How to cycle the Hebridean Way
If you are looking for a beautiful cycling route in Scotland, the Hebridean Way is a great route to try. The spectacular island chain of the Outer Hebrides has always been popular with cyclists thanks to quiet roads and fabulous scenery, including some of the UK’s best beaches. Now there is a waymarked cycling route to guide you, The Hebridean Way.
The on-road route is 185 miles (297km) across 10 islands, six causeways and on two ferries.
The route starts at the Island of Vatersay at the southern tip of the archipelago and finishes at the Butt of Lewis lighthouse in the far north.
The route is waymarked and has been officially adopted as National Cycle Network Route (NCR) 780 but you might need a map to help you plan various detours to visit attractions, beaches and cafes.
To inspire you further, a typical day of cycling might include a section of road beside a white sandy beach lapped by a turquoise sea, before passing flowery machair, then heading inland through rugged hills to drink in even more fabulous views of distance hills and sea.
How do I get there?
The island of the Outer Hebrides are served by ferries from the mainland. See CalMac.
To reach the start point of the Hebridean Way at Vatersay you need to catch a ferry from Oban to Castlebay on Barra. You then cycle south on to the island of Vatersay. (The chances are many people will miss out this section and start from Barra, but it is well worth doing in my opinion.)
To return to the mainland, there is a ferry terminal at Stornoway on Lewis, which takes you to Ullapool.
To join up the mainland destinations of Oban and Ullapool I would suggest this: Train from Glasgow to Oban at the start of the trip. At the end of the trip, cycle from Ullapool to Inverness or Garve and join the train service back south.
Remember to reserve a place on the trains for your bikes.
Alternatively, especially if you are a group of cyclists, you could book a cycle transport company such as SLM Cycle transport to take you and your bikes from Ullapool back to base.
Bike hire and support on the Outer Hebrides
Three companies, spread across the islands, work together to offer bike hire, repairs and support for riders on the Hebridean Way. They are Berneray Bikes, Barra Bike Hire, and Bespoke Bicycles Hebrides. It might be worth noting their contact details just in case you need them.
How long will it take me?
The 185 miles could be cycled in one go, if you have the legs for it, but why not take your time and enjoy your time on the Outer Hebrides? Most people cycle south to north to take advantage of the (generally) prevailing south-westerly winds.
Here are a couple of suggested schedules:
Six days on Hebridean Way
Day 1: Vatersay to Daliburgh
26 miles (41km)
Ferry crossing: 40 minutes
Day 2: Daliburgh to Clachan
37 miles (59km)
Day 3: Clachan to Berneray
27 miles (44km)
Day 4: Berneray to Tarbert
21 miles (34km)
Ferry crossing: 60 minutes
Day 5: Tarbert to Callanish
38 miles (61km)
Day 6: Callanish to the Butt of Lewis
36 miles (58km)
Four days on Hebridean Way
Day 1: Vatersay to Howmore
40 miles (64km)
Ferry: 40 minutes
Day 2: Howmore to Berneray
51 miles (82km)
Day 3: Berneray to Balallan
40 miles (64k)
Ferry: 60 minutes
Day 4: Balallan to Butt of Lewis
54 miles (87km)
Lorna’s Hebridean cycle
Lorna Adam kindly sent me some photos of her cycle along the length of the island chain. They give a flavour of the scenery – and the weather!
Also see Hebridean Way walking route.