There is a classic cycle route,
Am Heb. The start / finish points, The Butt of Lewis at the north of
Lewis, and Vatersay in the south. The cyclist can start at whichever
they choose and cycle by whatever route they wish between them.
There is not a huge range of options though as you will see from a
look at the map. The route takes you through 9 islands; Lewis and
Harris (one landmass with two names), Berneray, North Uist, Grimsay,
Benbecula, South Uist, Eriskay, Barra and Vatersay.
This guidance is written for
Caithness Cycling Club, although it is assumed that knowledge will
be shared around any interested cyclists. Feel free to pass it on to
anyone interested in cycling in the Western Isles. Although this
guidance is fairly comprehensive, individual riders should create
their own plan for their trip in accordance with their own
circumstances. The information provided here is an aid to planning.
I have written this as a north
to south ride, but I’ve also completed it south to north a few years
ago. All you is read my days backwards! Try this after a few beers,
Getting to the islands
- Those of us who live north of Dingwall know to change trains at
Dingwall for Garve as an alternative to cycling the extra 14 miles
between these two places.
Most riders of course will
travel north either to Inverness, for Dingwall, or else to Oban. In
my opinion there is no advantage or special difficulty in choosing
one over the other. I’ve done both. In good weather they’re great,
if not so good, the cycling can be very testing. West of the island
chain there is nothing but water for 3,000 miles - so there is
absolutely nothing to slow down the wind when it blows.
– your bike MUST be pre-booked on the train when you buy your
travel tickets, otherwise the guard can and will refuse travel. Put
simply, if other riders make a booking, why should you be able to
by-pass them? Currently, there is a maximum of 4 bikes per train
have superb trains in service, but in Holland. Sadly it looks as if
they are going to use the same crap refurbished 40+ years old crap
(did I say that twice for their Stupid Sprinter trains?) instead of
quality for their Scottish contract. I had an interesting chat with
a Welsh tourist and it turns out their trains are rehashed by
Bombardier after 40 years elsewhere.
There is a tourist map,
“Philip’s Red Books – Outer Hebrides” which is helpful for route
planning, especially for the various historic sites.
Wind and rain can, on
occasion, make this tour very challenging even for experienced cycle
Travellers from the south change
trains in Inverness, then either the Wick train (change at Dingwall),
or the Kyle of Lochalsh train will take you to Garve. Alternatively
for both, just cycle from Dingwall.
Route – Dingwall is the former
county town of Ross-shire. It has a small town museum and many food
outlets. There is a tower overlooking the town, situated in the
graveyard. This is a monument to General Hector MacDonald, a private
soldier from the Black Isle who rose through the ranks to be a
General. He took his own life in a hotel room in Paris in 1905. The
large wooden cross you see at the station was taken from a battle
site in Flanders to commemorate the men of the town buried there.
Take the road out for
Strathpeffer, 5 miles. Strathpeffer became a ‘spa’, a place where
people came to ‘take the waters’ for the good of their health. Spas
became fashionable at the end of the 19th century across
Europe. Two sites in Strathpeffer that are worth a look, the Museum
of Childhood in the renovated former railway station, and ‘The Eagle
Stone’, in a small garden a 2 minute walk from the road. In Gaelic
it is ‘Clach nan Tiompan’, a literal translation is the stone of
sounding, or sounding stone. We sound a welcome or a warning, so
perhaps this was the recognised gathering place for the welcoming
party, whether friendly or hostile. There is an eagle carved into
the stone, so that’s what the stone is called in English. It is most
likely a Neolithic stone with later carvings.
