Hebridean Way Adventure
I can’t remember where the idea to travel along the Hebridean Way came from. I’d had the “Hike the Hebridean Way” guidebook on my shelf for a couple of years, and had applied for an Adventure Queens grant to run the route earlier this year, which I didn’t get. After this setback (of course I was 100% certain I’d get the grant!) I felt like there was no way I could actually go and run this route. It was too far, would take too long and required too much kit to carry on my back. I parked the idea for a time when my children were much older and tried to forget…
2023 wasn’t shaping up to be a great year. My Dad had suffered a stroke in January and I spent quite a few weekends driving the 440 mile round trip to visit him in York hospital. For a few weeks it looked like he wouldn’t make it, his cancer (usually controlled by drugs) came back and I sat there helplessly watching his eyes roll back in his head and grunting as he tried to breathe. But somehow he survived it and is slowly recovering back at home after a three month hospital stay.
I was really looking forward to a cross-country skiing trip with my closest girl friends, but caught Covid on the flight to Norway and spent the final day of the trip in bed and then had to travel back feeling awful. At this time I didn’t realise it was Covid. I was due to run my first ultra marathon in May, but it took me so long to get over the virus that I missed it. But that was ok because I had another ultra booked for August. I dutifully trained, travelling away from my flat-lands in Suffolk to the Peak District, Lake District and West Highland Way in an effort to get my legs ready for the hills I’d encounter on my ultra. I had some brilliant weekends training, but something happened to my calf in a 5km road race that meant walking was pretty painful. I carried on training through it, but eventually I could hardly walk and realised that the only way forward was to give up on the race and rest.
Running on the West Highland Way. Photo by Rachel Normand
This was now the third big event I’d trained for and couldn’t do. I started cross training, swimming in the local river and bought a new bike to cheer myself up. The swimming was probably the thing I enjoyed most, especially sea swimming. But the bike I could go further and see more, which was part of the appeal of running. I started wondering if a journey on my bike could be possible, now I’d missed out on the adventure of my ultra marathon race. And then my thoughts turned back to the Hebridean Way.
I sent a text to my friend Lindsay, asking about her cycling trip to the Outer Hebrides that she and her husband had done a few years ago. She was about to leave the UK on a six month van adventure in South America, but found the time to post her “Cycling in the Hebrides” book to me. Within a 24 hour period I had found six days that I could be away from my family, booked ferries to and from the Outer Hebrides, booked my trains up to Scotland and some campsites. Next, the gear. I LOVE shopping for outdoor gear. I ordered a compact two-man tent, two panniers, a back rack to attach them to, lights and mudguards. I already owned a lightweight sleeping bag and mat, gas stove and various other bits of camping and cycling clothing and equipment. I spent the three weeks until my adventure training on the bike (although I have to admit, not that hard!).
My two man tent in the garden with two boys and two dogs inside!
My travel plans were quite convoluted. The Outer Hebrides is about as far from Suffolk as you can get, and travelling on a Sunday with a bike and rail replacements wasn’t going to work. I had decided it would be a good excuse to go and see my Dad on the way North, so drove myself and my bike up to his house near York where I spent the Saturday night. I felt quite wobbly leaving my little boys, dogs and husband. The mum guilt was quite intense on my journey northwards, but I chunked the journey and took it one step at a time, and resisted the urge to jack it all in and go back home.
