Nick Kewney

Software Architect & Product Builder

Cycling the Hebridean Way

From Vatersay to the Butt of Lewis, The Hebridean Way is a truly iconic experience, and something I won’t forget in a hurry.

After an eight hour journey from Glasgow, we rolled off the ferry from Oban to Castlebay on Barra on Saturday evening in search of somewhere to set up camp for the night.  After some questionable weather on the way over, I began to wonder whether embarking on this journey at the end of summer was a good idea! However, after finding Vatersay’s hidden beach “Bagh A’Deas”, the beautiful views of the pristine sand & clear water turned my mood around, and after a good night’s sleep in Big Agnes, we were both ready to set off on the first leg of our ride, spanning 10 islands, crossing 6 causeways & linked by 2 ferries.

After wild camping at an amazing spot at the southern most point on Vatersay (Bagh A’Deas), it was a race to the ferry terminal at Ardmhor, a small village in the north east of Barra, to hop to Eriskay and over the causeway to South Uist. We stopped at Kilbride Cafe for lunch, and were able to provide some help to a follow cyclist attempting the challenge on a tandem!

In the afternoon, we continued on with our ride into South Uist. I must admit that after the rolling hills of Barra and beaches of Vatersay, the empty moorlands of South Uist left us a little flat… on the up side, the cycle was the same, letting us take in the beauty of the moorlands and vast expansive views without the climbs. This part of the ride is certainly augmented by the causeways that link the islands.

Set up camp on the beach at Frobost. It’s going to be a windy night, so not expecting much sleep. I think we set up camp slightly too close to the beach, so stayed up until high tide (00:30) to ensure we didn’t get washed away into the North Atlantic ocean!

Survived a night camping on the beach with 25mph winds proving to be no challenge for Big Agnes, who had us covered. Had a later start and cycled over three causeways linking South Uist & Benbecula, Benbecula & Grimsay and Grimsay & North Uist. After two nights of wild camping, we decided to pitch up on a campsite called Moorcroft, about one mile south of Clachan. Still relatively windy, we were glad to be on a proper camp site after last night’s blustery wild camping experience! Definitely recommend this site if you’re visiting the area.

A blustery & rainy and start to day 3, we decided to get a few miles under our belts before stopping for lunch at Clachan Kirkibost Centre, a community cafe and shop just outside Clachan. After lunch, we headed north and with some sunny spells and a strong south westerly wind to help us along the way. After experiencing some breath-taking views of the coastline through Sollas, a small crofting township on the northern coast of the island of North Uist,, we darted over the causeway for the ferry at Berneray to get us over to Leverburgh, Harris. We arrived on Harris and cycled an hour to Traigh Horgabost Campsite, where we set up camp for the night. Amazing spot, but the campsite wasn’t great!

An easy cycling day before the challenge ramps up. Relentless wind & rain made packing up the tent a bit of a challenge. Breakfast on the beach, then a short ride to Tarbert today via Lorna’s Larder for an amazing Cauliflour Pakora Burger. The ride might only have been 12 miles today, but the Harris hills, combined with driving wind and rain made it seem like a lot more.

Started the day off with a hearty breakfast at Hotel Hebrides next to the pier at Tarbert, followed by a tour & tasting at the Harris Distillery. Started the ride off at midday, and the initial climb to the summit of the Clisham (the highest hill on the Outer Hebrides) was a bit of a killer. After a soup stop at Taste ‘n’ Sea, we enjoyed the descent down Loch Seaforth before crossing into Lewis. Rode some of the route with Innes, a geography student, before leaving him 10km before the turnoff for Callenish. Highlight of the day was birthday pizza at Crust, best pizza I’ve ever had! Eventually got to our campsite at Eilean Fraoich campsite, about 12 miles past Callenish (we took a brief detour to see the Callenish stones). A tough but rewarding day. Follow me on Strava for route updates

Final day of the official Hebridean Way route. Kicked off the day by cycling 4 miles to pick up a home-cooked veggie breakfast from Mollans Rainbow in Shed, just outside Shawbost. I got a warm welcome from Julie & Rachel (they even made me a coffee as I waited) who then prepared a feast for us in their home kitchen. After packing up the tent, fuelled and ready to go, we left the campsite for our final destination, Butt of Lewis. With headwinds or crosswinds the entire way, the cycle was a bit of a struggle (not made any easier by the loss of a cleat the day before). The route itself was a little arduous, mostly due to the rolling hills & gusts, so we stopped for shelter from the wind a couple of times. The first was to see the Shieling, a stone structure used by our ancestors to shelter when farming. The second stop was for coffee and food at Comunn Eachdraidh Nis museum, which records, preserves and promotes the history, language and culture of North Lewis. We ditched the bags at the Cross Inn, where we were warmly welcomed by Duncan, and proceeded another 5 miles to the Butt of Lewis, luggage free. Met Rob & Silvia, who told us of their amazing stories about their cycling adventures around the world. Inspiration to keep pedalling? Maybe, but not tonight. Off to the Old Barn Bar in Cross for a drink.

With the official Hebridean Way route (from Vatersay to the Butt of Lewis) complete, it’s time to slowly weave our way back to the mainland. After a few drinks at the Old Barn Bar in Cross with some lovely people (@moonrise3816, Rob & Silvia), we had a slap up breakfast the next morning at the Cross Inn, and made our way down to Stornaway via bus. The driver was very helpful, let us bring both bikes on the bus and even helped us load/unload our gear. We had a cake and coffee at the Blue Lobster in Stornaway, then stopped in to Store 67, where the bike tech managed to sort me out with new cleat clips! We then (miraculously) secured a transfer over to Leverburgh to catch the ferry over the Berneray to start the cycle down through the Uists after grabbing a bite at the Anchorage at the pier. We decided not to cycle Lewis & Harris back. If you know the hills, you know why! Once is enough. Also, I broke my right cleat so needed a replacement as the uneven pedalling was killing my knee! On the transfer, we were told of a fable explaining why the baron and windswept land on the east of Harris & Lewis is pretty much devoid of trees. Legend has it that the woods were burned down on the orders of a Norwegian princess because she was forsaken by a prince of Lewis, who married an island girl instead! After 35km of cycling, we stopped at Moorcroft, near Carinish, and treated ourselves to a pod! Follow me on Strava

Sun at last!  The amazing weather made today’s 75km cycle through North Uist, Grimsay, Benbecula, the whole of South Uist and Eriskay pretty breathtaking. Mostly cycling today, but a few stops along the way. Firstly, the trusty Co-op in Creagorry for some supplies for the night of camping ahead, followed by lunch at the Kildonan Museum Cafe. On the ferry from Eriskay to Arhmhòr, the master stopped the engines and shouted “DOLPHINS”! The entire ferry rushed to the edge of the boat to watch them dance in the waters around us. We took a trip to Benbecula airport, where the aircraft land on the beach, then camped at Wavecrest Campsite in Borve, near Castlebay and managed to catch our first sunset in 10 days!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.