Travellers’ tales: Islands and Highlands

A woman is standing with her bike on the side of a road next to a road sign. She is wearing cycling shorts and helmet and a waterproof. Another bike with a packed pannier is leaning against the sign. The sign reads Failte do dh'Eilean Leodhais, with the English translation underneath: Welcome to the Isle of Lewis
Roisin coordinated the ferries and B&Bs
Last summer Tom and Roisin McGonigle explored some of the most scenic parts of Scotland by bike

Last July my wife and I cycled up the Outer Hebrides and down the Great Glen. The logistics looked complicated, but Roisin rose to the challenge from her Covid sickbed that Easter. The route was beautiful and there were few problems with wind, rain or traffic.

Most importantly, there were no midges! Knowing the area’s reputation, I had been watching Smidge’s Scottish Midge Forecast closely.

We chanced upon the North Uist Highland Games, and we sampled all the local fare. The Hebridean route profile was nearly all flat. A man in Tarbert exhorted us to take his friend’s taxi up Aird Asaig to Rhenigidale but we cycled it easily – the climb was nowhere near as bad as predicted. There was a little more climbing along the Great Glen, but nothing untoward.

We made nine ferry crossings in total. We were glad we had a reservation on the boat back to the mainland at Ullapool as it was full of returnees from the Stornoway HebCelt festival. 

The B&B accommodation was decent, though several provided beds only: post-Covid staff shortages meant breakfast often consisted of yoghurt, cereal and fruit packs that were left for us in the fridge. It was particularly difficult to get evening meals on the Hebrides; we always had to book a table at a local hotel.

The entire Hebrides were spectacular but the best cycling stretch of all was the Ballachulish-to-Oban cycle path. Unfortunately it was preceded by a horrible, unavoidable seven-mile ride on the A82 from Corran to Ballachulish. 

We were so glad we had at least heeded the advice to take the 7am ferry from Fort William to Camusnagaul, then cycle the 10 quiet miles to Ardgour before taking a ferry back across to Corran on the mainland.

We covered 320 miles in nine days of cycling, finishing up with an ascent of Ben Nevis for good measure – without bikes!

A man in full cycling kit and helmet is standing astride a flatbar touring bike with packed panniers. He is on a concrete bridge across a waterbody. There are mountains in the background.
Two rear panniers each was enough