Outer Hebrides - 2008

Barra to Harris (63 miles) - Monday, 2 June

I made breakfast of bacon & beans, tea and Jordan's breakfast bar whilst enjoying the morning sunshine.

photograph - Barra camp site

With the next boat due at 9.25 am I broke camp, loaded the bike and pedalled away. It was a short ride round to the ferry terminal, the motor bikers from the ferry passed me going the other way, presumably to take a look at the airport.

The man at the Ard Mhor ferry terminal cafe kindly filled my water bottles. As well as the motor bikers who turned up soon after, there were several other cyclists waiting for the ferry. One guy had cycled from Tarbert to the Butt of Lewis, then south to Vatersay and was now on his way back to Tarbert. Also a couple were cycling northwards to Stornoway, the man was pulling a bike trailer.

It was a beautiful sunny calm crossing to Eriskay and everyone was up on top taking in the scenery. After the climb from the harbour, the route took me across the causeway to South Uist and northwards to the junction at Daliburgh. The motor bikers were holed up at a hotel on the left and they waved as I rode by. Eventually I reached the causeway across to Benbecula and stopped at the Creagorry Co-op for supplies. I ate my hot meat and potato slice outside in the sun, together with a muesli bar and orange juice. I refilled the bottles with water and saved the apple and banana and the fruit & nut mix for later.

On the road over Benbecula I stopped to feed Polo mints to some horses, the motor bikers passed me with a wave. I continued north across the causeways to Grimsay and North Uist. Whilst having a rest to eat the fruit and some chocolate, another cyclist stopped for a chat. At Clachan-a-Luib the road to Lochmaddy turned off right, I stopped at the shop for a fruit smoothy and drank it outside in the baking sunshine.

The road ran north east across the moors to Lochmaddy and I contended with both a slight headwind and heavy tipper lorries making regular return trips between the quarry and one of the causeways I had crossed earlier which was being widened. Before reaching Lochmaddy, the road to Berneray turned off to the left and I stopped soon after for a swift snack of chicken pate and biscuits.

In a flash of inspiration, I realised that the ferry to Harris was almost within reach. It was 3.45 pm and with the boat due in 40 minutes, I went hell for leather and eventually blasted down the hill and across the causeway to Berneray and the boat was still in.

photograph - waiting for the ferry

Another cyclist was waiting at the ferry who told me the welcome news that the crossing was actually scheduled for 5.30 pm! He was on his way to Stornoway for the Ullapool ferry. He was from Ayrshire and told me about the round Arran cycle route, which I must try some day. Another heavily laden cyclist arrived, he'd cycled across from Newcastle upon Tyne! My computer said 61 miles since Barra, the other two agreed that it was more like 70 or 80.

It was another smooth crossing as the ferry zig zagged across the Sound of Harris to Leverburgh, calm, sunny and warm with a clear blue sky. I hadn't expected to reach Harris in one day and didn't really want to cycle too much further. I had also decided to take the eastern coastal route to Tarbert so settled on Roghadal on the southern tip of Harris as the preferred destination for the night.

A steep climb out of Leverburgh and equally steep descent brought me to the picturesque village of Roghadal. I made enquiries at the hotel for advice regarding camp sites and they recommended land round the corner near a derelict building. I didn't really fancy it so continued further on and found a grassy promontory extending out from a bend in the road. I pushed the bike down the slope towards the sea and chose a gorgeous spot (NG051829) overlooking Roghadal harbour with views across a very blue sea to the islands. I ate beef ravioli followed by mixed fruit salad washed down with tea, before the midges forced an early retreat.

Reaching the Butt of Lewis in the time available had depended on having a good first full day's cycling to end up as far north as possible. From that point of view it had been a very successful day with excellent weather, terrific scenery and truly memorable ferry crossings thrown in. I was asleep before my head touched the pillow at 10.00 pm.

At midnight the wind woke me up heralding a change in the weather. The camp site now seemed a little 'exposed' on its elevated scenic viewpoint.

Next day