An introduction to the Tour de Manche

The official route

The Tour de Manche is a 1200km cycling adventure which links the coasts of Brittany, Normandy and the Jurassic coasts of Dorset and Devon. We live a few metres from the route as it goes through Dorset, so we thought it would be a good plan to ride from home to home over a couple of weeks.

The Tour de Manche passes close to home.

The English section of the Tour de Manche goes from Poole to Plymouth. The route follows quiet roads and lanes.

Arriving at Plymouth for the overnight ferry to Roscoff

West of Weymouth the English section of the Tour de Manche follows a route suitable for more experienced cyclists, with some challenging hills.

The Tour de Manche in France has 2 distinct sections. From Roscoff the route follows the coast to the crossing of the Rance to St Malo and is very scenic but constantly undulating with some steep ramps.

Scenic coastal roads in Brittany

From St Malo to Cherbourg the route is less challenging with long sections of Voie Verts which are gravel tracks along disused railway lines.

Flat straight gravel tracks in Normandy

On the face of it this sounds quite attractive, but it is actually quite slow and tiring pedalling along the rough gravel and, when enclosed in a cutting for long stretches, much less interesting than the hilly, open, scenic roads along the coast of Brittany. The Cherbourg to St Malo section is a stand alone route called Petit Tour de Manche and is more suitable for families – with just the occasional hilly bit to catch the unwary.

The route is signed throughout. We didn’t follow the prescribed route religiously and occasionally went off route to visit places of interest. We carried maps and had the bones of the route on the GPS.

Just off the ferry we were pleased to find the tour de Manche on the sign posts.

We used Brittany Ferries for the channel crossings. We went overnight from Plymouth to Roscoff on the Pont Avent.

Bicycles secured for the overnight crossing from Plymouth to Roscoff

After cycling through Brittany and Normandy we came back from Cherbourg to Poole on Barfleur.

Returning to Poole on Barfleur

There are no lanes in the sea…Swimming Pool Wars

There are no lanes in the sea…fighting for position at the start of a race.

Swimming pool rules are designed to keep all users safe. The Lifeguard’s job is to keep all pool users safe, not to police the lanes so that the ‘best’ swimmers can complete their training session unimpeded.

There seems to be scant regard from most pool users for those of us who wish to follow a training plan and not be impeded by other pool users.

I am fortunate in a having a local swimming pool which is often  underused during the day and sometimes I have the luxury of a lane to myself.

It is not always the case though and it is a constant source of frustration when slower swimmers get in the way. We’ve all met the breast stroke swimmer with dry hair and intact make up oblivious to everyone else in the ‘fast lane’. We’ve all suffered the slow head down crawler who refuses to give way when turning at the ends. The person who is there first and therefore ‘owns’ the lane. The swimmer who always comes at 06:25 every third Thursday and therefore has priority over everyone else. Or even as one young man informed me ‘old women should be in the learner pool’. So far out of line and in this case the lifeguard did intervene as he was becoming aggressive. Multiple swimmers in a lane often lead to lane wars .We all need to be polite, communicate, and treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves. For swimming pool lane harmony all that is required is for everyone to adhere to one golden rule of pool swimming.

Be aware and adapt to what is going on around you.

If all swimmers using lanes adhered to this one simple rule all anger and frustration would be gone.

However – not only am I lucky to have an underused public swimming pool close by I also have that greatest of resource a short walk from my home. There are no lanes in the sea.

There are no lanes in the sea!!

The Four Red Posts Of Dorset.

The Four Red Posts of Dorset

In October 2017 I decided I would try to do another year of RRtY having previously completed a year back in 2014. For the uninitiated this is an Audax challenge: Randonnée-Round-the-Year (RRtY).

It is regarded as one of the tougher challenges on offer from Audax. RRtY requires a ride of a minimum of a 200 km ride in successive calendar months at Randonneur pace. You can start in any month, but miss a month and you have to start all over again.

In a year of milestone family occasions which seemed to coincide with local Audax Calendar events, I have found myself devising a DIY 200 km most months. I have always been intrigued by the red fingerposts in Dorset so I created a 200 km ride to take in the Four Red Posts Of Dorset.

