s actually 13 days. That’s plenty of wiggle room. Accommodation? Well, on the islands themselves… Here’s a screenshot of the map showing the options listed on VisitOuterHebrides.co.uk:

Hostels? Are they included in the above map? The key would suggest not but they were mentioned by people commenting upon my original post. Jeff Trueman (Remember him from last year’s cycle around the UK? He supplied me with a beer in Northumberland!) suggests I check out the Gatliff Hebridean Hostels Trust. They have three hostels and I have included them on the chart above. However… it does say on their website that the hostels “…remain closed. [and] this will remain the case for the foreseeable future (May 2021)”. That’s down to COVID of course. Let’s hope the situation might have changed by July / August time. On the plus side, all three hostels allow camping in their grounds. There is one Scottish Youth Hostel Association hostel – Ravenspoint Hostel – on the Outer Hebrides… but it’s on the wrong side of Loch Eireasort on the east side of Harris. Probably too inconvenient for the route of the Hebridean Way.

I’ll return to this post in the coming weeks to fill in more details. I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments box or on Twitter or Facebook…

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Header image credit: Alan Hardy

Categories: Adventure, Cycling, Travel

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6 replies »

  1. Make sure you’ve got midge repellant Andrew.

    Just got back from a week at Gairlochy near Fort William and the little blighters are just arriving.

    I’ve tried Smidge and Skin so Soft. They don’t work for me. Take a midge net and cover up.

    Might be more breeze on the islands.

    I’ll look forward to hearing how it goes. Good luck.

  2. Hi Andrew, I was lucky enough to visit OH in 2019, oh those halcyon days awheel.
    15/6 train from Shipley to Carlisle rode tp Lettershaw farm campsite
    16/6 Lettershaw to Inveraran Beinglas Farm Campsite (eaten alive by midges)
    17/6 Beinglas to Oban for the ferry, camped at Borvie campsite
    18/6 Borvie down to Vatersay then onto Linaclate Shellbay (rode too far really)
    19/6 Linaclate to Horgabost, Harris (each campsite to die for)
    20/6 Horgabost to Stornaway (always wanted to visit, it’s always raining on the telly weather forecast, I wasn’t disappointed)
    21/6 Stornoway to Butt of Lewis then back to Shawbost campsite
    22/6 Shawbost to Tarbet (if I had a spare day I’d ride out to Great Bernara) evening ferry to Uig Skye
    23/6 Uig to Armadale for ferry to Mallaig, camped at Camusdarach
    24/6 Camusdarach to Kilcohan for ferry to Tobermory, camped at Pollygown campsite
    25/6 Pennygown to Craigmore for ferry to Oban, rode a huge day to Dunoon for ferry to Gourock, unintended wild camp at Clochpoint
    26/6 Gourack to Abington campsite
    27/6 Abington to Carlisle for afternoon train home 🙂

    For me the romance of wild camping is balanced by my love of a long shower….

  3. Hi, I cycled the Hebridean Way in October 2017 on my Brompton, it was amazing. I flew from California, spent one night in Glasgow then took the train to Oban. I stayed my first night on Barra at the Dunard Hostel. I decided not to camp because of the midges which were awful the further north I biked. Because amenities were few and far between, I booked most of my B&B’s a few months before I left the States. Even then, a lot of places were booked. You will have an amazing trip.

      • I live in the Bay Area so I felt at home. It was overcast most of my time on the islands. I did ride in my rain gear for a few days on Harris but pretty lucky with weather.

What do you think?