Continue for Contin and take the
road for Garve. You have now cycled 14 miles from Dingwall. On the
way, if the cyclist has time to spare – 1.5 hours – a walk to the
Falls of Rogie is time well spent. A cyclist booked into the hostel
at Ullapool doesn’t need to worry about ferry times as you can catch
the first one in the morning. From Garve take the road north for
Ullapool and just follow it for the next 32 miles. About 10 miles
from the Ullapool is Corrieshalloch Gorge, take a detour up about
half a mile and follow the signs. Worth it if you have the time. It
used to be possible to view the falls from a wooden platform from
the main road, but this is now gone. I suspect sensible concerns
over safety when crossing the main road was the reason for taking it
is a custom-built fishing town to absorb people dispossessed by The
Highland Clearances. There is a Telford (Parliamentary) Church, now
a museum. There seems to have been worries by the ruling caste about
civil disorder, so they had Telford design a church in the hope that
it would lead people to stop complaining about having their houses
burned down and their families driven off the land. It seems to have
worked, The Clearances continued over a period of some 80 years,
mostly without riot although not always. The museum is worth a
visit. Another visit is to the best bookshop cum food stop cum live
traditional music place north of Edinburgh / Glasgow - The Ceilidh
Place. It’s a must, especially when a visiting band is engaged to
provide the night’s entertainment.
Youth Hostel, S.Y.H.A. is 01854 – 612254 and
Take the ferry to Stornoway.
(Ferry times from Calmac). This is a new ferry with a passenger deck
giving a panoramic view of the sea and the islands, plus birds like
gannets. I counted over 40 dolphins in small groups at different
times during my most recent trip, June 2015.
Stornoway is the biggest
community in The Hebrides, but there is no single focal point to it.
There is Lews Castle being refurbished and will be put to community
use. This was the home of one Mr Matheson who made his fortune in
the opium trade. He and others persuaded the British government, as
well as their allies France and of course the good ole U S of A, to
combine and force the Chinese to accept imports of opium! Result,
mass addiction and profit for the new white rulers.
From the morning ferry, docking
in Stornoway around 12.30, bike up to The Butt. The road is easy to
find, follow signs for Barvas and Butt of Lewis. The
lighthouse is the cyclists’ start / finish, and is one of those
built by ‘the lighthouse Stevenson’s’ whose most famous son is RLS,
Robert Louis Stevenson. There are often photos posted of Am Heb
starters / completers with the Atlantic as a background. This is
dead easy, get someone just put their back towards the lighthouse
and click. Spotted a whale near the lighthouse this trip.
You could also sign in and drop
off your panniers on your way, at Galson Farm Hostel, Tel. 01851 –
email@example.com Note that Galson has just 8 beds, kitchen,
and 2 showers – enough for the size. Bikes are stored in the barn,
it is working farm.
There is another new independent
hostel I spotted a few miles from The Butt, at Eoropaidh, but I have
no advice or details on this, it was just opening in June 2015 when
The road south passes a road end
with a small sign to the ‘Truiseil Stone’. This proves to be a
megalithic standing stone in the middle of a field, and is about 4
metres high when assessed from the road. On to Barvas, and this time
take right and south for Arnol. There is a well maintained
‘whale bone arch’ as part of a house garden just at the side of the
road as you pass. Then, carry on to Arnol turn into the village for
the ‘Black House at Arnol’ which is well worth a visit, as is
the guided tour from the knowledgeable volunteers. The house has the
kitchen where they keep a peat fire burning on the floor and also
the bedroom with box beds. There is also the byre where the animals
were wintered. The house walls seem to be about a metre thick and
they have thatch weighed down with stones from the beach.
Further south there is an
archaeological site and now reconstruction of a Norse / Viking age
meal mill, a half mile walk in and out and worth it. Next pause is
at the remains of Dun Carloway broch. Quite a good
remnant as it allows you to see how the builders of 2,000 years ago
created the internal stairs in the fortifications. Brochs are unique
constructions found only in Scotland. My guess is that they were
defences against Roman incursions, what’s yours?
Next stop is the major Neolithic
site of Calanis, run by a small local co-operative. This is a
‘must see’. No argument about it. Expect to meet people from all
corners of the world. The stones were erected about 4,000 years ago
and were in constant use for 1,500 years. This is the most
spectacular and main part of what was a large number of sites, all
within walking distance.
