This year I decided to cycle The Hebridean Way, Outer Hebrides.
Having declined a really thoughtful offer from Mrs Vicar (thanks, Alison) of a lift to the staion because of threatening deluge, I duly set off from home on the morning of Friday 1 June to cycle to Bristol Parkway for the first of 3 trains to Oban (via Edinburgh and Glasgow).
Delays on the first train (signal failures) meant I was unable to get on the (very full) second train with my bike (cycle reservation not available), consequently missing my connection from Glasgow to Oban and arriving rather late in the evening to a gentle sunset. Glad I had pre-booked accommodation (single room in Backpackers Plus Hostel).
A rather inauspicious start: rain on the train and fog that disrupted all the sailings to various islands, including Barra. Instead of leaving at 1.15pm to arrive at a reasonable 6.15pm, we left Oban at 5.15pm arriving at Castlebay on the Isle of Barra and leaving the ferry at 10pm.
But it was still light (enough to cycle) and so I went a few miles towards Vatersay.
From Castlebay, I cycled south towards Vatersay.
After slogging up a rather steep hill to the war memorial, I thought that was enough for the night (I'd needed to have gone on 4 1/2 miles to get to the offical starting point of the Hebridean Way, which, at 11pm, was a pedal too far) and so came down a bit and found a patch of grass where I pitched my tent - by now it was 11.30pm!
No midges :-)
Undoubtedly, beautiful scenery: fine, white sandy beaches; clear, blue/green sea.
But there was a heck of a headwind most of the way up the islands (the prevailing winds should have meant a helpful tailwind), making it tedious cycling in the lower islands, even though they were much flatter than Harris and Lewis in the the north.
I cycled the Hebridean Way in 4 days, roughly 50 miles a day. What with the headwind and the hills, it was fairly tough going, but really enjoyable; especially as there was no rain at all - despite perpetual forecasts on my phone saying to the contrary. I have to say, I thought that a huge blessing. :-)
A pub in the middle of nowhere kindly offered me a pitch in their garden; and said I could use their facilities (ie loo) - but then they locked all the doors at night, forcing me to go in their garden?! I found it rather bizarre that, seemingly, they preferred me to do that, rather than leave a discreet back door open.
Roads in the Outer Hebrides
Inverness to Edinburgh. Then Edinburgh to Bristol Parkway. No delays this time :-)
My encounters with rail staff were mostly positive: incredibly helpful and pleasant. One exception, though, when they were just plain rude. :-(
My constant astonishment is the lack of spaces on long distant trains for bicycles (2 reserved; 1 unreserved), whereas trains and cycles should be such a wonderful combination. What a shame.
Finally, after months of not cycling very much (I'm very wimpish these days), I felt I've got back in the saddle, after enjoying a short cycle ride today. As a result, I'm keen to be cycling regularly again.
Today's route incorporated Aust coffee morning (coffee, choc cake and chat with the locals), then Routes 4 & 41 to Severn Beach, a lovely scenic route, carrying on along to Compton Greenfield, made interesting by going through the industrial estate. All Saints Church at Compton Greenfield and on to Pilning, then past The Plough (without stopping!) and back to Almondsbury, where I collapsed onto an inviting chair in our Community Shop to recover :-). The last leg home involved a steep ascent from the village up to the busy A38. I used to be able to cycle all the way up, but currently am obliged to walk the last section :-(
The rain desisted from dampening the joy of my ride, even allowing the sun to show its welcome face for a short while.
Aust coffee morning is the 2nd Saturday of every month and has become a regular with some of us from the village ever since we discovered it on a church bike ride last September during the Ride + Stride event.
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