On Sunday morning I unloaded my bike from the car, attached my full panniers to the rack and bungee corded the tent on top. I waved goodbye to my Dad (who was very sweet and supportive and didn’t once question why on Earth I was doing this, but just told me how proud he was), and rode off down the street taking a big gulp. This was the start, I was really doing this. I rode through his town of Selby where I’d grown up, past our old family home, old high school, past my primary school. Then over the river and found the start of the cycle path to York. It turns out this path is quite cool, and is called the Solar System Way. It has a scale model of the solar system along it! So my first 15 miles was interspersed with model planets and ended in a giant golden sun as I entered the city of York. I reached the train station, navigated the lifts to get me to the correct platform with the fully loaded bike and waited nervously for my train to Edinburgh. The reason for my nerves was two-fold. Firstly, from knowing this train would take me further from my family, and secondly because I worried about getting the bike on the busy train in the correct compartment (bikes have to be booked and put in the right carriage). When the train arrived I was relieved that I was stood in the right place for bikes, and a kind lady helped me lift it up into the train. I then realised I’d have to hang the bike in a cupboard, and struggled to lift it up to hang the wheel on a hook on the wall. But it was done! I was very relieved to sit in my seat and tried to calm myself by reading my book.
The Solar System Way between Selby and York (15 miles long)
I arrived in Edinburgh four hours later. It was raining and I set Google maps on my phone to my friends Rachel and Will’s house. I knew the cycle was along the canal, and it was a peaceful ride (interspersed with terrifying cobbled sections) to her house, where they stowed my bike safely in the basement and cooked a tasty curry while I played with their one year old daughter. Cue massive mum guilt that I was hanging out with this family and not my own, and trying to fight back the tears and not admit to Rachel that I was seriously thinking about taking the train home the next morning. I spent the evening trying her running shoes on (she is a sponsored runner and has a very impressive selection of shoes still in their boxes!), and she lent me a few extra bits including a handlebar bag, toptube bag, lightweight fleece and extra food. In her bike-filled basement was a large map of Scotland, including the Outer Hebrides, which looked a horribly long way away from Edinburgh. I averted my wide eyes from the map and tried to focus on the practical task of attaching the borrowed bags to my bike. I didn’t dare speak my fears out loud, even to one of my oldest friends. Instead, pushing the doubts to the back of my mind.
I woke early the next morning as my train was at 7am. It was dark and raining. I managed to eat some breakfast and Rachel brought my bike up from the basement. I attached my panniers, donned my waterproof trousers and shoe covers, put my hood up and my helmet on. Rachel looked at me for a long moment, ran back in the house and handed me a waterproof cap. She was worried the hood-helmet combination would reduce my side vision. Not for the first time I was glad that I’d decided to stop at her house on this adventure. I rode off into Edinburgh to find the train station.
Waiting for a train to Glasgow at Haymarket Station
On arrival at Haymarket station I found the platform to Glasgow Queen Street (via another lift) and got chatting to a cycle commuter, who gave me instructions on where to stand for the bike compartment of this next train. I felt buoyed by my ability to chat to strangers so easily (this isn’t normally something I find myself doing, and something I had worried about). The train to Glasgow was uneventful and quick, and once there I found the train for Oban. The train guards were really on it with the bikes, and checked my bike reservation and told me where to go and put my bike. Another cyclist helped me lift the bike to hang it up in a large bike compartment. I spotted another lone female cyclist and smiled. I also saw as she sat down that she had a guidebook out and wondered if she was also heading to the Outer Hebrides. Not long after the train pulled out of the station the tea trolley came round, and I happily ordered a hot chocolate and a kit kat. The train ride to Oban was quite long, and also a little bit late, so I was getting a bit worried about making the ferry on time as we neared our destination.
My bike hanging up on the train to Oban
Happily everything worked out fine, and all the cyclists headed towards the ferry terminal. There were about ten cyclists waiting to board the ferry, and we made small talk as we waited to be told we could go on board the ship. A rainbow appeared across the bay, which we laughed about being a good omen for our journeys. My feelings of guilt and anxiety were now replaced with excitement at the prospect of actually being on the islands. I wheeled my bike into the ferry and lashed it to a railing, then headed inside with two other solo female cyclists. We sat down and the conversation quickly turned to where we planned to go and how long we planned to spend on the islands. The two others had a week, and I only had four days. One of the girls laughed when I said this, and the other gasped and said “but you’ll have to cycle about 40 miles a day!”. 40 miles a day was my exact plan and I didn’t think it had sounded too far…
Bike, ferry and rainbows
On the ferry journey we passed Tobermory, where I’d spent a lovely week two summers before with my friend Lindsay who had sent the cycling guide book. We also saw common dolphins, gannets and plenty of rainbows. After five hours we sailed into Castlebay on the Isle of Barra. The sun was shining and as I left the ferry I couldn’t believe I was finally there. I think I had quite a big grin on my face. Until I realised I had no idea which way to turn to get to my campsite. I loaded Google maps to find that I had no signal and no way to navigate. Instead I tried to use the road signs and followed some of the other cyclists up a rather large hill with a 12% gradient. This turned out to be the wrong way, and I had to cycle back over the hill. Another cyclist from the ferry came the other way and asked if I was ok. A bit embarrassed, I laughed off getting lost already.
