Tag Archives: South Uist

Hebridean Way: Day 2 – South Uist, Benbecula, Grimsay causeway

Distance cycled 42.2 miles / 67.9 km
Cumulative distance cycled 74.7 miles / 120.3 km
Islands visited (daily total) South Uist, Benbecula, Grimsay
Total islands visited 6 of 10
Average speed 9.4 mph / 15.1 kmph
Weather conditions Partly cloudy, headwind

Weather being much the same as the day before made for an easy and very enjoyable start to our second day and by the end of the day we’re over half-way through the islands! Julie had found an architectural trail of the Outer Hebrides and along the route on South Uist is the little ‘brutalist’ church Our Lady of Sorrows. I’m a big fan of the brutalist architectural style which explains why I enjoyed Russia so much!

Our Lady of Sorrows church on South Uist, Outer Hebrides

The ‘brutalist’ church Our Lady of Sorrows on South Uist, Outer Hebrides

We continued along the western coastline of South Uist and after stopping at a tiny cemetery containing Commonwealth war graves, we completely failed to find the Cladh Hallan Roundhouses, even though we’d seen a photo, found a signboard, and had some rough co-ordinates we still weren’t quite sure what we were looking for! When the route re-joined the main road we stopped at a Co-op for provisions and received a wild-camping spot recommendation from a lone cyclist enjoying his 4 days of leave from working on the ferries that service the islands.

Then disaster strikes – Julie’s pannier rack breaks after one too many cattle grids. We’ve a full toolkit so after a spot of lunch we bust out the cable-ties and patch it up as best we can until we reach the house of one of 3 bicycle repair places listed on our map – armed with only a phone-number we find out he’s only 3 miles away! When we arrive he nods approval at our bodge, but he only has front salvaged pannier racks. “Stornoway’s your only bet for a new one”, he says and adds a washer to hold it together while we make friends with his 2 sheepdogs, then he checks we have spare cable-ties (we do) and won’t take any payment whatsoever “because I can’t guarantee it’ll hold”.

Cable-tied rear bike pannier

Our improvised roadside repair – fortunately the break left an ‘n’ shape sitting over the bolt so the cable-ties just had to stop it jumping out. Spoiler alert.. the addition of a washer and some careful riding makes it all the way home to Newcastle!

The final section on South Uist is on the main fast road through the centre of the island and while it wasn’t busy and we found the traffic very courteous to laden cyclists, we were pulling in often to let cars, trucks and motorhomes past. It seemed like we’d no sooner get our speed up than we would need to pull over which was a little frustrating.

It’s a short causeway to Benbecula and again the route takes us along the western coast. The afternoon sun is out and we’re feeling good so we skip the proposed campsite and its luxuries and press on to our first wild camping experience!

Tent pitched by the side of a causeway

Our first wild campsite experience – the instructions were “there’s a gap in the wall along the causeway onto a little outcrop, you’ll be hidden behind the wall with lovely views and a little breeze to keep the midges down.” A delivery truck had nabbed the lay-by but we were knackered and decided to pitch up anyway!

Hebridean Way: Day 1 – Vatersay, Barra, Eriskay, South Uist

Distance cycled 29.9 miles / 48.1 km
Cumulative distance cycled 32.5 miles / 52.3 km
Islands visited (daily total) Vatersay, Barra, Eriskay, South Uist
Total islands visited 4 of 10
Average speed 8.9 mph / 14.3 kmph
Weather conditions Started overcast but quickly cleared, blue skies & sunshine

We woke to overcast skies and a bit of a breeze (enough to keep the midges off as Ronald, the campsite owner, said). We turned back towards the south and were soon climbing the steep hill to the war memorial overlooking Castlebay, then zooming down past stacks of lobster pots to the causeway onto our second island, Vatersay. The official start of the Hebridean Way is in the village on tiny Vatersay so we rode the road around the hills, past the wreckage of a WW2 plane crash and towards the spectacular beach as the sun started to break through the clouds. The beaches on the Hebrides are incredible with bright white sand and turquoise water.

Cyclists at the sign marking the start of the Hebridean Way on Vatersay

At the trail start in Vatersay (photo credit and thanks to fellow cyclist Henry!)

There were quite a few other cyclists as well as campervans on Vatersay but we didn’t hang around, after the obligatory photo at the start marker we headed back the way we’d come and north across Barra admiring the many small coves and beaches and spotting an eagle soaring overhead as we crossed the island’s centre towards the airport. Barra has the only airport in the world where scheduled flights use a runway on a tidal beach. We’d looked up the flight arrival times in advance (2 per day from Glasgow) and were aiming to get there to see the 12.45pm land. We were running a little late when Andrew spotted a plane overhead, and with a quick dash we just managed to crest a hill with a view down the beach to see it landing 10 minutes early.

Plane landing on beach runway at Barra airport

Beach airport on Barra (if you zoom in you can just see the plane to the left of the airport buildings)

After a picnic lunch, we leisurely explored a bit further along the airport road before retracing our steps to wait for the ferry across the Sound of Barra to Eriskay. We had enough waiting time to enjoy an excellent coffee and homemade cake from the small cafe at the terminal, one of the few businesses on the islands which is open on Sunday. Another small island, Eriskay is where SS Politician, loaded with crates of whisky, ran aground in the 1940s much to the delight of the locals, and the basis for the storyline of the 1949 film Whisky Galore. After a short climb up the hill at the centre of the island, we were coasting down to the pub, predictably called Am Politician. We had a quick pint in the sun before crossing the causeway for a short ride to Kilbride campsite on our final island of the day, South Uist.

Bikes leaning against picnic table in a sunny beer garden at Am Politician

In the beer garden at Am Politician on Eriskay