Outer Hebrides - 2008

Vatersay to Oban (6 miles) - Friday, 6 June

For the first time I was still asleep when the alarm went off. It had rained during the night, everything was still damp and mist hung in the air as I peered out of the tent. I laid back down for a few moments feeling very tired, aching and comfortably warm cocooned in the sleeping bag. Finally I emerged from paralysis, dressed in clean clothes and ventured outside, straight into a dense cloud of midges. I made coffee and murdered several hundred of them in the steam.

Remaining in one place for more that two seconds just invited being eaten alive for breakfast. So with fully zipped up jacket, pulled down cap and in a fit of flailing arms, I danced around the field whilst packing and loading up the bike, hope nobody was watching. I put my £4 in the little box and cycled off into the morning mist and drizzle whilst trying not to scratch.

Stopping at the crashed Catalina wreckage to get my Polo mints, the midges caught me up. At one point on the route around Vatersay I could see the boat neatly tied up in Castlebay. I crossed the causeway to Barra and in no time at all was rolling down the hill into town and round to the ferry terminal. The Calmac guy helpfully told me I had midges in my eyes as I handed him my completed boarding card.

Fifteen minutes later, the ramp was lowered and I was pushing the bike onto the Lord of the Isles for the final ferry crossing of my second Outer Hebridean bike tour. We set sail at 7.00 am.

photograph - Leaving Castlebay

I had cooked breakfast with orange juice and tea during the one hour fifty minute trip up the coast to Lochboisdale. Then came the five hour and twenty minute trip to Oban, during which I eventually managed to eat the famous meal of Calmac lasagne, chips and peas.


It's with a huge sense of achievement that I look back on these trips having finally succeeded in the aim of cycling the length of the Outer Hebrides. Last year had been a success of sorts, however the lingering regret of not having completed the trip entirely under my own steam just never went away. This time I'd cycled over 250 miles and once again learned a lot about myself in the process.

Second island tour:
Barra, Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula, Grimsay, North Uist, Berneray, Harris, Lewis and finally Vatersay.

MV Clansman - Oban to Castlebay
MV Loch Alainn - Barra to Eriskay and back
MV Loch Portain - Berneray to Leverburgh and back
MV Lord of the Isles - Castlebay to Oban

The islands seem to get right under your skin. The landscape ranges from the most stunning coastal scenery with white unspoilt beaches and crystal clear water, to empty moorland nothingness. It's just beautiful. The weather becomes a definite preoccupation, unpredictable with periods of glorious hot sunshine, downpours, wind and calm. The wonderful offshore sunsets were totally unforgettable.

All the people I met on the islands were extremely helpful, kind and friendly. The number of cyclists I met proved what a wonderful place this is to go touring with a bicycle.

I did become fit enough to cycle over the Cliseam and did indeed camp at Luskentyre in the sunshine.

View more photographs from the trip.