Outer Hebrides - 2007

Lewis, Harris (22 miles) - Wednesday, 1 August

It rained several times during the night and fortunately the trees gave good shelter from the wind. The wet things I'd hung in the porch of the tent were still there and still wet, worst of all this included my trainers which were now home to three slugs.

It was 7.30 am and I knew I couldn't sleep any more. My sunburn from Sunday was still hurting ironically plus the bumpy ground made further sleep impossible. Slowly I got my spirits back in order. I ate breakfast, made a mug of tea and found dry clothes to put on. I put all the wet things in one front pannier and transferred the dry clothes to the other. Everything packed I removed the slugs and put reluctant feet gingerly into the trainers. Amazingly they didn't feel that wet, the 'Event' fabric was obviously doing its job.

The bike loaded up, I pushed it back to the road and left the gate tied up as I'd found it. Within minutes I was back again into a headwind and showery rain, but eventually I coasted into Calanais, the aim of the current leg of the excursion. I made my way to the Standing Stones Visitors' Centre and walked round to the right to find the stones. On a slight rise, the stone circle was an impressive sight with fine views all around. These stones being 5,000 years old, predate stonehenge, the pyramids and almost everything else in the world. The stone circle projected out on one side to form more of a celtic cross shape, the 'avenue' of stones being as impressive as the circle.

photograph - Calanais Stones

I gave the cafe a miss in favour of finding the Black House Tea Room which sounded more alluring. I pulled up at the small Post Office to be told disappointingly that the Black House Tea Room was closed. I bought water, oatcakes and Fox's Classic chocolate bars instead from the Post Office shop.

The plan was to cross the island eastwards to Stornoway so I cycled a mile north to Breascleit and turned right up over the moorland road marked on the map as 'Rathad a' Phentland'. At last I was wind assisted and the route was excellent for cycling, slight crests and falls with hardly any traffic and in parts grass growing through the middle of the road. The wild scenery was impressive for it's utter bleak emptiness.

Vast areas of peat cutting stretched away on both sides of the road, then passing a land fill site and a huge quarry I knew I was close to Stornoway. The road descended into Maryhill and I coasted down into Stornoway itself. It was a shock to be cycling in a built up area so I pulled up in the Co-op car park to get my bearings.

It suddenly occurred to me that my Calmac rover ticket was still in the tent pocket 'drying'. Having sought refuge in a shopping trolley shelter, I pulled out the tent from the rear pannier, found the ticket and stuffed the tent back in. I suspected that the bus station would be near the ferry terminal so I followed the signs. A very helpful woman in the bus ticket office told me that the bus to Tarbert was at 2.20 pm and would take the bike for the price of a second seat.

With an hour to kill, I locked up the bike in the car park and had a wander. I found the tourist information, had a pot of tea and a ham sandwich in a tea shop and mooched around the harbour, a Calmac freighter was in.

The bike and bags were safely stowed away in the bus's rear luggage hold and off we went. The return to Tarbert in finer weather served only to confirm what a task it is to tackle An Cliseam by fully laden bike. On the top I saw a cyclist so it's not impossible, just impossible for me at my level of fitness, sometimes it's good to know one's own limitations!

The bus arrived in Tarbert, I recovered the bike and bags from the back and coasted round to the ferry terminal. I met four more cyclists at the ramp who were cycling back to the mainland via Skye. The ferry Hebrides set off after an impressive turn-around time and we were sailing 'over the sea to Skye', another island to add to the list. The smooth crossing of The Little Minch lasted one hour and forty minutes, I ate the now obligatory lasagne, chips, peas and carrots in the restaurant.

The plan in my head was certain. I would take the next ferry to Lochmaddy and cycle to Lochboisdale, maybe find a B&B on the way. First I needed to find out when the next ferry departed for Lochmaddy.

Later that day