Cycle Touring in the Outer Hebrides - Questions

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Cycle Touring in the Outer Hebrides - Questions

Postby ...simplicity... » Wed Jun 25, 2014 9:33 pm

Hi,

I hope this finds you all well. With the sun now shining, I've got to thinking my bike now deserves a well deserved tour to show my appreciation for having got me back and forth to work through the wetter months! I'm thinking of taking up to a week to explore the Outer Hebrides. Any advice you could offer on here would be massively appreciated:

1. My bike is a King of Mercia - Mercia 531 touring bicycle (road bike style), so my first concern would be will the bike be up to the terrain? Would a route from south to north take me on dirt tracks or can a road be followed throughout?

2. I'm planning on undertaking the trip on as a tight a budget I can, so:
a.) What would be the cheapest way to get onto the islands from London (Glasgow - Oman - Isle of Mull was my intial thoughts)?
b.) Will I be able to camp throughout the route? I will probably be traveling in either late July or August, so would anybody know if campsites are likely to be rammed at this time? Is wild camping an option?
c.) What would a realistic budget be from anybody that has undertaken the trip fairly recently?

3. Any suggested routes? Possible detours, stop offs etc...

4. Any other suggestions - creative routes to get back home if I could extend my annual leave for another week or so?

Thank you in advance as always. Look forward to your suggestions.

Max
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Re: Cycle Touring in the Outer Hebrides - Questions

Postby bogmyrtle » Wed Jun 25, 2014 10:42 pm

The detour via Oman is a bit ambitious for a week :) The bike will be fine as long as it's set up to carry everything you need. South to North is generally better wind wise but there are no guarantees. The benefit of wind is it keeps the midges away. They are at their worst in humid weather.
Look at a road map and you will see there is no need to go off road. Roads are tarred but there are works planned this summer so some of the roads may be newly top dressed and a bit gravelly.
I would leave Mull for another trip as you will need to return to Oban from Mull to get to Barra or South Uist.
Look at Hopscotch tickets on Caledonian Macbrayne website. There are not a huge number of official campsites. These tend only to be busy at festival times so check out what is going on at the time of your proposed visit. You can wild camp providing you are sensible and act responsibly. You can also camp at the Gatliffe Trust Hostels.
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Re: Cycle Touring in the Outer Hebrides - Questions

Postby garibeet » Wed Jun 25, 2014 11:28 pm

I did this trip a few years ago, not gonna bore you with the details but. Yes, as mentioned camping on the beaches etc is fine as long as you are responsible. It's a great tour and the ferry ride from Oban is amazing in itself. I did a circular route with the hopscotch tickets mentioned earlier, but an up and down route would be just as good. I lived in Oban at the time so that bit was easy, however I am fairly sure that you can get cheap sleeper tickets to Oban if you hunt and book well in advance. I am sure someone who knows better will be along to offer better advice on that.There are enough stores to get the provisions you need and a few coffee/tea shops too. It was a pretty cheap trip as I recall. Well worth the cost and effort to plan, camping on the beach watching the sun set out over the west coast is pretty amazing. Take a midge net mind!!
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Re: Cycle Touring in the Outer Hebrides - Questions

Postby stephenjubb » Thu Jun 26, 2014 12:02 am

1. My bike is a King of Mercia - Mercia 531 touring bicycle (road bike style), so my first concern would be will the bike be up to the terrain? Would a route from south to north take me on dirt tracks or can a road be followed throughout?

as mentioned will be fine as long as it can take the load

2. I'm planning on undertaking the trip on as a tight a budget I can, so:
a.) What would be the cheapest way to get onto the islands from London (Glasgow - Oman - Isle of Mull was my intial thoughts)?

use the train and book as far as possible in advance to get cheapest possible

b.) Will I be able to camp throughout the route? I will probably be traveling in either late July or August, so would anybody know if campsites are likely to be rammed at this time? Is wild camping an option?

yes you can wild camp, also look at hostels, some allow you to camp. good campsites in barra, lewis and harris. it is south and north unst where you will have to look at wild camping/hostels camping

c.) What would a realistic budget be from anybody that has undertaken the trip fairly recently?

