Scottish Highlands and Islands: Part Three – the Outer Hebrides
Welcome back if you’re still with me on this Scottish tandem tour! Now it’s the seriously out-of-the-way stuff! We stayed for several days on Harris, at the bottom of the island of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides, and went on two totally contrasting rides.
The first was along a side road off a minor road on the east side of Harris. It was a circular route along what was called the Golden Road. We met practically no one on the 12 miles or so, apart from the odd walker, one of whom tried to hitch a lift!
The road wound its way round rocky hillocks covered in heather and passed many baby lochs which makes that part of the island such a watery landscape. It meandered near to the sea and as we twisted and turned we had repeated glimpses of the rocky shore and the inlets that wriggled their way inland.
The landscape was dotted with isolated houses and tiny settlements. Otherwise, it was rocks and lochs and heather in all directions.
We had mixed weather on that ride. You could see the clouds coming in and the rain dropping down as the clouds came towards you. Then the rain was on you, and then it was gone. And then there were rainbows! Never the same weather for long!
The second ride was along the western side of the island which is utterly different, with wide white beaches and mountain views looking towards north Harris. This was busier, with camper vans stopping to take photographs of the amazing expanses of beach, and the road, though mainly single track, had been recently improved.
The road was also along the route of the West Highland Cycle Way, which goes from Vattersay at the very bottom of the Outer Hebrides, up to the Butt of Lewis. It was good to see a few fellow cyclists on the road and exchange hellos.
We did a there-and-back route from Seilebost down to Northton. It was blue skies, blue seas and white beaches all the way. Again, there were houses dotted in the landscape but there were also some rather fancy highly designed houses with floor-to-ceiling windows making the most of the views. Many had roofs made from natural materials that blended into the surrounding rough grass. Some looked quite hobbity.
We turned off the ‘main’ road at Northton, lured by a rare sign for a cafe and another for a shop. It turned out to be a very good move! The cafe had stunning views up the estuary and towards Scarista beach, and a good selection of cakes! The shop was an open ‘hut’ with an honesty box to pay for an amazing selection of home baked wares, including vegetable curry pasties and frangipane cakes, both of which we can highly recommend!
We also saw by far our best selection of birdlife of the whole trip that day (which had prior to that been sadly disappointing). We saw oystercatchers, fulmars, a whole flock of lapwings, and my first ever snipe. There was also a bird we couldn’t make out that kept us entertained as we sat on the beach, whilst it turned upside down and back again, over and over, riding the air currents, clearly just for the fun of it.
It was a great day in a beautiful part of the world, and there are plenty more cycle routes we can create to bring us back!