Then, from Garrynahine,
you must make a choice. Either take the single track road and follow
it to Stornoway, or continue south and turn off for Kershadder for
your night’s hostel accommodation.
Heb Hostel, Stornoway, Tel.
01851 – 709889 or,
firstname.lastname@example.org The Heb Hostel is popular, so it’s busy
with 26 beds that seem all to fill up – so book well in advance. The
kitchen / dining area can best be described as a wee bit wee for the
numbers using it. A cereal breakfast is included in the price with
plenty tea / coffee and bread /toast. Bikes are stored in a shed and
there are washing machines for your bike kit.
Just 1.5 miles north of
Stornoway is Laxdale Bunkhouse, which I’ve never visited. Tel. 01851
– 706966 and
The alternative is to carry on
south for Ballalan and then turn of left on to the B8060 for
Kershadder. Ravenspoint Hostel is part of the community co-op
and the shop is attached. Tel. 01851 – 880236, and
email@example.com it’s a while since I stayed there, but
it’s good, clean, quiet, and if you get there in time food supplies
are next door. They might accept a telephone order and pop it next
door if you will arrive after the shop closes. Don’t forget to
settle up in the morning of course.
Your miles and destination
tonight depends on your choices for yesterday. Cycle south over
Clisham. This climb is a beast and you will remember it for the
rest of your life as quite a cycling achievement. The road climbs
from sea level to over 2,000 feet and then, just when you thought
the road was going down as fast as it came up and it is time for a
wind-blown joyous descent, you have another wee climb. Well, OK
then, not all that wee, but it’s still not as relentless as
Clisham. You will remember cycling over Clisham. Honest, you will.
is the next sizable place on the route and it has a hostel. I stayed
a night here a decade ago and it was OK. Just OK, no big deal. It
has been refurbished since then and is now known as Tarbert
Backpackers Stop. I assume it is now better than Just OK. Since it
is in a ferry port you can assume it will be busy and need to make
an advance booking. Tel. 01859 – 530485 and
Continuing south, up and over
the hill which will take the wind out of you a bit (again!), there
is another hostel off the main road and there is a road sign with
various names on it, including Drinishader which is where the
hostel is. You know you’re there when you see a jetty on Loch
Tarbert and the hostel looks like a modern croft house, which it is.
Tel. 01859 – 511255 and
firstname.lastname@example.org Great wee hostel, great location.
Back up on the main road again
there is a road on your left for Rodel, through Manish and Finsbay.
This is a very hilly route if that is what you are looking for. The
whole road has become a kind of colony for artists, in fact there
are artists’ studios all over the islands and you won’t have time to
visit them all. You can also take right when you come out of the
hostel gate and stay on the east, and hilly, road all the way.
Rodel has the ruined Saint Clement’s kirk, a pre-Reformation
church that then became a reformed congregation even if not actually
from 1560. It was a burying place for Gaelic poets of the late
medieval period. You then have about 4 miles to Leverburgh.
Or, just carry on south on the
main road around to Leverburgh, named after Lever Brothers,
one of whom became Lord of the Western Isles. I kid you not. He was
told he couldn’t have the title of ‘Lord of the Isles’ because that
is taken by one of the royal family. The brothers Lever set up a
processing factory that worked for a while, long enough for their
name to be superimposed on the Gaelic name, (An t-Ob) but if you
want to know what that is just read the road signs as you approach.
Look out for some ultra-modern architecture in housing above the
road. There is also a local museum a few miles before your stop.
Am Bothan, Leverburgh, Tel.
01859 – 520251 or,
email@example.com I’ve never stayed here but when I spoke with
the owner (his hostel was full the night I wanted) he sounded
friendly and helpful, and he suggested Drinishader. The hostel is
less than a mile from the ferry.