First night on the Isle of Barra
A short while later I made it to my seaside campsite, and there was a board at the entrance with a few names, including my own, and where we should pitch our tent or park our vans. I went to the tent area and found a sheltered spot to pitch my tent. It was quite windy, the waves were crashing and the sun was starting to set with a beautiful golden light. I got a very satisfied feeling after pitching my tent and crawling inside to unpack my sleeping bag and blow up my mat.
My tent on Borve campsite, Isle of Barra
More grinning ensued as I lit my stove (tricky in the wind) and boiled the water for my Firepot bag dinner of orzo bolognaise, which was very tasty. I spent a bit of time in the shower block using the WiFi and letting my husband know I’d made it ok, then headed back to my tent in the dark. I felt a bit lonely and was glad that my friend Ruby had suggested downloading some comfort Netflix to watch. I watched a couple of episodes of The Office (American version, my guilty pleasure), and then lay back to sleep. Sleep did not come. The waves were still crashing outside and I just couldn’t get to sleep. I think I dozed off in the early hours and got a few hours sleep, but my alarm went off early as I had another ferry to catch to the next island.
Lighting the Jetboil stove for dinner
I crawled from my tent and despite not having slept much, felt quite pleased with myself for being on a real life adventure on my own. It took longer than I expected to repack my panniers and get the tent down (about an hour). I’d planned to cook some porridge but didn’t have time, so quickly ate a Cliff bar and set off on the five mile ride to catch the ferry to Eriskay. It was quite hilly compared to Suffolk, and I felt a bit worried that I’d miss the ferry.
First morning on the Outer Hebrides
I arrived at the ferry and pulled up behind some cyclists on electric bikes. One came over, introduced himself as Charlie and recognised me from the ferry yesterday. He explained that he was cycling the Hebridean Way with his three friends (Vince, Ron and George) who were all in their 70s and used to come away together on motorbiking holidays. They’d swapped the motorbikes for electric bicycles and were away once more. They invited me to sit with them on the ferry, which was very kind, and we discovered that we were heading for the same campsite that evening on the island of North Uist. It was on that ferry ride that a text from my friend Becci came through, saying that her sister in law, Issy, who we all used to sail with many years previously, had lost her battle with cancer. I’m not sure I was very good company for Charlie and the others after that, but didn’t feel I could explain why. I found myself fighting back tears yet again on this trip, and thought about Issy a lot from then on.
Taking the ferry to Eriskay
We landed on the island of Eriskay, and had a very steep cycle uphill where Charlie and the others passed me with their electric bikes. I stopped at the little shop in the hopes of buying some breakfast, as I was still only fuelled on one Cliff bar. All I managed to get were some more flapjack bars and some Nutella pastries. I gobbled a couple down and continued in alternating sunshine and rain, until I saw a bunch of four electric bikes leant up against a wall of a café. Although I hadn’t been cycling for long I decided to stop and get some cake and tea (because Lindsay had said not to pass up cake opportunities). I was greeted by Charlie and the boys and invited to sit with them, and very much enjoyed my cake, though I was feeling like three sweet breakfasts in a row was a little much. I set off a little before my new friends, but knew I’d see them before too long when they overtook me. There was a causeway from Eriskay to South Uist, with a triangular sign warning road users of otters crossing. Sadly, I didn’t see any otters!
