Atlantic Seaboard (Part 5) Scotland

Planning a route around the Atlantic Seaboard of Scotland would certainly include the Western Isles, but planning a route across the Inner and Southern Hebrides had infinite possibilities.  I resign myself to doing a route around the islands at a later date and to catch a ferry to Barra to complete the Hebridean Way.

I was a delight to see so many cycle tourists waiting for the Islay ferry at Ballycastle.  Our bikes were loaded swiftly and we settled into our aircraft like seats and lifejackets. The weather was set fair we were all really looking forward to crossing the North Channel.

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90 minutes later we disembarked at Port Ellen after a wonderful high-speed crossing in the powerful RIB used by The Kintyre Express service.  The winds are slight and the skies are clear as I set out to explore the distilleries along the south eastern shores.  Suitably refreshed I set off across an inland route to Port Aksaig to catch a late afternoon ferry to Kennacraig on the Mull of Kintyre. I dawdled gentle along the lanes in no particular rush to reach the terminal, busy with happy tourists delighted with the weather.  The Paps of Jura dominate the skyline.

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After a mill pond crossing, without any sightings of Dolphins or the like, I settled into a campsite in process of being constructed. Before I slept I noticed a delay on the CalMac  App to Barra the next day and calculated that I could make that ferry if I got up early enough.  The roads were excellent and a fresh tailwind saw me pushing a great average speed all the way to Oban, via the Crinan Canal and National Cycle Route (NCR) 78 in part.  I meet up with cycling friends I met in Ballycastle and after a good shop at Tesco before sailing to the Western Isles, we wait by the quayside in glorious weather.  At least 20 other cyclist join us, all resplendent in bikepacking rigs.

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At last we saw Dolphins as we cross the Sea of the Hebrides to Barra, chasing the ferry bow waves in crystal clear water.  We dock and go our separate ways, some to wild camp on Vatersay, some to stay at the hostel.  I camp further up along the west coast and rest well, to be woken by Sandpipers in the early morning. I’m now on the Hebridean Way (aka NCR 780).

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Lands End to John o’Groats (the long way round)

After 38 days of cycling and approximately 4,000km I am back home.  Cycling from Lands End to John o’Groats hugging the Atlantic Coast around England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.  I generally followed the Sustrans National cycle routes 3,4 and 780; the Wild Atlantic Way, Hebridean Way and North Coast 500 on my trusty Thorn Sherpa.  The weather was Wild and Windy, with many good clear exhilarating days.  Mostly camping, with the occasional Hostel.

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Now I have completed the North Sea Cycle Route and the Atlantic Seaboard, I am thinking of circling the Irish Sea and English Channel to complete all of the coastal options around the British Isles.

More pictures and a full write up on a rainy day.

North Sea Cycle Route (Part 1) London to Norwick, Shetland

Part 2 – Norway  Part 3 – Sweden/Denmark  Part 4 – Germany to London

Distance is nothing – only the first step is difficult, well pedal rotation for this journey – to cycle around the North Sea starting in London heading north to Norwick in Shetland and then on to Bergen and the coast route home via Sweden, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and France.

This journey will be the longest extended trip away from home. I estimate 60-80 days according to the detailed plans I had been making over the winter. A few short trips on a new Thorn Sherpa, as yet unnamed, confirmed riding comfort and carrying capacity. To keep costs down, I set out to camp every night and do as much cooking myself.

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I booked a flight from Sumburgh airport in Shetland to Bergen and would worry about packing the bike when I got there. The flights departed every Saturday, so I timed my departure three weeks beforehand. I joined the National Cycle Route 1 at Hoddesdon, after cycling along the NSC 6 and 61 from Slough. This route would guide me all the way to Shetland.

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