Islands

So, you've decided to discover the enchanting Outer Hebrides. Fabulous choice! Why not travel by bike, and have the ride of a lifetime? The Hebridean Way Cycling Route is a 185-mile (297km) route, crossing 10 islands in the archipelago. 

The route was launched in March 2016 by the cyclist Mark Beaumont, who completed it in just 24 hours! Watch the video to see his incredible feat.

Our itinerary highlights exciting things to see and do and attractions along the way which will sometimes include slight detours from the official route. Go to the Visit Outer Hebrides website for more details about the route including maps and mileages per day, as well as bike hire and other travel tips.

Transport

Cycle

Days

6

Miles

185

Route

Vatersay, Barra, Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist, Harris, Lewis

Highlights

Luskentyre Sands, Calanais Standing Stones, Kisimul Castle, Traigh Mhor Beach, Harris Tweed, Isle of Harris Distillers

Areas Covered

Outer Hebrides

see full route

Day 1

overview

Vatersay & Barra

These two quiet islands are the Outer Hebrides' most southerly inhabited islands. With fresh legs, you'll be introduced to the incredible landscape of the Outer Hebrides, passing beautiful coastlines and navigating through tiny island villages. If you're travelling by ferry, you'll sail into Castlebay on Barra before travelling southwards over the causeway to start the route in Vatersay.

View the map route  

  • Miles

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    Ferry Cycle Walk

Vatersay

Discover the beauty of cycling in the Outer Hebrides! The ride starts at the obelisk in the village of Vatersay. This small isle boasts views across to the uninhabited isles of Sandray, Pabbay and Mingulay, and is the home to large colonies of migrating seabirds. Stop by the fascinating Dun Caolis burial chamber, which survives from the Neolithic era.

Barra

From Vatersay, you can travel over a causeway to Barra, where you'll cycle past some of Scotland's most stunning beaches, famous for their white sands and Carribbean-like azure seas. From Castlebay, have a break from cycling and go for a wander up Heaval, Barra's highest point at 383 m, or take a five minute boat trip from Castlebay to the medieval Kisimul Castle, also known as the 'Castle in the Sea', which sits dramatically on a rocky islet in the bay. You can watch scheduled flights fly into Barra Airport - this unique runway sits dramatically on the sands of Traigh Mhor Beach.

Day 2

overview

Eriskay & South Uist

The next isle along the route is the delightfully hilly Eriskay, which can be reached via ferry from Ardmhor in Barra to Eriskay, and measures just 3 miles long. From there, you'll travel up to South Uist,  where you'll discover a mixture of crafts, ancient history and towering peaks on the east side. 

View the map route 

  • Miles

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    Ferry Cycle Walk

Eriskay

In 1941, cargo ship S.S Politician sank off the north coast, whilst carrying rather a lot of whisky. The goods were salvaged by the islanders, inspiring the novel Whisky Galore by Sir Compton Mackenzie. Learn all about it, while you catch your breath and enjoy a dram in the Am Politician, the island's only pub. Don't forget to look out for the native Eriskay ponies as you pedal your way across the island. 

South Uist

In South Uist, you'll venture past some fascinating island history, including the birthplace of Flora MacDonald, who famously helped Bonnie Prince Charlie evade capture, and the crumbling ruins of Ormiclate Castle, believed to date back to the 1200s.

Have a break from cycling and play a round at the Askernish Golf Course, the oldest course in the Outer Hebrides. You'll travel north over the causeway across the picturesque Loch Bee, and can admire the local craftsmanship and purchase a gift or token from the little shop, Hebridean Jewellery.

Stop for a well-earned bite to eat in the cosy Orasay Inn, which offers a delicious range of meals and well-priced rooms if you're stopping for the night in South Uist.

Day 3

overview

Benbecula & Grimsay

Benbecula is a small, flat island dotted with pretty lochs and lochans. Keep on pedalling towards the peaceful Grimsay, on a calm and gentle section of the route.  

