As described in previous entries, the Highlands, Glens and Western Isles 1300km this summer was filmed by a TV production company for BBC2 Scotland. This was aired on Tuesday and is available on the iPlayer link below (until the end of the year ish):
Got up reasonably early, and enjoyed a shower in a proper bathroom and then someone making me breakfast. I was staying at the Castlebay Hotel and I can recommend it - it was very reasonably priced at £59/night (though a bit more than the £5/night I had been paying most nights on campsites!). I rode anti-clockwise around the island - so the first 7 or so miles were the ones I had ridden on yesterday - still all very attractive. I headed north up the peninsula with the airport on. I saw the airport as I carried on - I knew what time planes were due in, so I went on further up the peninsula.
It rained quite a bit overnight, but I couldn't hang around as I was going to get the first ferry across to Berneray and onto North Uist. There was another cyclist staying at the hostel and he was getting the ferry as well. He was a retired German gentleman - he was spending a number of weeks in Scotland traveling between hostels mainly by bus (you can put your bike on a bus apparently!) and then cycling around the local areas.
Boy oh boy, was I excited when I got up this morning - I was going to St Kilda! I don't know how long I had known of St. Kilda - but it felt like somewhere I had always been aware of and this was just too good an opportunity to miss. Although it was quite expensive (£160 for the day), it really is a unique place that not many people get the chance to visit.
A great morning promising sunshine. However this of course meant the midges were out in force again. So after a quick shower, I very quickly struck camp and headed off. The fast descent into Rhenigidale meant that my first job of the morning was climbing out of there. It was tough, but not as tough as coming in (and I don't think that is just because I was fresh compared to the previous night).
Woke up to a beautiful sunny day - much better than yesterday. Sadly, the wind was back! The ride back along the B8011 was just as enjoyable as the ride in yesterday - staggering scenery. I was rather hoping that I'd have a tail wind for part of it (having battled in horrendous head winds yesterday), but it seems that the wind was not on my side and decided to give me a fight back along the road.
Awoke to pretty good weather and was itching to get out of Stornoway and into (what I hoped) would be the more remote parts of the islands. It was also a Sunday - and things are very different on a Sunday here in Lewis! There is almost universal sabbath observance here - EVERYTHING is closed. Not just shops and restaurants, but also visitor attractions etc. I was aware of this, so I had prepared myself and ensured I had enough food on the bike for the day and night.
Wake up to a pretty grim morning - bit wet and windy. But at least I had nearly 3 hours on the ferry to hide from the rain. The ferry left at 10:30 - so I had a little wander around Ullapool. Picked up the paper to read on the ferry and managed to remember to buy a midge net (I had tried in London, but due to some very poor service at Blacks in Chiswick, I hadn't got one). It is a very big ferry over to Stornoway and it was pretty full - except for bikes (just me!), which made me worry a little more about the whole cycling north to south on the islands again.
So - here we go - my first ever big cycling and camping trip! Day 1 is a slight cheat as it also includes the previous evening and night on the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness from London! I finished work and whizzed home to check everything was in order and then loaded up the bike and rode over to Euston. Went via St Pancras for a tasty burger for dinner and then back to Euston to get on the sleeper train. Was a first trip on the sleeper for me, so I was a little nervous about it all - but it was all great.
Coming back into London this morning, I was certainly filled with fear and trepidation - not just for all the stuff I knew would be on my desk and I have to clear before I jet off next week to the US for a conference, but for all the crazy stuff that goes on here - how busy, dirty, hectic etc. it is. My ride home certainly proved those fears. I suppose I will get into the swing of it all fairly quickly though. However, I will not forget that trip as it will live with me forever. I am looking forward to writing about it, just to remind myself of the great time I have had. I know a blog is ideally meant to be a spontaneous, stream of consciousness and here I will have to write about stuff that happenned 2 and half weeks ago - but I will do my best. I wrote a lot of notes whilst I was away - so hope I can write 'in the moment' and express my feelings at the time without anything that happenned later in the trip prejudicing that.
I will have so many photos as well to go up on my Flickr site.
It's going to take a while - so be patient!
Okay - everyone else is doing it - so I thought it's time to try my hand at blogging. So what on earth am I going to write about? Well at the moment, my mind is pretty much occupied with my forthcoming trip to the Hebrides.
My plan is to cycle the length of the Outer Hebrides (the wrong way it turns out) and then travel onto Skye.