I compared notes with my fellow wild campers this morning. None of us had slept particularly well on the dunes beside the beach at Vatersay. I think for all four of us it was a combination of the winds, a little rain but also middle age. When I opened the flap of the tent at around 6am the sun was shining, just. It had managed to pierce its way through a break in the thick clouds that were, on and off, continuing to deliver light showers. It was a sunrise, of sorts. What wasn’t ‘of sorts’ was the location. It is almost as if the tourist authorities behind the creation of the Hebridean Way had ordered a spectacular place for their ride to start and it had been delivered with enthusiasm.
I had a good night’s sleep in my private room at the youth hostel. I was fearing that the ride from the train station to the accommodation last night might involve a hill; it didn’t. Far from it. Just a gentle cycle beside the harbour wall. The Rough Guide claimed it would be “a fair trek with a backpack from the ferry terminal [to the youth hostel]” but I can only imagine the authors have rarely hiked any distance with a backpack. A ‘fair trek’ it wasn’t. Mercifully. They also claim that the climb to McCaig’s Tower requires a “stiff ten-minute climb” from the centre of time. Again, they were stretching the point. I’ll let you know what they think about the Hebridean Way…
Trains. Three of them today to kick off this journey to the Western Isles. As I type I’m sitting in the third train which is rattling it’s way along the West Highland line towards my destination for the day, Oban. But back to this morning, or rather, last night.
I have to admit that these kinds of photographic displays of kit have, in recent, years become very much of a cliché, but they are fun to make and someone out there in the ether may find them of use. For most people they provide amusement and, perhaps more often, bemusement (“why the hell is he taking that with him???!!”). Below, in excessive detail (it wasn’t a busy day…), you’ll find set out most of what I will be taking with me when I travel to the Outer Hebrides early next week to ride the length of the Hebridean Way.
Britain offers some amazing places to explore on a bicycle, but there can be few locations within the UK that offer the remoteness, drama and sheer spectacle of the islands of The Outer Hebrides. The Hebridean Way guides cyclists from Vatersay in the south to the Butt of Lewis in the north: “10 islands, 6 causeways, 2 ferries and 1 unforgettable adventure”. In this episode of The Cycling Europe Podcast, writers, travellers and cyclists reflect upon their experiences of cycling The Hebridean Way. The chief executive of the local tourist board is also on hand to offer his advice.
So the time is approaching that I’ve got to make a decision as to if / when to head off to Oban, catch the ferry to Barra and set off along The Hebridean Way. I’ve mentioned the plan a few times on here and there’s even a dedicated page that you’ll find by clicking on the ‘cycles’ tab and the top of this page and choosing ‘2021: The Hebridean Way’. What you won’t find there is any kind of day-by-day plan. That’s where this post comes in…
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!