Outer Hebrides - 2008

Butt of Lewis to Luskentyre (66 miles) - Wednesday, 4 June

Woke at 7.00 am, full cooked breakfast consumed half an hour later. I checked out, retrieved the bike and was speeding out of Stornoway by 8.30 am. The route first was twelve miles north west across the peat moorland of central Lewis, rising in a series of climbs before descending to the junction with the coast road at Barvis. Then it was fifteen miles north east towards Port Nis. All the way the freshening wind from the south didn't help much at all. Long climbs sapped the strength whilst passing through several villages separated by vast stretches of moorland.

The warmth of the sun and clear blue skies helped the mood. Eventually I turned off north at Lional and with a strong following wind sped down the track, my anticipation growing as journey's end hove into view, the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse. I propped up the bike against the wall and went for a mooch around.

photograph - Butt of Lewis Lighthouse

Coastal scenery was everywhere nothing short of spectacular, white surf breaking over huge rock blocks, blue sea, blue sky, gorgeous in every way.

A stroll around the headland revealed a rock block made up of folded strata struck through with radial faults. Layers that were once horizontal are now circular like a huge swiss roll. To gaze at this indelible record of geological upheaval, is to marvel at the immense violent force required to mould solid rock in such improbable ways.

Lunch consisted of croissant from yesterday, cream cheese & biscuits and chocolate. With reluctance, I pointed the bike southwards and began the painful trip back to Stornoway along the same roads into a very strong headwind.

I decided to go to Port Nis to see about the possibility of catching a bus. It was a nice place, I had a look around a small art gallery and bought a card. The man in the gallery kindly told me about the buses and even went home to next door to fetch the timetable. The next bus was at 1.30 pm arriving back in Stornoway at 3.00 pm, I decided to ride back instead.

The cyclist from Ayrshire was at a shop near Cros, we swopped experiences for a few minutes about our respective journeys. I arrived back in Stornoway at 4.00 pm, two hours to get there, four hours to get back! I met the couple with the trailer who'd just arrived in Stornoway, they were going to do a spot of wild camping on the peninsula. I recommended the Arts Centre restaurant to them. I cycled around and collected a full ferry timetable from Calmac and considered several travel alternatives:

ferry to Ullapool, train/bike to Kyle of Lochalsh, cycle across Skye or
ferry to Ullapool, bus to Inverness, cycle Great Glen Way to Fort William or
bus to Tarbert, boat to Uig, cycle across Skye or
bus to Tarbert, bus/cycle south from there

I chose the bus leaving at 5.30 pm with the aim of catching a boat back to Oban directly from either Lochboisdale or Castlebay. Whilst waiting, the cyclist from Ayrshire came by to check out the ferry terminal, he was camping at a site in Stornoway before catching the boat to Ullapool in the morning.

With the bike and bags safely on board the bus, we drove south at an impressive pace. I decided on a change of plan:

camp at Luskentyre - fulfilling last year's ambition
cycle to Leverburgh
boat to Berneray
bus/bike to Castlebay/Lochboisdale
boat to Oban

The bus driver dropped me off at the turning for Luskentyre, I retrieved the bike from the hold and cycled down to the end of the road before coming part way back. I chose what I hoped was a sheltered spot on the dunes and pitched the tent overlooking the sea (NG072988) at which point it started to rain. My camera finally died.

Later I spoke to a woman walking her dog, apparently the council had banned camping on that part of the dunes. I assured her that I'd be gone early in the morning and that was acceptable to her. It seemed to rain all night long with clouds hurrying northwards over the mountains. The boat was due at Leverburgh at 8.30 am so the alarm was set for 6.30 am.

Next day