Otter crossing signs on the causeway
South Uist was quite desolate in places, the rain came and went and it was quite windy. I had a proud moment where I opened my topbar bag, got a flapjack out, opened it and ate it all while cycling along. As I was crossing a causeway I also saw my first golden eagle, which was pretty exciting! I’d been cycling for a couple of hours when Charlie and his gang caught me up (I was surprised I kept ahead of them for so long). They gave me some Haribo and said they were hoping to find a café to stop for lunch, and I should look out for their bikes and join them. It was midday and the thought of lunch was a good one. However, I kept cycling and didn’t see any cafes. A little later I caught back up with Charlie. It was now 2pm and I was feeling pretty low on morale as I hadn’t eaten. We cycled on together and passed a Co-op. I think if I’d been on my own I would have given up on the café idea and got a sandwich, but the men were convinced there would be somewhere for a hot lunch soon. At 3pm we finally rolled into a hotel and managed to order food. The men ordered sandwiches but I opted for macaroni cheese and a coke. I was in desperate need of carbs, sugar and caffeine at this point, and vowed not to let myself get in such a state again.
A bit bleak! On South Uist
I took a different route to the campsite to Charlie and co, opting for a shorter route so I could get there before the forecast rain at 5pm to put my tent up. The men were staying in the bunkhouse there, so didn’t have to worry about that! They were very kind and did offer that I could hang out inside with them for the evening if the weather was bad (the forecast was for wind and rain). I finally cycled into the campsite having racked up 45 miles of cycling that day. I felt pretty done in, but the campsite owner welcomed me and told me to pitch up anywhere I liked, suggesting a sheltered spot might be best as bad weather was coming. I spent a while pondering where best to pitch my tent, and in the end put it right next to the shower block and made sure the pegs were pushed in as far as they would go.
The shower I had was incredible, and blow drying my hair felt so luxurious and warm. Rather than light my stove, I used the kettle in the campsite kitchen to boil water for a Firepot mushroom risotto. I got chatting to a guy in the kitchen who was also solo and camping. He said that the ferry hadn’t run to Harris that day because of bad weather, and it seemed unlikely it would run tomorrow either because a storm was coming in. I stared at him. I had to get to the next island as I had a hotel booked, and then I needed to get to Stornoway to get the ferry on Thursday. My plans only worked if every part of my travel worked. I picked at my dinner, suddenly losing my appetite as I worried about being delayed in getting back to my family. A lovely solo lady traveller called Tash then came into the kitchen and said that she had felt very tearful today as she hadn’t been able to get off the island either. At that point my eyes welled up and I fought back tears. I had to get home, this was a total nightmare! Charlie then came into the kitchen and I told him the bad news. We decided we’d all get up early and try and make it on the earliest ferry (9.30 am) before the bad weather hit, and all swapped numbers to keep in touch. It was a bit of a gamble as it was a 20 mile cycle to see whether the ferry was actually running, but there was a first come first served youth hostel next to the ferry terminal which I figured I’d stay in if the ferry wasn’t running. I also decided that rather than try and cycle to Stornoway on my final day that I’d take a ferry from Tarbert on the Isle of Harris over to the Isle of Skye, where I could catch a bus to Inverness for my train South. I thought I might feel sad not to make it to Stornoway, but I just wanted to get to my family on time.
My tent pitched on the North Uist campsite
I forced more risotto down me, had a hot chocolate and went back to my tent. I watched an episode of The Office to try and calm my racing heart, then lay down in the dark and closed my eyes. The wind didn’t come, and it rained on and off. And I didn’t sleep. I’d set my alarm for 6am and I must have dozed off eventually in the early hours, because the alarm woke me up. But I think I only got a couple of hours again. I started packing everything up, but again didn’t have time for my porridge, so ate a few of the pastries I got at the shop on Eriskay and a Cliff bar. Charlie and his friends left about 20 minutes before me, and then I rode out of the campsite, wishing Tash good luck (she was in her car and couldn’t book on the ferry, so was hoping there would be space for her).
