Trip Planning: short journey to the Western Isles

Where to Go

Have an outline plan and then be flexibile. Our schedule was governed by the Calmac Hopscotch – ticket we bought, which covered 5 ferries. Scotland makes great bike touring country and the Western Isles combine that feeling of being miles from southern England without the expense of getting there (or needing the time to travel)

In terms of accommodation, there are some good campsites, and wild camping on the islands (esp Barra) is usually ok with permission. The hostels and bunkhouses were good. Camping prices ranged from £4.50 (in Uig, with free showers) to £7.00 in Glencoe. Most campsites will charge 50p or have a meter for the showers. Hostels were from £9 for the Gatliff hostels, which are good and in great buildings / locations, to £15 for the 5* bunkhouse in Leverburgh. The Oban Backpackers hostel is good value for £13.50.

When to Go

The weather is more changeable April -> May and Sept -> Oct, but can be varied at anytime of the year. The infamous midge is at its worst in July and August though not as bad on the islands as it is in places like Glencoe. The Horgabost campsite log book did have plenty of midge complaints even from the 2-3 weeks before we were there. They’d not camped in Glencoe recently.

Things to Take

Bike spares

|Item| Number|
|21″ inner tube | 1 |
|DPR8ES Spark Plug|2|
|Chain link|520 chain link|
|Oil|500ml 20/50w|
|cable ties|assorted|
|Electrical tape|roll|
|wire|short length, single core|

In the end we used none of the spares, except for the cable ties. The oil was handily mounted underneath the rear carrier, as the Transalp is using some but maybe as a result of motorway runs


|Tyre Levers| 2 short|
|Allen Keys|set|
|Adjustable spanner| 1|
|sockets|8,10,12,14,18mm (plug socket)|
|socket wrench|1/4″ drive |
|pump|Small bicycle hand pump for emergencies|

For each of use I managed to mount a BDH container on the rear footrest and strap it on. This allowed for easy access when on the road. The fuel container and knife also went in there.


Camping items
|Tent|small, North Face tent, 18 years old and beginning to show|
|Stove|MSR Dragonfly, petrol stove|
|Fuel Bottle|for the stove|
|Pans|lightweight pans from Trangia, two pans and a frying pan|
|Bascha|ex-MOD 2m x 3m cover with bungees|
|Head torch|small Petzl|
|Insect repellant|50 rated anti-midge, though the locals all swear by Avon “Skin So Soft” ?? |
|Utensils|tin and bottle opener and sharp knife|
|Thermarest mat|best sleeping mat around, Rog also used one|

Group Items
|Guide Book|Rough Guide to Highlands and Islands|
|Map|Map 2 of the Ordnace Survey Road Map Series|

Personal items
|Spare trainers|Hardly used infact|
|Underwear|yep did change them|
|Socks|in bike boots all day can make them agreesive|
|T-shirts|layers are good|
|Woolly hat|even in summer (?) good when outdoors|
|Fleece|lightweight NF fleexe, and heavier top|
|Cutlery|knife and spoon|
|Towel and wash kit|yep, I did take some|


Bike Clothing
|Jacket|Rukka Jacket, large|
|Trousers|Frank Thomas over trousers and Hebo trials pants underneath[[these did begin to get a life of their own after lots of use]]|
|Gloves|Frank Thomas Aqua + pair of lightweight mountain bike gloves|

No need for leathers or too much protection. Top speed on the trip may have hit 70 on the Harris, but it was a bit of blast.

With all travel, the less you take the better. Pack, remove the non-essential items and then go through it again. If anything it gives you space to load up with single malt and shopping as you travel. For me, I would have ditched a couple of t-shirts and possible the trainers and packed flip-flops.


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