Of course, if you get there in
time, you can take the last ferry over and stay on Berneray. Again,
it is a choice, and it will depend on some of your earlier choices
(Gatliff Hebridean hostels trust) – this is a magical wee place. You
can’t book in advance, you just turn up and hope there’s a bed
available. Someone calls round to collect your money in the evening.
There’s an ‘old fashioned’ feel to the place, like hostelling the
way it used to be. Expect find a convivial group of hostellers who
are cycling, fishing, walking, or taking very professional
photographs. Gatliff was a senior English civil servant who
liked walking. He spent his money on buying old croft houses and
having them made ready for ‘basic accommodation’ for people like
himself who like the great outdoors, whether on foot or bike.
Berneray Gatliff hostel comprises two buildings right by the shore,
but there is no bike shed so that has to stay out in the wet. There
is no spare room for bikes inside either, so don’t try to negotiate
- you’ll just sound precious. That’s my polite word.
Either you catch the first
Leverburgh / Berneray ferry, or you have woken up on Berneray. There
are no more big climbs for cyclists.
You continue south again and
cross the causeway over to North Uist and cycle on south to the
junction. Most cyclists take left here for the shorter trip rather
than the extended cycle around the north and west of this island.
You choose. Your choice will depend on how much time you have and
your interests. West offers several sites over 20 miles with
standing stones, duns, a carved cross, etc. The route east is 8
miles and has fewer sites, because it’s shorter, but look for Dun
Sticir. This is an unusual ‘double broch’ site with both built
out on a loch that you walk out to over a narrow causeway. It is
always the case that you have to go and look for these places, the
road rarely runs alongside.
Both choices of road off North
Uist meet up and your road continues south. The route passes the
remains of Teampul Na Trionad, what remains of a
pre-Reformation Catholic seminary, and a little further on Caranish
stone circle. You then continue and cross the causeway to the island
of Grimsay, and stay on it for less than a kilometre before
crossing another causeway to Benbecula. Here again, you have
Benbecula west takes you past
the airport as well as more ancient remains of an ancient convent,
Baile nan Cailleach, which translates loosely as Nun Town so
it’s no surprise that Nunton hostel is nearby, a bit before the
remaining walls of Borve Castle. You join the road again at Craigory
(Creag Ghoraidh). Either that or you have taken the more direct road
You continue south over the
causeway to South Uist. Another causeway over Loch Bi and you see up
on the hill a statue. This is a Madonna, Our Lady of the Isles, from
the 1950’s by Lorimer. It stands about 7 meters high and there is a
paved way up from the road to it. A few miles south again and there
is a turn off that takes you to an older road and Howmore Gatliff
So you have two hostel choices
again for an overnight stay;
Nunton House hostel, Tel. 01870
– 602017 or,
firstname.lastname@example.org is a big stone built house,
reputed to be the site where Charles Edward Stuart disguised himself
as a maid, ‘Betty Burke’, while escaping ultimately to France in
1746. A breakfast of cereals, tea / coffee and toast is part of the
price. An excellent hostel.
(Gatliff Hebridean hostel) is to be found on a minor road west of
the main road and further south, on South Uist. Let me repeat, no
advance bookings are possible. When you arrive you claim a bed and
it’s yours for the time you stay. I have never stayed here but I
assume someone calls to collect the bed night fees, as is the
practice at the others.
Your start will depend on where
you stopped the previous night. The road to Howmore continues
parallel with the main road and you can visit Ormiclate Castle. I
never have so I can’t tell you what it offers. Soon after you
re-join the main road there is Kildonan, a museum staffed by
local volunteers. Good home-made food available as well as exhibits
of South Uist. A reconstructed birlinn sits near the entrance. A
little further on is the site of ‘Flora MacDonald’s birthplace’.
Carry on over the causeway to Eriskay and take a ferry to Barra.
There is a breed of pony named after the island, Eriskay Ponies of
course, and this island is where Charles Edward Stuart arrived and
departed in 1745 and 46. It is also where a merchant ship, ‘S.S.
