What does a typical Hebridean Way cycle trip look like?
We plan everything, but nothing will prepare you what you will experience cycling through the epic landscapes of the Outer Hebrides.
The majority of our customers do the Hebridean Way cycle tour in six days. Each day is about 35 miles of cycling. At a leisurely pace of 10 miles an hour, you spend in total 3-4 hours in the saddle. This leaves you plenty of time to stop to admire the views, take a photo, walk on the beach, drink coffee, eat cake, visit a museum, sample the local whisky, buy a souvenir.
You can cycle the Hebridean Way any time you want. The route is all public roads. It is not an event organised for a specific date. Typically the season is from March to October.
We offer a self-guided Hebridean Way package. We plan all aspects of your trip, like booking your accommodations, inter-island ferry crossings, optional bike hire, transfers, tour guides, maps, information about attractions. You self-govern your tour.
Our customer support team is available on the islands to help you in any way we can to make your journey a memorable one. We have a bike break down and recovery service.
Assuming you are hiring our bike(s), you make your way to Oban, which means the little bay, a resort town within the Argyll and Bute council area of Scotland. You can do this by car or train. A stunning trip through that part of the Highlands which will get you really in the right mood.
Please park your car ( we will advise where), or step off the train and make your way to the ferry terminal building where you will see the Calmac ferry waiting for you to board.
Leaving at 13.30 the ferry makes its way to Castlebay on Barra, the Outer Hebrides. In just under five hours. Plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, have a meal and look out for the islands to appear on the horizon.
Arriving in Castlebay, the main village of the island of Barra, you will see Kisimul Castle leased by the chief of the Clan MacNeil to Historic Scotland for 1000 years for the annual sum of £1 and a bottle of whisky.
Depending on your arrangement, a taxi can be available to take you to your first accommodation where your bikes will be ready. Or your hybrid bikes or e-bikes are ready at the terminal building, labelled with your name, guidebook in the panniers together with the helmet, spare tube, pump and small toolkit. The bikes will have a lock but are not locked when you collect them.
Enjoy your first evening and night in the Outer Hebrides.
Making your way to the starting point of the Hebridean Way, you cycle to another island crossing a causeway, called Vatersay. It is the southernmost and westernmost inhabited island in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland and Great Britain. From here you cycle the west coast route passing one after the other Atlantic beach to the inter-island ferry port in Ardmhor. Plan your time in such a way that you can make the 15.45 departure to Eriskay, your next island.
The crossing is 40 minutes crossing the Sound of Barra. Look out for dolphins and other wildlife. Arriving on Eriskay, which is old Norse for "Eric's Isle", you have a wee climb up and then enjoy the spectacular view over the Sound and the island itself. It is the real Whisky Galore island: it was just off Eriskay that the SS Politician ran aground in 1941 with its famous cargo.
In 2001 the causeway to South Uist was opened. Your next accommodation will be about an hours cycling from here. Your itinerary will propose place(s) for you to eat — time to reflect on your first-day cycling in the Outer Hebrides. Send or share your favourite pictures with friends and family.
Approx 25 miles
From South to North Uist, cycle the best examples of machair in the Outer Hebrides. Machair is a fertile low-lying grassy plain which is found on part of the northwest coastlines of Ireland and Scotland, in particular, the Outer Hebrides. The route is very clearly signposted, and our guidebook will show you places to visit.
Enjoy a packed lunch by the ocean or eat out in one of the Outer Hebridean Way PitStops along the route.
Cross the South Ford Causeway to Benbecula which was completed in 1983 replacing the bridge. Lying between North and South Uist Benbecula is relatively flat. There is a dense cluster of lochs across almost the entire island. Rueval (Ruabhal) is the highest point on Benbecula at 124m. Climb it for a 360 degree view of water, islands, beaches and mountains. Or discover Cula Bay Beach which can be accessed through Nunton or the township of Aird. Shop in Balivanich, the main centre of the island.
Cross the five-mile North Ford Causeway which was opened in 1960. It is the longest causeway in the Outer Hebrides.
Enjoy a night evening in the West Coast area of North Uist.
Approx 40 miles
You will cycle through Balranald Nature Reserve. You can visit the island of Vallay. Vallay or Bhalaigh, as it is called in Gaelic, is a large tidal island located off the north coast of North Uist. It can be accessed on (bare)foot for about 2 hours either side of low tide.
Making your way to Berneray, you will be spoilt for choice for places to explore. Berneray is from the Old Norse "Bjorn's island". On early summer evenings, you can sometimes hear snipe drumming and even the rasp of a corncrake. The otters of Berneray are out during the day more often than on the mainland. Check-in with Eilidh at the CoralBox gift shop for a souvenir and nice chat.
