Cycling Scotland&'s fabulous islands
A photograph of the Outer Hebrides posted recently on Macs Adventure Facebook reminded me of the many amazing Scottish island cycle tours that I have enjoyed. The experience of boarding a ferry on the mainland, with only my bike and a pannier of essentials, and heading off to one of the many west coast isles never fails to excite. It’s that sense of adventure that always thrills me.
With a wide network of frequent ferries and many Scottish isles to explore you could spend a few days or a few weeks exploring by bike and enjoying a feeling of freedom that few other places in the UK, and indeed Europe, offer.
Travelling by ferry and bike is such an exhilarating and affordable way to explore. The CalMac network of ferries take you between isles and journey times range from a few minutes to several hours. Bikes travel free and the price of a foot passenger is reasonable. A Hopscotch Island ticket makes a great deal of budgetary sense and can be purchased for a day or many days of travel.
So many different Scottish islands to explore
Then there are the diverse and welcoming islands. Each island, from Bute and Arran, to Skye, the Inner Hebrides and the Outer Hebrides, reveals a different atmosphere and way of life. The whisky isle of Islay is beautifully flat and offers the chance to visit numerous whisky distilleries. Arran is nicknamed the adventure isle. Cycling on Arran varies from easy-going to fairly hilly. You could spend a few days exploring on foot, with your bike safely stowed in a guest house shed, perhaps heading to the top of Goatfell mountain, or enjoying the Isle of Arran Coastal Way.
The Isle of Bute is a top cycling destination and every year the local bike club host the Bute Triathlon and a Cycling Festival weekend. The roads are rider-friendly and Bute offers a delightful journey through beautiful countryside.
If you fancy a longer multi-day trip I suggest Ardrossan on the mainland to Brodick on Arran by ferry, then cycle to Lochranza in the north of Arran and take the ferry to Claonaig on the Kintyre Peninsula. Cycle across to Kennacraig and catch the ferry to Port Ellen on Islay. Cycle through Islay and from the ferry port at Askaig hop over to the tiny gem of Colonsay Isle. A ferry can then take you to Oban, back on the mainland, where you can catch a train back home, or take another ferry to Mull, the Inner Hebridean isles of Tiree and Coll or on to the Outer Hebrides.
Cycling the Outer Hebrides
While fairly remote, the islands of the Outer Hebrides are easily accessible by ferry and offer a wonderland for cyclists. The island chain includes Barra, Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist, Harris and Lewis. On one memorably sunny week in April some years ago, I cycled the entire length of the islands luxuriating in the prevailing south-westerly winds as I whizzed from island to island and from fascinating attractions to welcoming villages or towns. The contrasting landscapes and frequent views of stunning white sandy beaches were truly unbelievable. Indeed, Harris has been nicknamed the Hawaii of Scotland and when you see the fabulous beaches you will understand why! Seeing that photograph of Luskentyre Beach on the Isle of Harris, which was posted on Facebook this week, has got me thinking about a return cycle tour this summer.
If you are keen to cycle the Scottish islands and would like some help planning and organising your tour, check out the Macs Adventure Scottish Island Hopscotch
holiday. It looks amazing.