Outer Hebrides - 2007

North Uist, Harris (33 miles) - Tuesday, 31 July

It was windy, the shelter I had from the north west wind proved less effective against the blustery south westerly that greeted me. 7.30 am and the surf was up and the sun was shining again. Maybe now the wind would push me along for a change.

I had breakfast listening to the Today programme and packed up at 9.00 am. When I'd arrived the previous evening, the tide had obviously been out allowing me to cycle across the beach. This morning however the tide was definitely in and the beach route back to the road was underwater. I ended up de-bagging the bike and lifting everything over a fence to reach a little bridge.

Cycling round the coast, the wind for the first time was helping not hindering. There were terrific coastal views of beaches with only gentle crests and falls in the road. I eventually turned off towards the ferry and stopped to have a look at Dun an Sticir. I crossed the two causeways on foot to get to the Dun in the middle of the loch, no mean feat in the wind.

Cycling on, there was a small climb and then a run down to the turning for Berneray. I arrived at the causeway around 11.00 am and saw the ferry tied up so carried on to Berneray. I bumped into the cycling couple and the man in orange near a tea shop. The couple had stayed on the island whilst the man in orange had camped in a tree plantation near Lochmaddy having taken the eastern route from Clachan na Luib.

photograph - MV Loch Portain

We returned to the slipway to await the ferry and boarded the Loch Portain just after midday. The crossing was breezy and very pleasant as the ferry zigzagged through red and green buoys on a slalom course along two sides of a triangle. A fellow passenger told me that the ferry had run aground on a sand bank previously.

We disembarked at Leverburgh and I stopped at a tea shop for tea and carrot cake and to get my water bottles filled before setting out. The lovely coastal scenery was spoiled only by the low cloud, mist, drizzle and wind. I had planned to stop for the night at Luskentyre on the dunes but I arrived there quite quickly and with the weather closing in, I decided to press on to Tarbert.

The road ascended in a series of climbs over a pass. I passed a couple sheltering from the rain in a bus shelter, their bikes parked outside. The cycling couple passed me whilst I sheltered under an overhanging rock to eat a US MRE meal of beef and potatoes warmed with the flameless heater. The rest of the climb was strenuous for a novice cyclist and reaching the top did not provide much relief due to the deadfall conditions. I overtook the couple and the sharp descent into Tarbert did not come too soon. Application of factor 25 that morning seemed highly optimistic.

Exhausted, I went to the Tarbert tourist information office to find a bed for the night, spirits being at an all time low. The place was busy and whilst I dripped all over the carpet at the centre of a growing puddle, the woman was trying her best to find accommodation for a group of thirteen all over the island - I didn't hold out much hope. In the end there was no room at the inn and all she could offer was a patch of lawn to pitch a tent in Angus's garden.

Discouraged I set off again up the coast against a now howling gale and driving rain. I was cold, tired, disheartened and looking at the prospect of either pitching a tent who knows where or the highest steepest climb of the journey over the infamous Cliseam, the part of the trip found the most incredulous by the party on the beach on Saturday night. It wasn't looking good, hypothermia was a real and present danger.

Later that day