Adventure

Cycling The Hebridean Way: Day 9

A memorable end to the day, wild camping next to the beach, crashing waves and the setting sun at the north-western extremity of the Outer Hebrides. Perhaps even Britain. I arrived at the Butt of Lewis at around 4pm, the end of the Hebridean Way. My only regret that they didn’t manage to place the metal sign to mark the end of the route in a more photogenically accommodating position…

Last night’s campsite made up in friendliness for its lack of views. I can understand why people might choose to spend a week there but for me it was just one night. After consuming a cooked breakfast delivered by a local company who had latched onto the fact that cyclists nearing the end of the Hebridean Way might be ravenous (“it’s very popular with cyclists” noted the woman in charge of the campsite when I ordered it the previous evening…), I set off on what I thought would be a 40km fairly rudimentary cycle to the northern end of the Outer Hebrides. ‘Alas’ I kept getting distracted; the modern war memorials, the whale bone arch, the community centre with an exhibition about people hiding in seaweed (Google it…), the Blackhouse… They all merited my attention, especially the latter; fascinating. I could quite happily live in a place like this:

Yet I did have in the back of my mind today’s destination; the end of the Hebridean Way at the Butt of Lewis. Whatever merits can be pinned to the island of Lewis, spectacular scenery isn’t one of them. Compared to its siblings to the south, it’s a tad pedestrian in the landscape department. But it is seemingly trying to make up for this issue in a string of tourist-catching places. However, I did resist temptation to pause again – aside from two useful conversations with two sets of cyclists who told me about their wild camping spots from the previous evening – and made it as far as the outskirts of the Port of Ness before I stopped again. This time it was in a converted school which is now a community run museum and café. It should win awards; the displays were fascinating (including a gruesome photographic exhibition about the men who, every year, head out to a nearby island to cull gulls, return to the Hebrides and sell them to the locals for food) and the ham, cheese and pickle sandwich worthy of a (small) Michelin star.

Thereafter it was only a few kilometres to the Butt of Lewis and my final destination. A nice feeling after having cycled over 400km in the past week. Not the most epic of rides but a very, very enjoyable one. I can fully understand how all those people who appeared in episode 38 of The Cycling Europe Podcast were so effusive in their praise for the route. It has to rank as one of the greatest in the UK, probably Europe and perhaps even the World…

Fraternising with other cyclists who had arrived at around the same time as me over, I searched out my wild camping spot. And for a novice in this area, it’s an absolute cracker:

As for the rest of the week… tomorrow I cycle to Stornaway, Thursday it’s the ferry back to the mainland and a night on a campsite near Ullapool and then, well, that’s when the fun starts, attempting to return to Halifax on the train…

Here’s the plan for my trip to the Outer Hebrides

…and here’s a podcast I made about cycling the Hebridean Way prior to setting off:

More episodes of The Cycling Europe Podcast can be found on this page of CyclingEurope.org.

And finally, since you’ve made it this far, just one more thing:

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Categories: Adventure, Cycling, Travel

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1 reply »

  1. Atmospheric video and a great ending to the Way. The centenary memorial to the Iolaire Disaster, just 2 miles past the Stornoway Ferry (heading east), is a heartbreakingly beautiful location and fitting memorial. I think it would represent a great start point for the North to South route, as it should be more widely known, along with the Grias and Coll Raiders, an event that may have been precipitated by the disaster less than 3 months before.

What do you think?