A six day biking tour of the Western Isles, starting and ending in Inverness, with bikes and transport provided by Ticket to Ride, the Highland’s leading bike hire and cyclist transport specialists.
The islands off the west coast of Scotland - the Western Isles or Outer Hebrides - make up one of the most beautiful, unspoilt, friendly, exciting and interesting areas to cycle in Europe. The roads can be very, very quiet, the scenery exceptional and the feeling of exploration overwhelming. We have suggested a six day tour, but of course, you are free to take as little or as much time and you want to enjoy cycling in this wonderful part of Scotland.
Ticket To Ride Highlands provide high quality bike hire and transport for you and your bikes to and from the start point of your tour, in this case taking you from Inverness to Oban for the ferry to Barra, the start of your Hebridean biking adventure. At the end of your holiday we'll pick you up in Ullapool on the Scottish west coast, to take you back to Inverness.
Here is our suggested itinerary, but we’re as flexible as you, so just let us know if would like something different.
Time of year - we suggest any time from April to October.
N.B Ferries and accommodation - although, as a foot passenger with a bike, you are able to simply turn up and book onto ferries, please do check all ferry times before you go, and we suggest you book your accommodation in advance too.
Make your way to the Ticket to Ride bike hire centre in Bellfield Park, Inverness. We can also collect you from Inverness airport or train or bus stations. At our bike hire centre we will sort out your hire bikes, if you are hiring, and any other equipment you need. Our minibus and bike trailer leave from the park at 10.30am to catch the Oban to Barra ferry. The spectacular islands scenery and wildlife make the five hour ferry trip fly by and you’ll arrive in Castlebay on Barra in time to check in to your accommodation. There are hotels, B&Bs and a hostel in Castlebay. Foot passengers from Oban to Barra pay around £14 for the trip and bikes go free.
In the morning visit the Kisimul castle, you’ll have been wondering if you could do that ever since you sailed past it on the way into Castlebay the night before. Then cycle south down to Vatersay (6 miles) where the island’s tombolo, a narrow neck of land, has pristine white beaches scalloped out each side of it. Head north, up the west coast of Barra, where there are lovely beaches around every corner. It’s well worth making a short detour to visit the tiny Cockle Strand airport (14 miles from Vatersay) , if you’re lucky you’ll see planes landing and taking off on the UK’s only beach airstrip. You’re aiming to arrive at the Barra - Eriskay ferry (4 miles from the airport) by 15.30, the ferry costs £8 and bikes go free. Arriving in Eriskay about 16.30, head north over the causeway, watching out for otters, to South Uist (6 miles or so) to find your accommodation, there are plenty of places to stay in South Uist but it’s worth booking ahead. [31 miles / 50km]
Only three islands in the one day today! Following the road north up the west coast of South Uist, you’ll be surrounded by the fertile ‘machair’, formed by sands blown onto the peat beneath and covered with flowers in the spring. The machair runs the whole length of the island and is fringed by an almost continuous beach. Cross the causeway to the island of Benbecula, sticking to the west coast road for more lovely beaches, and then over the causeway to North Uist. All of the Western Isles have a special atmosphere. North Uist feels like the very edge of Europe, the very edge of the world, undiscovered, wild. Don’t worry, wild it may feel, but there are still plenty B&Bs and a fine hostel to stay in. [33 miles / 53km]
Head around the west coast of North Uist for some of the most lovely beaches in Europe. There is one of the most scenic, and photographed, cottages in all the Western Isles, and wildlife galore. Over the wee causeway to Berneray, from where you catch the ferry over to Leverburgh on Harris. The ferries run frequently through the summer and must be one of the most scenic routes in the world. Landing at Leverburgh, take a detour southeast to Rodel to see the really lovely, old church there. Then retrace your steps back to Leverburgh and take the west coast route around Harris. You pass the exceptional Scarista and Luskentyre beaches (in the Western Isles a beach has to be something special to get a mention, and these two really are special) before getting to Tarbert for the evening. [52 miles / 83km]
Make sure and eat your porridge this morning, you’ve got some hills to climb today. Heading north from Tarbert you soon come to the ‘big hill’. The cycle up Clisham is not that bad and, even in your lowest ‘granny’ gear, doesn’t last that long, and what a view from the top. Then it’s a straightforward, roller coaster trek across the island of Lewis to a well earned beer or two in the capital, Stornoway. A detour to the magnificent standing stones at Callanish is also possible, adding 21 miles / 34km to the trip. [36 miles / 58km]
It’s an early start on the last day of your trip, catching the ferry from Stornoway over to Ullapool on mainland Scotland. The trip takes about three hours, getting you into Ullapool about 10:00. The Ticket to Ride bike bus will pick you up at the Ullapool ferry terminal and have you and your bikes back in Inverness by midday, in time to catch your train or plane home.
Q. What kind of cycling tour is this?
A. This is a self-guided tour, ideal for reasonably fit riders with some cycle touring experience. It is all on-road but in areas where traffic volumes are low.
Q. How far will we be riding each day?
A. The distances covered each day are between 31 and 52 miles (50km - 83km). The terrain is hilly and steep in places.
Q. How easy is it to follow the route?
A. There are few roads in this area so there are reduced opportunities to take a wrong turn. Signposting is good and we provide a map. You can also download GPX files compatible with most GPS devices and smartphones.
Q. What if I have a mechanical problem?
A. We buy new bikes every year and maintain them carefully between each trip to ensure reliability. We experience very few mechanical issues with our bikes other than the occasional puncture. For trips to remote areas we supply extra spares and tools and are happy to spend time with you at the start of your trip showing you how to fix punctures etc. If it is not possible to continue your journey by bike the cost of onward transport and return of the bike to us is your responsibility.
Q. What should I take with me?
A. If you are staying in accommodation along the way, you’ll just need your cycling clothes (including good waterproofs), clothes to change into in the evening and food and drink for each day on the trail. If you are camping, you’ll clearly need your camping gear too. We can hire you panniers to carry all your gear.
Q. What will the weather be like?
A. The weather in this part of the country is famously unpredictable. It is surprisingly warm for a such a northerly location but also known to be windy. There are long hours of daylight in summer and it is driest between May and August. For all the facts see: http://www.visithebrides.com/
Q. Do I need to book in advance?
A. Yes, we recommend you book your bike hire and all accommodation in advance. Also check with your accommodation provider that evening meals will be available close by.
Q. Is this tour suitable for children?
A. Fit children aged 12 and over with experience of cycle touring should enjoy this trip. Customers have completed this trip with younger children in trailers but you might consider spreading the trip over more days if you're towing!
Q. Will my mobile phone work?
A. There is a good signal in some villages but in the more remote parts of the route you will lose signal for some time. You should not rely solely on phone mapping for navigation. Mobile Phone Coverage Maps
Q. Can I camp?
A. Yes. There are lots of camp sites along the route and we've listed some in the accommodation section. For information about wild camping see: Scottish Outdoor Access Code