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Western Isles, a quick report

nwallacenwallace Posts: 1,465
edited August 2011 in Tour & expedition
Got back from my trip up the Western Isles last night.
Just a quick note with some possibly useful information anyone wanting to try it.

The Leisure centre car park was packed and all parking at Lochavulin is now under some sort of monitoring. But, years ago claming or removal of vehicles was declared theft by a Sheriff... will find out when i go back for the car.

Midge rewpellant required on the Machair (nae surprise there)

Went west side but didn't go up to the airport just straight to the ferry.
Co-Op at Castle Bay

Nothing of note

South Uist
Loads of Co-Ops on route
A few crofters have camping/bunkhouse signs up

Howmore is amazing!
Hostel has power sockets available

Just went straight through so didn't see much

North Uist
Again a fair few camping signs about.
Causeway is the only single track major one left and fairly long but seems to be being improved now

Went West side again, cracking views but very lumpy.
Puncture Fairy visited :-(

Another amazing hostel location.
What they lack in facilities they have in character.
Matresses in this hostel were a bit knackered though

Did I say North Uist was Lumpy? Well in that case this is the Tourmalet and Galibier
Roads much improved over when I last visited, the ~16% climb on the North Hill (I can't remember the name/can't be bothered reaching for the OS) was killer (I walked the steepest bit)

Tarbert was as I remembered it, but one thing the food at the hotel at the ferry terminal was amazing. The Cullen Skink starter was amazing. The Steak Chibatta just as. Didn't try their STP though (A First for me, must go back).

There is occasionally bunk available at the Lewis and Haris Youth Clubs Association Scaledale Centre at Ardvourlie which is right at the foot of the descent going north.
Rate was £15 each that night but is not fixed.

This was very convenient as Stornoway from Bereneray in 1 day was going to be a push.

Change of route to go to Calanais from Ardvourlie with intent on finding the campsite at Siabost/Shawbost. OS maps only have Galic names on them now and the Sia wasn't a pronunciation I had come across before. Seabost is a very long way away from there.
Strong headwind to Calanais and there was a bloody bus in. Decent Lorne roll though. oh and cake of course.

Up to Garenin and I'm glad we went that way, really glad.
Ok so the hostel is no more but the village is worth a look and on the road from Carloway I passed the blue pig craft shop and spotted "Basic Groceries" on the sign. :-)
Cake Stop! (It's an honesty box shop next to the craft centre)
Mentioned the hostel to the owner of the craft centre when she asked where we were going. "We have 2 bunks in our Bothy"; as she points to the garden shed!

For £15 solo and £25 for two, the bunk beds in that shed have probably the best matresses on the islands and the cooked breakfast laid on was amazing.

The home made gooseberry jam and rolls were amazing also.

Didn't see the campsite at Shawbost so so so glad we stopped at Blue Pig.

Butt of Lewis; Bit of a slog out here with the bike, but well worth it and I timed my visit perfectly.
There was a german out with an alpine horn playing tunes on the rocks. Amazing.

Heb Hostel was full but Laxdale had space.
Comforable beds although there is no internal link between rooms so gonig to the bog may be a bit uncomfortable in heavy weather.

Sunday Ferry...
This is operated with minimal crewing, so same 3 men that loaded the cars were doing the painting and ropes etc.
1 person on at the ferry terminal, the cafe has stuff in baskets and an honesty box.

It just felt wrong to be using that ferry although some of the locals (and I don't mean outsider locals) were on it. (But then Stornoway draws from all over)

All the shops were shut by the time the boat got in bar the ironmongers, and they don't sell food. And the chippys had a huge queue.
D&E Coaches are running the bike bus now Service 804.
£9.90 for an adult
£5 for a bike
Luggage capacity is limited but looked like the trailer could carry 8 bikes.
and I could have got my panniers into the overhead space I think.
The remains of other guys trailer went in the boot.
24hrs advance booking required

SYHA a bit censored , beds are awful.
Should have booked trains in advance but meh. Got the 1450 so set off round the Beauly firth to waste time.

Cracking ride, will post links to photos and GPS later.

In 1 week and 1 day (Monday morning to Monday evening)
23hrs 26mins 33sec spent cycling
Do Nellyphants count?

Commuter: FCN 9
Cheapo Roadie: FCN 5
Off Road: FCN 11

+1 when I don't get round to shaving for x days


  • nwallacenwallace Posts: 1,465
    Do Nellyphants count?

    Commuter: FCN 9
    Cheapo Roadie: FCN 5
    Off Road: FCN 11

    +1 when I don't get round to shaving for x days
  • priorypriory Posts: 743
    entertaining and useful. thanks

    I do not understand the port to green and swaps over half way thing.
    Raleigh Eclipse, , Dahon Jetstream XP, Raleigh Banana, Dawes super galaxy, Raleigh Clubman ... =slideshow
  • nwallacenwallace Posts: 1,465
    Ships pass (on leaving port) a green buoy to port (so it's off the left hand side if facing direction of travel) and a red buoy to Starboard (so it's on the right hand side if facing direction of travel) and vice versa on approaching port.

    But the sound of Harris is so trecherous that the whole route has been marked out with buoys, some of the movements the boat has to do are quite amazing, and we did it at high tide, saw the boat coming in the previous night at (very) low tide.

    The Loch Portain that runs that route has pump jets rather than the Voith Schneider units that the other Loch Class vessels (apart from it's predecessor Loch Brhusda) as even VS props would foul.

    I GPS tracked it:

    That's at 1 minute intervals, I should have maybe done 15 or 30 second intervals

    The route of the Barra to Eriskay ferry is a bit more simple.

    The wee loop mid channel isn't part of the timetable, but the captain/master spotted a basking shark so he shut the engines down and positioned the boat so we could see it!

    A quicker sampling rate would probably have shown the manouverability of the VS units of the LochAlainn it pretty much spun on the spot!

    Spot of the week was this though:

    Really could never have expected that, although it sounds like his performance on North Uist was better as he got 3 echoes.

    Sunset video from the beach at Howmore
    Do Nellyphants count?

    Commuter: FCN 9
    Cheapo Roadie: FCN 5
    Off Road: FCN 11

    +1 when I don't get round to shaving for x days
  • unixnerdunixnerd Posts: 2,864
    Some nice photos, thanks for posting :-) - Quality Binoculars at a Sensible Price.
    Specialized Roubaix SL3 Expert 2012, Cannondale CAAD5,
    Marin Mount Vision (1997), Edinburgh Country tourer, 3 cats!
  • Thanks for posting. I've lost all of my Hebridean photos so it was good to see all those familiar places again. Also sorry to hear that Garenin hostel is closed. it was a great place to stay.
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