Politician’, ran aground in thick fog during the Second World War
with a cargo of whisky. This incident created Compton Mackenzie’s
novel, ‘Whisky Galore’ and of course the film of the same name. The
ferry trip to Barra is about 40 minutes.
Depending on your time of
arrival on Barra, you can see some more sights and sites, or head
for the hostel if it is too late for that. The current hostel
Barraigh Hostel, 183 Bolnabodach,
Tel. 01871 - 810846 or,
email@example.com whose owner is Peter Matheson, and his
hostel is top notch. It is located about ½ an hour on the bike from
Castlebay, but you have a steep climb en route.
In the village itself, and
visible from the jetty is Dunard hostel, Tel. 01871 – 810443 or,
– most will want to complete the circuit of the island as well as
finish / start their trip on Vatersay. I’ll assume you have just
come from the hostel. From Barraigh Hostel you take right and enjoy
a lovey run to Castlebay. The descent for around a mile is quite
steep in places so keep your fingers over the brakes, not the hoods.
High up on your right us a Madonna and child overlooking the town
and bay. It’s about a 40 minute walk up if you have the notion of a
close-up view. This one is about a metre and a half.
SNH have a
boat that takes visitors out to Kisimul Castle, the fort of the
MacNeil of Barra. This is small, and once inside you will find there
is the room kept ready for The MacNeil whenever he comes over from
the USA. The one who had the ruin saved and renovated was an
architect, and when he loaned it to what is now SNH he charged a
pound and a bottle of whisky a year as rent. A visit is a ‘must see’
for the visitor. You have time to view everything in the castle in
time for the boat off that brings the next set of visitors, but no
more time should be spent on it. It’s a compact castle, surrounded
by water. After the Battle of Largs in 1263 the Scottish king came
with a small fleet the next year to examine his newly won
possessions from Norway. A Scottish captain went into the castle,
presumably to receive the keys, and the Norwegian commander hanged
him from the battlements. The year after this (1265 by now) the king
came back, presumably with more ships, and the Norwegian suffered
the same fate as he meted out. Moral – never argue with your new
king, he’ll take the pet.
Back ashore, a cup of coffee
with some of the home-made cake in the former post office, now café
obviously, is recommended. It’s just opposite the jetty. Then carry
on to the junction for Vatersay and completing The Heb. A bit
up from the junction is a modern war memorial to the men of Barra
lost in action during the two world wars. There are more seamen
commemorated here than I have seen on any other war memorial.
The road undulates around and
over the final causeway until you come to a small Council house
scheme, or a farm gate. Your adventure ends here in a wee bit of an
anti-climax, but my companion and son-in-law Steven found it a bit
of an emotion rush. We had endured quite miserable conditions during
our trip, and here we were at the end. We turned back to the car
park and walked up to the memorial to the wreck of the ‘Annie Jane’,
a sailing ship out of Liverpool that was lost in a storm with all
182 people on board. The sight of waves coming in gently on to the
beach below was enough to persuade us to pull off the bike shoes and
cool the feet.
Back on Barra, the road takes
the re-energised cyclist on a circular tour of the island, to see
flights landing on the beach at Traigh Mor (Big Beach) maybe, or
just the reconstructed church of Saint Barr with a replica of the
Kilbow Cross. The original is over 1,000 years old. The grave stone
of the writer of ‘Whisky Galore’ and ‘Monarch of the Glen’,
Compton MacKenzie is in the grave yard. Then it’s back around the
north of the island and on to your hostel.
The morning ferry for Oban sees
cars and cyclists arriving half an hour before sailing as required.
On a good day this is a fabulous five and a half hours. Superb views
northwards of The Minch, Isle of Skye, Eigg, Rum and the Small
Isles, as well as south to Coll and Tiree, with a clear view of Bac
Mor (Dutchman’s Cap). Then the ferry passes the Ardnamurchan
Lighthouse, built by the Stevenson family, yes the same ones who
built the lighthouse at The Butt of Lewis. This one they modelled on
ancient Egyptian buildings, which must have been coming in to
fashion at the time with archaeological discoveries of their time.