The 20 miles to the Bernerey ferry was not a cycle I’d do again in any hurry. There was a headwind the entire way, it rained, the island of North Uist was bleak and boggy and I was in a rush to make it on time. And the ferry might not even be running. I tried to keep my spirits up when I realised they were getting very low by singing snatches of Taylor Swift songs out loud and shouting “Can I have a lift?!” when any vans went past (not often). I ate more flapjack and dreamed about a café with hot food after the ferry. After two hours and twenty minutes of cycling I reached the ferry terminal, and could see the ferry coming across the sea! This was surely a good sign. There were quite a lot of cyclists waiting, and I saw Tash at the front of the unbooked car queue. I wished her luck as we were told we could board the ferry, and wheeled my bike on board, lashing it up and heading inside to sit and look out of the window. I cheered when I saw Tash and her dog Jake walk through the door into the lounge, and she came rushing over feeling very relieved too. We sat together and had a big chat for the crossing. It turned out that she was a psychiatrist (I had a feeling she did something like that from her questioning the previous evening in the kitchen), and had come here because it was something she had always wanted to do. I asked if her partner had wanted to come and she replied with “he wasn’t invited!”. I felt admiration that she had done this just for herself and hoped that when my children were grown up I’d still be going on adventures (maybe with my dogs next time!). Vince brought me a hot chocolate he’d over ordered by mistake, and I was pleased I had my down jacket with me as it was very cold despite being inside.
There were twenty more miles to go before I’d reach the town of Tarbert and my hotel for the night. It seemed like I’d picked a really good night to book a hotel, because the storm was meant to be coming in later. Sadly there was no café when the ferry docked on the Isle of Harris, but the rain had slowed up and we all cycled off to see what lunch we could find. Harris immediately won my heart, with dramatic roads between big hills and huge white sandy beaches. The sun even made an appearance for some of the afternoon! And I saw my second golden eagle.
Isle of Harris cycling was fun!
In the distance I saw Charlie and co cycling off down a side-road which had a sign for hot food, so I followed. I’m very glad I did, because we found that the hot food was an honesty-box style bakery, with hot parsnip soup, vegetable curry pasties in the most delicious pastry I’ve ever tasted, and a variety of cakes. Feeling pretty caked out after all of my flapjack/pastry breakfasts I opted for soup and a pasty, knowing there was a big climb coming, and we all stood around enjoying our winnings. Charlie then sidled over and asked if I’d be so kind as to put on his cycling club’s gilet for a photo, as he tries to get someone else to wear it on every trip he goes on. I agreed and I’m pretty pleased I have photos of me and my new friends to look back on. I took far fewer photos than I would have liked, mostly because I kept my phone in a waterproof case attached to my handlebars and it was a pain to take it in and out of the case.
Hot lunch with Charlie and the gang!
With a full, cosy tummy I got back on my bike and headed back to the main road to take in more of Harris’ beautiful beaches. A while later I saw Charlie et al had stopped for coffee at another café, and so I stopped too to get some caffeine for the climb before Tarbert and my hotel. I was really enjoying my last day of cycling, and making sure I savoured every minute of it.
The Isle of Harris beaches were amazing!