Outer hebridges, if you do some wild camping, no cafes, beer abou £10 per day excluding ferries.

3. Any suggested routes? Possible detours, stop offs etc...

vartersay, completely stunning. barra airport on beach, mountains of south east harris, the beaches.

4. Any other suggestions - creative routes to get back home if I could extend my annual leave for another week or so?

take the ferry across to sky from outer Hebrides, more beautiful scenery

Thank you in advance as always. Look forward to your suggestions.

Max[/quote]
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Re: Cycle Touring in the Outer Hebrides - Questions

Postby Tigger » Thu Jun 26, 2014 12:10 am

Your sleeper choice (from London Euston) is;
to Glasgow Central then train to Oban (latter is bargain of century, £10.49 single for lovely 3hr trip)

or, for example, returning from Stornoway, ferry to Ullapool then bus with bike trailer to Inverness (less than a tenner).

You will have missed the sleeper bargains (released 12 weeks ahead) but the Caledonian Sleeper website is quite good for displaying prices. I failed to see how to book my bike online (if, indeed, it's possible) but did it all by phone. Booking the bike is essential (and free)!!

Recommend Phillips Red Map of the Outer Hebrides: one map (rather than 6 or more OS maps) just about enough detail. As mentioned, there aren't many roads. Your choice will be East or West in some cases (eg Barra and Harris) but otherwise one road!

I can't answer about your bike but managed fine on my hybrid with 32mm Marathons. The roads are much better than here in Essex.

And beg, steal, borrow or buy, Richard Barrett's "Cycling in the Hebrides", it's got all the info you need.

I'd be envious but I'll be on Lewis myself next week :lol: :lol: :lol:

Have fun!

Edited to add: sorry, after re-reading OP I'm not sure how you were planning to get to Glasgow, sleeper wasn't actually mentioned!
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Re: Cycle Touring in the Outer Hebrides - Questions

Postby skicat » Thu Jun 26, 2014 9:57 am

Regarding the two mentions of midges so far, I was very amused to discover there is a Scottish Midge Forecast website here, updated on a daily basis. Arguably more important than the weather forecast :lol:
The hurrier I go, the behinder I get
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Re: Cycle Touring in the Outer Hebrides - Questions

Postby ...simplicity... » Thu Jun 26, 2014 12:01 pm

Thanks for all the insightful responses as always. To explain a bit more on the bike, I recently toured the Transam on the same bike, so hopefully this should be fine for this! I was a little concerned the route may have gone off road, but I was always have the option of locking the bike off and having a little wander if I do fancy hiking off for the day? While I was in the US I didn't have any issues with leaving my bike about, I would assume the same for the Hebrides?

So, here's what I'm planning so far:

1. Train it from Euston to Glasgow (£70 return) which seems reasonable for the season.
2. Train it from Glasgow to Oban and spend a day here.
3. Get the ferry over first thing and start making my way north! I probably won't plan this portion, as from what you guys have said the route seems fairly easy to plot and wild camping will definitely be my option. Any more suggestions with regards to beaches or stop offs I have to visit will be much appreciated.
4. This is WHERE I COULD USE SOME HELP - what would be the best (price, worthy detours, time etc...) place to venture back to the mainland from? Stornoway? Detour to Skye? I can't seem to find a simple way to get back to Glasgow. Ideally, I would like to wake up in the tent one morning and be able to get back to Glasgow by the early evening to hop on the train back to London.

Sorry for the scatter gun of questions, but ideally I'd love to get this booked up ASAP, so again, thanks in advance and look forward to further suggestions

Max
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Re: Cycle Touring in the Outer Hebrides - Questions

Postby ...simplicity... » Thu Jun 26, 2014 12:02 pm

Also, if it helps, the dates I am looking at are : 22nd July to 29th July.