You then find yourself in the Sound of Mull, look out for a view of
Tobermory with its brightly painted houses along the pier. The isle
of Lismore alerts you that your cruise is coming to an end.
You dock in Oban too late
to do anything other than check in at the hostel and look around the
town. (Any cyclist reading this and travelling on south to e.g.
Glasgow, Edinburgh, or further, will be able to catch a train – they
are timed to meet the boat. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE PRE-BOOKED YOUR BIKE
Oban Youth Hostel, S.Y.H.A. is
01631 – 562025 and
firstname.lastname@example.org and it is big. It also has an annexe which was
fairly recently refurbished. Meals can be bought and there are large
washing machines. There are also 2 independent hostels in the town,
I haven’t stayed in either so can’t offer any guidance. The SiH
handbook does not say whether they offer bike storage. One is 01631
– 566040 and
email@example.com and the other is 01631 – 565065
For those of us cycling back to
Inverness and home, from whichever hostel you stayed the night, go
past the Corran Halls and start the climb up out of Oban. There is
the possibility of a visit to Dunstaffnage Castle off to your left.
Keep on this road until decision time at Connel Bridge. The decision
is – cross it, or carry straight on. Either decision, take a look at
the fast waters flowing under the bridge as the tides change, the
Falls of Lora. There is a standing wave which is fascinating, so be
careful not to spend all of the rest of the day just standing and
(9a) Cross the bridge at Connel
– The bridge at Connel takes you over Loch Etive and then alongside
Loch Creran and through Appin. There is the very picturesque island
castle as you come around beside Loch Linnhe, Castle Stalker. There
is no navigation to speak of all the way to Glencoe and you should
have time to stop and follow the signed path to the cairn marking
‘The Appin Murder’. This killing was attributed falsely to ‘James of
the Glen’ and although it was known he was innocent he was hanged
for the crime anyway. This shooting forms part of the plotline of
Robert Louis Stevenson’s , ‘Kidnapped’. Under Ballachulish
Bridge and carry on the cycle path to Glencoe village. The hostel is
a bit after the village. Oban to Glencoe Youth Hostel is 45 miles
and can be contacted via
firstname.lastname@example.org and 1855 – 811219. There is a bike shed.
NOTE - There is signage to
indicate that the cycle path between Connel and Ballachulish is
open, but I can’t give guidance on this as I’ve never ridden it. I
can vouch for a good cycle path between Glencoe and Ballachulish.
(9b) Carry straight on - Take
the road for Taynuilt and Crianlarich. In the Pass of Brander on
Loch Awe, there is the first hydro scheme to generate electricity.
The visitor centre issues you a ticket priced ‘FREE’ because you
have arrived by bike! A bus takes into the mountain tunnel for an
explanation of the construction and ongoing generation of
electricity – very interesting even if you had to pay. The café
sells excellent food. On the road again, you see Kilchurn Castle set
in the loch. FIND NOTES ON THE 20TH CENT. MINIATURE
ABBEY. After Dalmally take the B8074 through Glen Orchy. This is an
enjoyable ride on single track road with little traffic, on to
Bridge of Orchy. Then north and up over Black Mount and the edge of
Rannoch Moor and descend Glencoe. The road to the hostel is on the
right just after a wee loch with a cottage beside it that you will
likely recognise from photographs and postcards, just after ‘The
Three Sisters’ mountains on your left. This route is 63 miles.
From the hostel head for the
village of Glencoe and once on the main road look for the bike track
to Ballachulish Bridge. Just before crossing, note the steps up to
the monument at the place where James of the Glen was hanged, 30
feet up, his body encased in wire to keep his bones together after
the birds had picked his corpse clean. No one was permitted to bury
him on pain of possible death. Carry on to Fort William and use the
pavements as long as they are available – we were told to do this by
a resident of the area who shouted the advice. Good advice too, as
it’s a busy road.
