8 Scottish islands, 6 ferries and 4 friends all add up to an epic cycling adventure. We cycled across Barra, Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula, Grimsay, North Uist, Skye, mainland Scotland and Mull.
We started from home in Taynuilt riding to Oban. (If you live further afield and need overnight accommodation there are three fab Independent Hostels in the centre of Oban, namely Corran House, Oban Backpackers and Backpacker Plus Oban.) It rained solidly for the 5 hour ferry crossing to the Isle of Barra. We overnighted in Castlebay which was full of people. It transpired that lots of people start cycling adventures in Castlebay! Fortunately we had booked the famous Cafe Kisimul for dinner and had a great curry to start the trip off.
Fortunately the next morning dawned dry and we enjoyed a ride to the sunny beaches of Vatersay. Then off we rode to the north coast of the island to watch a plane landing on the beach! In fact there were beautiful sandy beaches everywhere. A quick ferry took us to stunning Isle of Eriskay and a ride up the Uists. Two days here enabled us to cycle unencumbered to the bird reserve on the west coast and see and hear the elusive corncrake. More like a sieve than an island, North Uist was full of short eared owls and the machair was in full bloom. There was a whole selection of different orchids as well as buttercups and vetch. Our route took us over lots of causeways and only a few hills, although the wind can be something to contend with. Just one note of warning, you do have to plan shops and cafes.
We had an early ride to catch the ferry from Loch Maddy to Uig on the Isle of Skye. A full Scottish breakfast and a sleep on board set us up nicely for the rest of the day. The ride through Portree and Sligachan was good with some nice hills by contrast with the relative flat of the outer Hebrides. The road did get busier towards Broadford and unfortunately the coastal route was shut due to a landslide.
In Broadford we stayed in the delightful Skye Basecamp, (just look at the view out of the bedroom window!). It is run very efficiently by Kat. She has invested in lots of en suite bathrooms which made it like staying in a hotel. We ate in Cafe Sia, their wood fired pizzas were absolutely delicious and just what we needed after a long day in the saddle. From Broadford we cycled along part of the old road to Armadale where we had trouble with cows who seemed to think the road was their own! A quick ferry to Mallaig and a ride past more stunning sandy beaches to Arisaig and onwards to Lochailort. Here we turned to follow the edge of awe inspiring Loch Ailort to Glen Uig for a hill across to remote Loch Moidart. Another hill followed and led us up and over to Acharacle. The countryside levelled out into a beautiful flood plain at the end of long Loch Sheil and we had a lovely ride to the very welcome hotel at the end of a long day.
The following day we rode to Salen and then to Strontian which is small but quite a centre for this remote area of Scotland. A welcome shop and cafe (both in short supply around these parts) and a rest before the steep hill into the wilds of Morven. There was nothing here, a few sheep and very green. Some beautiful descents to the river Aline and the Ardtonish Estate. The Estate is well worth a walk around. It has a cafe and shop selling fresh produce. We stayed the night in Loch Aline before catching a ferry to Fishnish on Mull. Another ferry from Craignure, just down the road, took us over to Oban and back home. There’s certainly more to explore on Mull and plenty of other Independent Hostels to try out. We will save all that for next time.