For a girl who was born and brought up in Scotland, I have explored very little of my home country. So, last year, I decided this needed to change and I booked a staycation to the Outer Hebrides. I could think of no better way to see the islands than on two wheels. I love cycling but I’m not so keen on the maintenance and planning side, so I booked through Wilderness Scotland where all of that was taken care of for you.
Fast forward a year and a few delays later, I finally packed up and went away for 6 days touring Barra, Uist, Harris and Lewis, to name just a few. I did not really know what to expect. I have always known that Scotland had one of the most beautiful landscapes but I wasn’t fully prepared for what the islands had to offer.
Every day we cycled anywhere between 30 and 50 miles. We started in Barra and had lunch at the most scenic beach on Vatersay under the beautiful Scottish sun. From there, the weather went downhill but the cycling never disappointed. The most challenging day on paper was on Harris, with over 4000 feet of climbing and the longest of our days on the bike.
The quiet, undulating route around the Golden Road was nothing short of spectacular. I did not think the scenery could match what I had seen on Barra but I actually had a sore face from smiling so much. Around every corner, not only was there another hill but an even more impressive view! The driving rain for the last ten miles did not dampen our spirits and when we were met by two Highland Coos on the road, before the decent into Tarbert, it was a fantastic end to one of my favourite day’s on my bike. The Harris gin in the evening did not disappoint either!
The mix of culture, cycling, seafood and gin was just the perfect combination. Our two guides, Lucy and Craig, were phenomenal. Before going on the trip, I had been slightly concerned as to how I would feel with 6 consecutive days on the bike, but the upbeat spirit of Craig and Lucy, along with their meticulous planning of all our routes and their sheer enthusiasm for being in the outdoors, meant that I did not even notice the mounting pain in my legs until day 6 was complete.
We finished the route at the Butt of Lewis. The temperature had dropped about 8 degrees from our first day but that was no excuse not to jump into the sea and ‘swim’ with the locals (seals)!
One of my favourite moments on the bike was our last morning. We woke early to travel out to the Callanish Stones for sunrise. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side. The heavy wind and rain meant that we were lucky to see first light let alone sunrise, but it was an experience nonetheless. We were due to cycle back to Stornoway but the weather did put off some of the group.
Never one to let a little rain stop me, I opted to jump on the bike for the last ten miles. With a tail wind allowing us to cycle at around 40kph (don’t worry it was a national speed limit road), with little effort, I was in my element.
220 miles later, I can honestly say that the Outer Hebrides was a trip of a lifetime. It was made all the more special by being able to capture every moment at my own pace, on my bike. With staycations becoming more and more popular, I would recommend anyone, no matter how experienced a cyclist you are, to get out and explore your home country. There is really nothing quite like it.
Now to book the next cycling trip..!