860 miles since leaving Portland Bill has brought us to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis and Harris and our last day on the Outer Hebrides. Three relatively short cycling days, from Benbecula, through North Uist, Berneray, a ferry to Harris, then on to Lewis, has allowed us to absorp the beauty and tranquility of these different, but all beautiful Islands.
Again the weather has been kind, with a sustained rain storm with high winds passing through the night we spent in the Gatcliff Hostel on Berneray. We were very cosy in our bunks in this traditional Croft house, just feet from the sea, with its three foot thick stone walls. The evening in the communal kitchen and dining area was most convivial swapping experiences with an eclectic bunch of fellow travellers, Drew and Emma, young cyclists we have been crossing paths with since Oban, some middle-aged motorbikers, walkers and bird watchers.
For me Harris has the most stunning scenery, with its wild moorland and the most perfect golden-sand beaches. The road winds up and down through low, boulder strewn mountains dotted with ancient lakes which shimmer in the sun. Thanks to EU funding, the roads are excellent, no potholes and a good surface which reduces rolling resistance.
Of the other islands, Barra has a special sense of tranquility and peace, the Northern end of South Uist is like a waterworld with the road snaking between land locked and sea lochs, the roads in North Uist and Berneray are surprisingly flat and make for easy going. The landscape is dotted with abandoned stone croft houses in varying stages of collapse, stark illustration of harsh living going back to the time of the land clearances.
Wednesday night was spent in the large (for these parts) village of Tarbert which sits on an isthmus joining Harris to Lewis. Round the world cycle record holder Mark Beaumont cycled the Hebridean Way recently, his YouTube videos are well worth a look to see the magic of these islands.