Outer Hebrides

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)

Outer Hebrides

Postby IanCh » Sat May 03, 2014 6:23 pm

I'm cycling the Hebridean end to end (South to North) in a couple of weeks. I'm just checking my route using google street view. The roads look fine up until Tarbert but the two lane, and very straight A859 to Stornoway, looks as if traffic will travel along it at a fast speed. Can anyone comment on how safe this section is? We'll be touring so laden with pannier bags. Many thanks.
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Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby Norman H » Sat May 03, 2014 6:42 pm

I don't think you need have any fears. The roads are seldom busy in the Hebrides and if you are used to the pot holed hell of the rest of the UK, you're in for a treat. If you are worried just avoid the “rush hour”. I would be more concerned about the winds, especially where they spill off the tops of mountains. At one point on Harris last year, on a fast descent, three of us were blown right across the road.
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Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby bogmyrtle » Sat May 03, 2014 9:43 pm

It's fine but if it bothers you and you want to go into Stornoway take the A858 to Acha Mor and then take the minor road into Stornoway. The only times roads get remotely busy (and it's a very different kind of busy) are when people are going to or leaving work.
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Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby Gearoidmuar » Sun May 04, 2014 8:37 am

South to North is DEFINITELY the way to go.
About 10 years ago I did it North to South, having been warned on-line, but it suited me.
I timetrialled North-Uist to Lochboisdale, which is pretty flat into a gale for about 69 miles at 9mph. Was rashered!
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Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby gloomyandy » Sun May 04, 2014 3:09 pm

Two years ago I spent the best part of week battling into a headwind going South to North, but yes I'd agree that South to North is usually best! I'm planning a short visit next week, but just to North Uist and then Harris and Lewis. Exploring a few of the places I've not spent much time in before. So it is bound to rain!
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Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby donnieban » Sun May 04, 2014 3:35 pm

When its wet and windy you tend to realize how open to the elements the Western Isles actually is. Don't bank on bus shelters and public toilets etc for shelter - they are few and far between. Please beware of strong side gusts if you use cleats. I have been blown off the road and have experienced 3 mph cycling into the wind on both recent trips.

http://www.xcweather.co.uk/forecast/stornoway,_uk is the best forecasting tool available for fishermen and for the same reasons it can prove very helpful for cyclists.

Sorry if the above darkens the skies before your tour but preparation and good kit is a must.

All the best with your trip.

Donnie
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Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby PH » Sun May 04, 2014 5:04 pm

That road is fine. How long are you going for? I couldn't do then justice in less than a month. It's not a tour that really lends itself to linear routes, many of the best places (And roads) go out and back, would you do the East or West coast of Harris? both spectacular in completely different ways. The road out to Reinigeadal is well worth riding, but the only thing to do when you get there is to turn round and ride back, likewise Scalpay, Huisinis, my favorite Mealasta and many others. If you don't have a lot of time, you might consider picking a smaller area and covering it in more detail.
It's also worth noting that most of the local buses will take bikes, or at least this was the case 7 years ago, I think it's at the drivers discretion, but we were able to use them to retrace from Stornaway back to Tarbert to avoid a headwind :)
Last edited by PH on Mon May 05, 2014 3:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby gloomyandy » Sun May 04, 2014 6:06 pm

Damn Mealasta, that's another place to add to my list! I agree you can easily spend a month or more on the Islands (well I could), now getting a month of good weather, that would be a fine trick. That's one of the reasons for my North Uist/Harris trip. I'm planning on concentrating on a much smaller area so I can explore some of the areas I missed out last time.
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Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby Cadair Idris » Mon May 05, 2014 2:45 pm

Where are you starting from? Will you be camping? Can provide some suggestions for good spots to visit as I've spent a good deal of time in the Western Isles, including several times south to north. Have even a written a book on the subject - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Photographers-W ... 0859767043.

If you have the time, you can make a day trip south from Castlebay to Mingulay, an island that was evacuated in the early 20th century. Also, and again if you have the time (and in this case the £s too), you might consider taking a day trip to St Kilda from Leverurgh, Harris, or from near Uig on west coast of Lewis with Seatrek.

If camping, the machair at Vatersay would be a nice spot for your first night. If needing accommodation, you probably know about the Gatliff Trust hostels already, but might be worth mentioning you can camp at each spot too (Howmore, South Uist; Berneray; and Rhenigidale, Harris).

I've mentioned the west coast of Lewis already. If in tent, wild camping on the hills above Mangursta beach is great. Also, there's a camping spot with limited facilities next to Uig sands.
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Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby IanCh » Mon May 05, 2014 5:09 pm

Thank you for all of your comments. My main worry was potentially fast moving traffic on that wide stretch of dead straight road but it seems I do not need to worry about that. I'll answer the other questions about how long the trip is and are we camping? Well, the trip is very brief, I'm afraid - it's our first visit so we'll be doing Vatersay to Stornoway in three days. Something about a) not being away from wives for too long and b) some still working with poor holiday entitlement. We won't be camping - we prefer the after-ride comfort of four star hotel accommodation. I like the suggestion of the bus to Stornoway if the going is too tough. Maybe after this trip we'll yearn for a return to explore the other suggested detours.
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Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby bogmyrtle » Mon May 05, 2014 7:26 pm

If you haven't cycled on single track roads before, just make sure you don't hold up traffic. There was a bit of a fuss a while ago when locals were complaining about cyclists hogging the road. When you approach a passing place always check to see if anything is coming and move into the passing place if necessary to let the vehicles past.
A bike does more miles to the banana than a Porsche.
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Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby Mark1978 » Mon May 05, 2014 7:30 pm

bogmyrtle wrote:If you haven't cycled on single track roads before, just make sure you don't hold up traffic. There was a bit of a fuss a while ago when locals were complaining about cyclists hogging the road. When you approach a passing place always check to see if anything is coming and move into the passing place if necessary to let the vehicles past.


Indeed and this equally applies if you are driving a car too!
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