The ferry crossing to Harris is precisely one hour. The Sound of Harris is shallow, full of islands, islets and rocks. As a result, the route taken by the ferry is a roundabout one. On a warm day, you can sit outside and watch the gannets diving into the clear ocean water.
Arriving on Harris, you will follow the breathtakingly beautiful West Coast road taking you to what has been voted best beach in Britain: Luskentyre Beach. Plenty of opportunities and space to enjoy the epic Atlantic scenery.
Approx 42 miles
The day of the mountains. A pass will take you over the Clisham which at 799 metres (2,621 ft) is the highest mountain in the Outer Hebrides and the only Corbett. Expect your efforts to climb the pass to be rewarded with one of the best views. Using your lowest gear, it doesn't take too long to reach the top of the pass, and you are in no hurry. Take the time to enjoy the views. If you have hired our e-bikes, you may want to switch to the plus mode, so the pedal-assist gives you that extra power.
Just before the descent on the other side, stop to see the Isle of Lewis in front of you. Gravity will do its work now, taking you down the hills to the border between the Isle of Harris and the Isle Lewis, which are not two separate islands. It is for you to discover why this is.
Harris is hilly, and Lewis is comparatively flat. Lewis contains the deepest lake on any offshore island in the British Isles. Loch Suaineabhal has a maximum depth of 226 feet and an overall mean depth of 108 feet.
The trip takes you to Lochs which is the area to the south-east of Lewis and is divided into three sections: Kinloch, North and South Lochs.
The latter is known as Pairc, after its previous use as a deer park. The area is rich in wildlife. Lochs has some of the most attractive small villages on Lewis, as well as some of the most productive fish farms.
No doubt a good night sleep in this area after crossing the hills.
Approx 24 miles
On route to the famous Callanish Stones. Finishing here will be the highlights of the day. The stones were erected in the late Neolithic era and were a focus for ritual activity during the Bronze Age. Numerous other ritual sites lie within a few miles. These include at least three other circles, several arcs, alignments and single stones; many are visible from the main site. The most impressive lie just under a mile south-east of the main Callanish Stones, and originally consisted of circles of stones at least eight in number. The existence of other monuments in the area implies that Callanish was an active focus for the prehistoric religious activity for at least 1500 years.
The route takes you through Achmore. The village is the only one on Lewis which does not lie on the coast. It has a fascinating history as it was created in around 1823 in Lochs to accommodate tenants that had been evicted from other parts of the parish and island. Visit the site where you can see the hill range called the "Sleeping Beauty".
Walk amongst the stones and imagine the stories they can tell.
Approx 20 miles
The last day in the saddle. Heading for the lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis, the finish line. Leave early because there is so much to see and visit on your way to the most north-westerly part of Lewis.
Dun Carloway Broch, Gearrannan Blackhouse village, the Norse Mill, Arnol Blackhouse, too many sites and places to visit and explore. You will have to come back some other day to take it all in.
The Butt of Lewis is a dramatic finish to an epic cycle trip through the Outer Hebrides. It is as far north as you can go and marked by the Butt of Lewis lighthouse.
You will have cycled at least 185 miles by now; you covered 10 islands, 6 causeways and 2 ferry crossings. A great achievement. An active and relaxing holiday which will invigorate and rejuvenate your body and mind.
Our team will be there with our minibus to transfer you to Stornoway, which is almost 30 miles away. Time to reflect on your journey.
Stornoway offers plenty of places to eat and celebrate your achievement.
Approx 36 miles
If you have parked up your car in Oban, it will be an early rise, at 6:15 am our shuttle bus will take you from Stornoway to the isle of Barra for your last night stay in the Outer Hebrides. Our customers enjoy this trip, being driving in comfort and safety over most of the same roads they have cycled. Often they spot things they didn't see on their way up. Sharing the bus with fellow cyclists, everyone is reliving the moments.
Your ferry to Oban will leave at 7.55 am arriving in Oban at 12.40 pm.
You will have so many unique stories to tell your family and friends when you return home.
How do you explain the smell of a peat fire?
The many unplanned encounters with the locals who take the time sharing their stories?
That you saw the seals revelling in the sun, you bought eggs fresh from the croft, you perfectioned the "passing place" wave on the single track roads, you learned to speak a few words of Gaelic:
mar sin leibh !!
Elevation graph of the Hebridean Way
The total elevation gain is 11,352 ft.
The maximum elevation is 656 ft, cycling the Clisham pass.