I’ve always had a little wanderlust in my soul, although it can sometimes take me a few years to act upon it.
Travelling the world was a big dream in my final year at Uni. Back in those days, taking a gap year had not really caught on and I was keen to start earning. I finally booked that round the world flight ticket when I was in my 30’s with a mortgage.
Around 25 years ago, I decided that loading up a bike and travelling through France would be a fantastic way to travel. The dream of camping by the side of the road, eating cheese and baguettes and drinking local red wine has stayed with me all that time.
It’s still on my list of things to do but, in my defence, most of my holidays since then have been travelling independently around Europe on climbing trips so the whole holidaying by bike idea was just not on my radar.
That changed when I discovered a love of bikepacking earlier this year. I found that overnight bivvies on my mountain bike fed my soul and my sense of adventure. It was only a matter of time before multi-day travel on a fully loaded up bike nudged into my consciousness.
When I first heard about cycling the Hebridean Way on social media, I knew immediately that the combination of visiting Scottish Islands and multi-day bike touring was going to be my new goal.
If you’ve never come across anything about the Hebridean Way, let me tempt you…
It’s based in the Outer Hebrides on quiet roads, often single track with passing places, and covers 185 miles (Vatersay to the Butt of Lewis). The recommended direction to cycle is south to north due to the prevailing wind normally being at your back and it takes in 10 islands, 6 causeways and 2 ferries.
Incidentally, I should point out that there’s a separate Hebridean Way walking route which follows a different route.
We decided not to tackle the full distance on this trip for a number of reasons – not least that we were vastly inexperienced with cycle touring and I was on my little Orange Diva mountain bike (Diva Dee) with knobbly tires so there was a massive unknown element about the kind of distance we would be able to cover each day.
Our plan became very fluid and we decided to just start at Vatersay and cycle until we needed to turn round for our ferry home.
So on a hot sunny day in May, we loaded up the van with borrowed panniers from Peak Cycling UK and a borrowed Genesis Fortitude from 18 Bikes for Jason (otherwise known as Ride Holme) who was unable to add panniers to his Cotic bike. Thanks guys, you honestly gave us a massive helping hand to make this trip happen.
Driving to Oban, we’d nothing planned other than a map where we’d copied down the locations of some campsites and shops. I later found out that these were not the best/recommended places, they were the only places.
We had no idea of where to camp the night before the ferry. No ferry booked. No clue where to stay when (if) we arrived on the islands. No concept of how far we would travel up the islands.
And you know what…I felt my first real sense of freedom on the road since travelling the world back in my 30’s.
It was sheer excitement.
Were we naiive?
Did we get very far?
Was I able to pedal day in day out with a loaded down bike?
What was it like in the Outer Hebrides?
Well, I reckon that’s too much to answer in just one blog post – you’d get fed up reading so many words! Instead, keep your eyes peeled for a series of posts about the trip 😉
Posts in the series:
1. Getting started
2. Barra and Vatersay
3. Barra, Eriskay and South Uist
4. North Uist and Berneray
5. North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist
6. South Uist, Eriskay and Barra
7. Bike packing kit list