Things got slightly desperate though on the final climb, as I really needed a wee after the coffee stop, but there wasn’t really anywhere off the side of the road that you could hide away from the frequent cars! I was very relived to find a brick sheep pen and waded through sheep poo to squat behind the wall. As I came back out of the pen who should arrive but Charlie, Vince, Ron and George! I had managed to time this very well! Feeling much better, I managed the final bit of the climb and then was treated to a long, winding downhill into the town of Tarbert. At one point I was passed by a trio of young Scottish students who said hi before carrying on. As I entered the town I saw my friends parked up outside the youth hostel sorting out their bags and bikes. I stopped and we said our goodbyes and wished each other luck for our onward journeys. I headed round the corner to check into my hotel. Oh, it was just bliss to walk into a clean, warm room with a clean bed and have a long, hot shower. I had also had the foresight to book myself a table in the restaurant, and treated myself to a Harris gin and tonic (which I hoped would knock me out to get a good nights sleep!). I unpacked everything out of my panniers and drybags, as a lot of my clothes were sweat or rain soaked and damp, and spread it all out on the floor. My clothes were also quite smelly! I wasn’t sure what to wear for dinner, but the least smelly and damp things were my thermals that I slept in, so I went down for dinner in striped merino leggings and t shirt. I grinned at what my mum would think if she knew.
Finally, a bed!
After my tasty dinner of local salmon and cranachan (there was pizza but somehow I didn’t fancy that) I went up to my room and watched The Office and phoned my boys. It got dark outside and the wind and rain really picked up. I spent a lot of time checking that the ferry over to Skye was still running for the next day, and finally managed to get a good night’s sleep.
Unpacking and drying everything out
The next morning I packed my panniers back up and went down to have a cooked breakfast (there were some wires crossed which meant I also got a very weird packed breakfast, consisting of a muffin, passionfruit yoghurt, Walkers smoky bacon crisps and an apple). I headed to the ferry terminal across the road and met the three students who had sped past me the day before. They asked where I’d slept the night before and I sheepishly told them I’d stayed in the hotel. They laughed and said they’d had an awful night in their tent nearly getting blown away. I felt very glad about the hotel! I also saw the guy who caught me backtracking on my first evening on Barra, and we sat together on the ferry. He was a bit odd and showed me a photo of a bee he’d seen, saying “I don’t know if you’re interested in this sort of thing”. I laughed and said it was sort of my job, and explained Little Robin Education to him. He then said his wife was a botanist and hated people who identified flowers by photographs, and the proper way is to use keys. When I said I had a PhD in Cell Biology he said his wife hated people with general biology degrees who tried to do botany. I thought his wife sounded like a barrel of laughs and spent some time outside alone watching Skye come into view with my spirits a bit dampened.
The ferry to the Isle of Skye
I’d booked a bus that would take me to Inverness, where I had a bed in the youth hostel waiting. I waited in the bus stop and chatted to a man who had walked the Hebridean Way over 2.5 weeks who was interesting. A bus then appeared and a driver got out and told me that I couldn’t bring my bike on the bus unless it was covered, because it would get mud and oil on all the luggage. I just stared at her. Was she really going to leave me stranded on Skye? She said I hadn’t read the website properly as it says you have to cover your bike, and wouldn’t let me on. She was also pretty mean to lots of the other passengers waiting to get on. I texted my husband who is a genius and said to wrap my bike in my tent. I asked her if she would accept that and she said yes, fine, but the next driver might not let me on (I had to change buses). I then had a look at the CitiLink website which says nothing of the sort, and says they will provide a “bike sock” and definitely didn’t say I wouldn’t be allowed on if I didn’t cover my bike). So I spent two hours sat on the bus feeling very anxious that the next driver might not let me on. When I got off the bus to change, the bus driver was helpful and nice, and I was very confused as she cheerily helped me lift my bike so that I didn’t rip the tent, and pointed me in the direction of the next bus stop.