Fort William offers the West
Highland Museum with its secret portrait of BPC, shorthand for
Charles Edward Stuart. This is on a tray, and it appears to be a
swirl of colours, very ‘modern art’, until a glass is placed on the
centre. You can then see the colours reflected in the glass – but
now as a portrait. Well worth the time to visit. Also in the fort is
an Episcopal Church with a fine carved door and mosaic pavement
inside, visitors are encouraged.
Leaving An Gearasdan, as Fort
William is known in Gaelic, you pass the fort that gives it the
name. At the roundabout take ‘The Road to the Isles’ to Banavie and
Neptune’s Staircase, the first set of locks on the Caledonian Canal.
Follow the single track road, checking on your right for the best
view of the cliffs of Ben Nevis, until you turn up to the Commando
Monument. The area in your field of vision is part of the training
ground for the WW2 commandos.
You now have another choice of
10(a) take left on the A82 for
21 miles, passing the three lochs of the Great Glen - Loch Lochy,
Loch Oich, and Loch Ness. Just after the swing bridge at Laggan is
‘The Well of the Heads’. The story is that some raiders went into
another clans territory and did mischief, including killing one of
the chief’s sons. The chief sent men to avenge the killing and they
caught the raiders and killed them, cutting off their heads to take
back to the chief as evidence they had carried out their orders. On
the way back they washed the heads in the well. The well is to be
found down the steps and behind the monument to this event. As a
famous English actor once said, ‘not a lot of people know that’.
At the swing bridge at
Aberchalder (assuming your tyres are wide enough and robust enough)
you can take the path along the canal to Fort Augustus. Otherwise,
stick to the road on to Fort Augustus which also has own very
There are 2 hostels, both
independent although one is affiliated to SYHA. The first is
situated at what was the gate house of the former school and abbey.
I stayed there in 1997 during my second ‘End – 2 – End’ trip and not
since. Let’s hope it’s improved, I’m sure it has. The other is the
very popular, and I do mean very popular so make sure you book well
in advance of your trip, Morag’s Lodge. Tel 1320 – 366289 and
10(b) Take right for 1 mile to
Spean Bridge and then left for Roy Bridge. You have 37 miles of not
too strenuous cycling along Loch Laggan, to Laggan and Newtonmore. I
can highly recommend the independent hostel which was set up and
owned by two ladies who have between them considerable experience of
trekking and cycling. Clean, good clothes drying facilities, and
showers, lockable bike shed, etc., because hostellers know what
hostellers need. It has 12 beds available. Newtonmore Hostel
email@example.com and 01540 – 673360, or put
Newtonmore Hostel in your search engine. (I noticed on the web that
it is for sale, so the contact e-mail may change).
This will start where you left
off on Day 10 obviously, Fort Augustus or Newtonmore.
11 (a) – this route assumes you
got a bed in Morag’s Lodge of course, or the other place. I
strenuously suggest you avoid the main road to Inverness, it’s busy
with traffic just about any time of the day or night, and it just
isn’t a great cycling experience. This main road takes you along
Loch Ness through Drumnadrochit with its ‘Nessie Centre’ and passes
Urquhart Castle, hence the tourist focus during the summer. This
route along the main road is 34 miles to Inverness.
Instead, my advice is, come out
of Morag’s Lodge and go back through the village and over the swing
bridge. Where the main road turns up hill, you carry straight on.
This is a single track road, B862, and you have one steep climb then
carry on to the junction. Take left on to the B852 and you have one
steep descent to Foyers, where there is an electricity generating
plant. (I don’t know if they do visits for tourists). The road
follows Loch Ness, so passing cyclists have photo-opportunities to
take a snap of Nessie, no guarantees though, and if it turns out to
be the real thing there should be enough money in it to retire
somewhere the cycling is warm and sunny. There is a guaranteed view
across Loch Ness of of Urquhart Castle. The road takes you right
into the centre of Inverness just at the bridge and beneath the
castle. This route is perhaps 35 miles.