Thanks
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Re: Cycle Touring in the Outer Hebrides - Questions

Postby gloomyandy » Thu Jun 26, 2014 12:38 pm

A few tips:
* when travelling through south Uist try and get off the main road. It heads up the centre of the island which means you don't see some of the more interesting parts, there are various small tracks/roads that will let you explore the west coast, try some of them.
* Don't rush up through the Uists, try and enjoy them, a lot of people ride the length of those islands in a day, I think they are missing out.
* Make sure you spend some time exploring Berneray, it is a real gem of a place, not just the place to catch the ferry to Harris.
* Harris is tricky, the west coast has fantastic beaches, the road on the east coast (the golden road), is a wonderful road to ride (though hilly), if you can try and do both, oh and then there is the ride out to Hushinis/Huisinis.
* Than camp site at Lickisto has some great pitches and a nice Blackhouse/common room you can use to escape the midges and meet others if you want some company!
* The Gatliff trust hostels are basic but can be great fun, they are all in fantastic locations and a way to escape the weather if you need it.
* It can be very, very windy on those islands, think about what tent you want to take, I spent the night on Barra wondering if my Terra Nova mountain tent was up to the job it was, but not everyone is so lucky!
* If the weather is good then the Hebrides is a fantastic place to cycle, if it is bad it can be really hard work (a few years ago I rescued a couple that had been blown into a ditch on Lewis, we managed to squeeze their bikes into our hired minibus). Some days it is best to just sit out the weather.
* Make the most of the CalMac ferries they can make the journey part of the adventure (and they are very cheap if you are on foot/with a bike)!
* Only go to these islands if you are prepared for the consequences. For some of us they get deep under the skin. If this happens to you, then you may find yourself heading north far more often then you expected and become an island bore (guilty as charged). You may even be tempted to go and live there (looking at you you tigger!).

In terms of a route, a couple of years back I returned from Harris via Skye, Mallaig, Moidart, Ardnamurchan, Mull and then back to Oban. I found this a really enjoyable route. You could easily wake up in the tent on Mull and be on the train home in the same day. See https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o= ... 10600&v=90 for more detail then you probably want.

Have fun, I'd be envious except I'm off to North Uist in two weeks time (like I said it gets under your skin).

Andy
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Re: Cycle Touring in the Outer Hebrides - Questions

Postby jamesgilbert » Thu Jun 26, 2014 12:41 pm

One return option is to get the ferry from Tarbert to Uig (on Skye) then cycle across Skye to Armadale and the very short ferry crossing to Mallaig.

There's a direct (and very scenic) train from Mallaig to Glasgow.

Skye is busier than the Outer Hebrides but the scenery is stunning.
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Re: Cycle Touring in the Outer Hebrides - Questions

Postby stephenjubb » Thu Jun 26, 2014 12:46 pm

jamesgilbert wrote:One return option is to get the ferry from Tarbert to Uig (on Skye) then cycle across Skye to Armadale and the very short ferry crossing to Mallaig.

There's a direct (and very scenic) train from Mallaig to Glasgow.

Skye is busier than the Outer Hebrides but the scenery is stunning.


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Re: Cycle Touring in the Outer Hebrides - Questions

Postby gloomyandy » Thu Jun 26, 2014 12:55 pm

Almost forgot. The Skoon Art Cafe is well worth a visit if you are anywhere near (it is on the golden road Harris).
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Re: Cycle Touring in the Outer Hebrides - Questions

Postby bogmyrtle » Thu Jun 26, 2014 6:39 pm

Instead of spending the first night in Oban, I would get the afternoon ferry to Barra. The long daylight hours mean you can explore the Vatersay peninsula that evening and then head up towards the airport in the morning.
A bike does more miles to the banana than a Porsche.
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Re: Cycle Touring in the Outer Hebrides - Questions

Postby rfryer » Thu Jun 26, 2014 6:50 pm

gloomyandy wrote:Almost forgot. The Skoon Art Cafe is well worth a visit if you are anywhere near (it is on the golden road Harris).

Seconded! Iwas there yesterday, and they serve the best coffee and cakes you'll find on Harris. Having not visited for 20 years, I was amazed how many coffee shops and tourist destinations have now sprung up. For anyone not on a budget, it's now easy to find regular stops for sustenance.
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Re: Cycle Touring in the Outer Hebrides - Questions

Postby PaulSB » Fri Jun 27, 2014 6:42 am

Visit the sandwich and tablet shop on Barra harbour. Salmon baps to die for and probably the World's best tablet.
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