The next bus driver didn’t give two hoots about the bike being wrapped and let me straight on. Phew! My crazy travel plans were actually working and I’d be able to get my train back to York the next day! I left the bus in Inverness, cycled twice around the bus stops as I couldn’t quite work out the way to go, and headed uphill to the youth hostel. I hadn’t stayed in a youth hostel since I was 18 in Newquay, and that one was REALLY grim. So I was pleasantly surprised at how clean this one was, and the five other women I shared a room with were quiet and considerate and just the right amount of friendly. I slept much better than I thought I might and felt bad when my alarm went off early so I could catch my train. I headed to the station, got on the train, hung my bike up in the bike compartment like a pro and enjoyed the journey south with my book (Landlines by Raynor Winn). At York station I got a sandwich and stood around eating it. A couple of Americans wandered over and admired my bike setup, saying they’d just been cycling e-bikes in Scotland and were impressed that my bike didn’t have a battery. This made me feel pretty good! I’d thought about cycling back to my Dad’s house, but I felt a bit woozy when I got off the train so decided to take the train there instead. I surprised my 97 year old Grandma by stopping in on my way back, and showed her all my photos and told her my stories. She and my Grandpa had spent a lot of time holidaying in their caravan all around the UK, so I feel like some of what I’m doing is treading in their footsteps. Then a quick stop in with my Dad and auntie I was driving back home.
Seeing my boys, husband and dogs was so joyful, I’m not sure I’ll ever forget the love in their faces and voices when they saw me. In the days that followed I quickly forgot about my time on the islands as I got back into my old routine. I felt a bit frustrated by this. I somehow thought this trip would mark a big turning point and change for me, and in reality it was just six days out of my normal life, which quickly returned once I was home and had to do all the usual school runs, dinner making, work etc. However, on reflection I do think the trip was good for me, and I learned a lot about myself and how I might adventure in the future. I learnt that I don’t sleep well in a tent and that I need to eat better. I learnt that I prefer to be with others and that six days was probably a bit too long for me to be away from my little boys (who are only four and seven). I also learnt that plans don’t always work out as you’d hoped, and next time I’d like to be able to take a deep breath and let go of the old plans. I suppose that’s a hard habit to break when you’re used to things going your way!
I tried to celebrate the things I’d done well, such as keeping going when the cycling was tough (thinking back to the race to the Bernerey ferry in the rain and headwind), connecting with new people, pitching my tent and using most of the things I’d packed. I was proud of myself for undertaking such a big trip on my own, all under my own steam and using mainly public transport to explore more of the UK.
And there were so many enjoyable moments amongst the hard ones, like seeing Rachel, Will and their little girl, seeing golden eagles, sharing a hot pasty with newfound friends, cycling on beautiful Harris, getting into my tent the first night on magical Barra, the shower and dinner in the hotel in Tarbert, and I absolutely loved wheeling my bike into the cavernous bellies of the ships and feeling excited about arriving at a new island.
Would I do a trip like this again? Maybe. But I think I would do things differently. I don’t think I’d camp again. The days were hard enough with the cycling to then not sleep very well. I go backwards and forwards on whether I’d go alone again. In a lot of ways I enjoyed the time with my thoughts, and I’m not sure I would have formed the new friendships that I did if I’d been with someone else. I tend to rely on others to do the talking if I’m in a group. It was also freeing not to have to worry about anyone else but myself. But there were times when the cycling was lonely and someone to share that with would have been nice.
Technical t shirts
Cycling shorts and leggings
Waterproof shoe covers
Merino base layers
First aid kit
Jetboil and gas
Cliff bars, chia charge bars
Hot chocolate sachets
Cash and coins for cake
Headtorch battery cable
Drive from Suffolk to Selby
Cycle to York, 15 miles
Train from York to Edinburgh
Cycle from Edinburgh station to Rachel’s house, 4.5 miles
Train from Haymarket to Glasgow Queen Street, then to Oban
Ferry from Oban to Castlebay, Barra
Cycle to Borve campsite, Barra, 5 miles
Ferry from Ardmhor, Barra to Eriskay
Cycle from Eriskay to Moorcroft holidays camp, 40 miles
Cycle from Moorcroft holidays camp site to Berneray, 20 miles
Ferry from Berneray to Leverburgh
Cycle from Leverburgh to Tarbert, 20 miles
Hotel Hebrides overnight
Ferry from Tarbert to Uig, Isle of Skye
Bus from Uig to Inverness
Stay in Inverness youth hostel
Train from Inverness to York
Train from York - Selby
Drive home to Suffolk