View the map route

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    Ferry Cycle Walk

Benbecula

The secluded location and low levels of light pollution make for some very dark night skies. There's a Dark Island Hotel and a campsite, so you can rest your legs whilst admiring the inky black night sky. Benbecula is linked by causeways to the neighbouring Uists.

Grimsay

The rocky terrain of Grimsay is a tranquil place to pass through. It produces high quality seafood caught off its shores, particularly the lobsters, which you can taste in restaurants across the Hebrides.

Day 4

overview

North Uist & Berneray

The route follows the stunning west coast of North Uist and then onwards to the little island of Berneray. This stretch is an absolute paradise for beach lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.

View the map route 

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    Ferry Cycle Walk

North Uist, Outer Hebrides

Hebridean Smokehouse

Discover the tastes of the locally reared and smoked seafood at the Hebridean Smokehouse, at Clachan, as you continue up along North Uist. The shop sells a huge variety of local produce from the islands, which is sold to businesses across Scotland.

RSPB Balranald Reserve

There are many historical monuments to admire along this part of the route, including the Teampall na Trianaid, an important pre-Reformation church, and the burial cairn of Barpa Langais. The 'drowned landscape' of North Uist means it is more damp and boggy than some of the other isles, thus its a haven for wildlife. See what species you can spot at the RSPB Reserve at Balranald.

Berneray

Next, you'll pass through the little community at Berneray, home to only 130 inhabitants, many of which are native Gaelic speakers. Practise the language while you're here! From Berneray, you'll catch the second ferry of the trip over to Harris. 

Day 5

overview

Harris

Harris is actually part of one island, joined with Lewis to the north. With mountainous scenery, dramatic coastlines and plenty of creative spirit, cycling through Harris will leave you with long-lasting memories.

View the map route

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    Ferry Cycle Walk

© Mairi Helena Photography & Clare O’Neill Textiles

Luskentyre

One of the largest and most spectacular beaches on Harris, the award-winning Luskentyre Sands is a fabulous place to stop and walk along the glittering white sands, or perhaps refuel with a picnic on the beach.

Tarbert

Next, you'll arrive at the creative hub of Tarbert, home to the Harris Tweed shop, whose woollen wares and accessories are in high demand worldwide. A truly artistic community, you can purchase a little piece of Harris from several of the shops around Tarbert. 

Isle of Harris Distillers

How about a wee stop at the distillery? The Harris Distillery is one of the newest distilleries in Scotland, which opened its doors in 2015. In keeping with the location, the distillery has fittingly decided to call its signature single malt The Hearach - Gaelic for a Harris local.

Day 6

overview

Lewis

Now, for a final challenge! Once you've pedalled over the steep North Harris hills you will arrive in Lewis, the most northerly part of the archipelago. Lewis is characterised by its rich cultural heritage, spellbinding wildlife and mystical standing stones.

View the map route

  • Miles

  • Km

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    Ferry Cycle Walk

Cliff Beach, Isle of Lewis

Calanais Standing Stones

No trip to the Outer Hebrides would be complete without a visit to the towering Calanais Standing Stones, an alluring group of nearly 50 megaliths, dating from around 3000 BC. There is a visitor centre, gift shop and café at the site.

Gearranann Blackhouse Village

Another ancient prehistoric site, the Gearrannan Blackhouse village is a coastal crofting settlement hidden in a secluded bay, where you can witness the traditional methods of the village and see the way the crofters lived and worked. It's also self-catering accommodation, so you can spend a night here and really experience times gone by. 

Butt of Lewis

The Butt of Lewis is the finishing point of the route, situated at the very northerly tip of the island. You can clap yourself on the back - you did it! Take a moment to reflect on your achievements and absorb the incredible surroundings that welcome you. There's a lighthouse at the top of the cliff, and keep your eyes peeled for dolphins off the coast.

Summary

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