Inverness YHA hostel is a former
school. It is big, busy with school and youth groups, and has a big
bike shed, as well as all you would expect from a modern hostel.
They also provide breakfast and an evening meal at extra cost if you
decide not to use the members’ kitchen. There are also independent
hostels, but these appear not to have a secure bike shed.
11(b) – leave Newtonmore for
Kingussie, Aviemore and Carrbridge by way of the ‘old road’. There
are independent hostels accessible along the way for those who might
want to extend their trip. Kingussie has the ages and stages of
croft life as well as a detour for Ruthven Barracks for any 21st
century Jacobites in the club. Aviemore has a steam train for
nostalgic folk, as well as a small Neolithic stone circle in the
middle of a housing scheme! Carrbridge has the remains of a
mediaeval pack bridge just beside the road.
For Inverness there is a route
that runs parallel with the A9, appears to go under bridges and then
take a meandering route into Inverness. I don’t know it and we took
the longer way, which is, take right after Carrbridge to the B9007.
This meanders northwards until the turn off which takes you to
Cawdor, complete with the castle of ‘Hail Thane of Cawdor’ fame.
Maybe Shakespeare passed this way on his bike and picked up the
story? The castle is open until 5 o’clock during the tourist season.
From Carrbridge you’ve come approximately 30 miles and you had 22
miles from Newtonmore to there.
From Cawdor you take the B9090
for just over a mile and then the B9091 for the 10 miles or so into
Inverness. You pass ‘The Cumberland Stone’ where the Duke of that
name watched the battle unfold on Drumossie Moor. Those with the
time and inclination can make a slight diversion to the Neolithic
period Clava Cairns and even the Culloden Muir battle site and
interpretation. Miles for the day for us were about 62 – and I would
have loved it but for the 3 hours of afternoon rain interspersed
We had booked the train back to
Thurso about 6 weeks in advance. Just as well, all trains north had
their full quota of bikes that day.
Useful / essential sources
for planning your trip.
or just call in at Thurso rail station, which is more user friendly
and indeed helpful, while helping with the staff’s passenger
enquiries statistics. Ask about a Highland Railcard, an annual fee
buys you savings on train journeys for a year. Bikes travel free but
absolutely must be booked when buying your travel tickets. Book as
far in advance as you can or you may find that End 2 Enders have got
in before you.
covers most ferry routes for 22 islands, and all of them for this
trip. The site has a route planner, and they over a ticket that
allows you a good saving when you buy all your ferries in advance.
Ask for it at Oban or Ullapool terminal, no need to buy or book in
advance even with your bike.
is the SYHA, or Hostelling Scotland site. This is a member owned
association which began life with Broadmeadows hostel in 1937.
Membership is £8 per year for an individual, or free if you can
prove you are a student with a student card. This investment saves
you £2 per night in all the association hostels you stay in for a
year. It also gives the same discount anywhere in the world through
Hostelling International. There are some independent hostels on this
site, as well as SIH, which are ‘associate hostels’.
is the site for SIH, Scottish Independent Hostels. These are the
same as SYHA, except they are privately owned. Read their sites with
the eye of a touring cyclist – because not all of them have secure
accommodation for your bike. This can be particularly true of
independent hostels in cities as their market describes themselves
as ‘back packers’. These hostels sometimes self-describe as
‘backpackers hostels’ or ‘bunk houses’. Encouraged by Visit
Scotland the standards have gone up markedly over the last
takes you into the whole country’s tourism. Click on ‘Scotland’s
Regions’ and then select ‘Outer Hebrides’. This gives you access to
what they call an interactive map and you can research each separate
island in the group. Very in