This year’s cycle tour once again takes us round our favourite haunts: the Scottish west coast Hebridean islands. This year we’re planning an itinerary that sees us visit some islands for the first time, and in so doing sees us take seven ferries (eight crossings) in nine days cycling! These are Barra (which we’ve never visited before), Berneray (only been as far as the ferry jetty before) and Iona (we’ve never even been as far as Fionnphort on Mull before).

Day 1 Our trip will begin by arriving in Oban by car, in time to catch the 1540 ferry, to arrive in Castlebay on Barra. This is quite a lengthy crossing, not arriving until 2040. We plan to find a B&B for two nights.

Day 2 This day will be spent exploring Barra, and it shouldn’t be too taxing, as we can leave most of our kit in the B&B. We hope to visit the linked island of Vatersay to the south and the promontory of Eoligarry to the north. In the past, we’ve been on ferries that call at Castlebay: usually they are stuffed with birdwatchers.

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Day 3 On the third day, we plan to ride to catch the morning ferry (crossing number 2) from Barra to Eriskay, a small island now attached to South Uist by a causeway, and then on to LochMaddy in North Uist. This route takes us northward through Benbecula, a strangely wet landscape seemingly mostly composed of pools of water!

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Day 4 We’re planning on staying two nights on North Uist, probably in Lochmaddy (we have our eye on one particular accommodation, which on our last visit looked to have a rather nice menu), in order to look around in more detail than we’ve done in previous visits. On one occasion, we stayed over a Sunday (because getting to Harris on a Sunday is pretty much impossible), but unfortunately bad weather in the form of appalling gales prevented us from getting far on that occasion. We’re quite keen to have a look at Berneray.

Day 5 From Lochmaddy it’s off to Skye, by ferry crossing number three, which should deposit us at Uig in the early afternoon. Probably just enough time to cycle over the Quirang to find a B&B for the night. An alternative might be to travel round the northern tip of Trotternish.

Day 6 We’ll be remaining on Skye for another night – aiming to stay in Broadford, with the particular aim of enjoying seafood at Creelers, one of our favourite seafood restaurants.

Day 7 Skye, of course, is less and less of an island, now that the Skye Bridge is there. This has increased the amount of motor traffic and resulted in road “improvements” – we’ll cycle down one of these roads to Armadale to catch the ferry to Mallaig on the mainland (ferry crossing number four), from where we hope to reach Salen for the night. We have an idea for accommodation, one whoich specialises in local produce

Day 8 For the eighth day, we plan to ride through Ardnamurchan, though the possibility of diversions to beaches really depend on the weather – last time we were on Ardnamurchan, the weather was unbelievably good. We’ll cross from Kilchoan to Tobermory (ferry crossing number five) and stay overnight in or near Tobermory.

Day 9 We have visited Mull on a few occasions, but never got as far as Iona: on day 9 we plan to cycle down to Fionnphort to catch the ferry to Iona and back (ferry crossings six and seven). No idea where we’ll stay, but probably try and spot somwhere en route.

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Day 10 The final day of the tour will see us ride from Fionnphort to Craignure, to catch the ferry back to Oban (ferry crossing number eight).

I’ve high hopes for this tour, it’ll be an interesting mix of the (to us) novel and the familiar, of long riding days and short,of road and sea.