There are four red fingerposts in the county which are a source of much debate, without any consensus becoming apparent. Are they the locations of gibbets? Or are they the position of a hanging? Or maybe they are the place of an overnight stop for convicts on their way to the port before transportation to Australia? Whatever the case, these four are widely dispersed through the county, the best known one being on the main A31 at Anderson which allegedly signified to prison guards to turn here for Botany Bay Farm, where they could rest the prisoners overnight. The others are situated in quiet, less frequented lanes at Hewood, Poyntington and Benville. They all have white lettering on the red fingers.

While researching how to devise a sensible route taking in the four red posts it became apparent that the posts were not situated randomly. The prominent sign near the Botany Bay pub on the A31 is just under 14 miles from the site of the County Gaol in Dorchester. The red post at Benville is also about 14 miles from Dorchester. Hewood is due west of Benville and is just under fourteen miles away from Benville. The post at Poyntington is also 14 miles from Benville to the North East. This supports the theory that the posts were to guide transportation of prisoners.

To me these 14 miles distances did not seem random. 14 miles would be a reasonable distance for a group of shackled prisoners to march – Google reckons it’s a four and a half hour walk. Coming from the west (from who knows where) they would arrive at Hewood, then 14 miles to Benville , 14 miles to Poyntington . The jump to Anderson is 28 miles so I am going to say that there is a red post missing there – maybe somewhere around Sturminster Newton. From Anderson on the A31 it is 56 miles to Portsmouth where the prisoners would board a ship to Australia. 56miles – 4×14 – 4 days march.

It is quite likely that there were other posts that are no longer there. In the 1950’s there were 1285 fingerposts in Dorset with only 717 surviving today.

To me this does not look likely to be a random coincidence. Could it be that these red posts were on set routes for those moving on foot? Did they all mark resting places? If so for whom? Were they solely there to mark the route taken moving prisoners, or did others use them too?

Back to the bike ride: I started from my home in West Dorset at sea level and headed west to Hewood.

The red post at Hewood

In order to make the route into a 200km I then went North to Chard Junction before heading East to the Red Post at Benville.

Unfortunately this sign has suffered some damage probably through vandalism.

The vandalised sign at Benville.

I have a picture from August 2017 when the post wasn’t damaged.

The same sign before it was damaged.

Dorset AONB Partnership have a Fingerpost Project which repairs and safeguards these fingerpost. The County Council no longer have a remit to repair them so hopefully this initiative will restore this sign.

I had never visited the next red post at Poyntington which is North of Sherborne. On my route it was about 25km north and east from Benville. We were pleased to find this post intact and looking lovely.


Our onward journey was to Anderson to the most famous red post near the Botany Bay pub on the A31. I took a meandering 65km route South East to get there and managed to avoid riding on the very busy A31. The red finger post looked as if it had been newly restored and was in pristine condition.

The pristine red post at Anderson.

Now with 134 km completed we just had to head for home in a westerly direction. The route we were riding was mandatory having been submitted in advance to AUDAX DIY SW area organiser. On completion I would submit the GPX file from the ride for verification.

It was a grand day out and If you fancy it the GPX file is here for you to use.

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in a major vein of the leg or, less commonly, in the arms, pelvis, or other large veins in the body. In some cases, a clot in a vein may detach from its point of origin and travel through the heart to the lungs where it becomes wedged, preventing adequate blood flow. This is called a pulmonary embolism (PE) and it can be extremely dangerous.

The reason I am writing this post is to raise awareness that DVT is a possibility in the endurance population. Athletes are at an increased risk of DVT especially if they have recently sustained an injury, are dehydrated, or travel to and from endurance activities. One of my very best cycling buddies is currently off the road after a DVT developed following a cycling holiday to Lanzarote.

This is what it looked like


The affected calf was about 4cm in circumference bigger than the other. It was hot and discoloured and it ached. The symptoms can appear for several days after travel.

Being aware that DVT is a risk to all endurance athletes is a start.

It is not just air travel that is risky. Drivers face as big a risk as airline passengers of deep-vein thrombosis.

A four hour journey is as likely to cause a blood clot whether the trip is by car, train or plane.

Inactivity is the biggest risk but following exercise where the blood is thicker because of dehydration increases the risk.

Travelling after a race or any exercise which leaves the body depleted and dehydrated increases the risk of DVT.

To reduce the risk when travelling:

  • Increase your fluids and electrolytes significantly. Avoid alcohol or caffeinated drinks, such as tea, coffee or cola, because they will make you thirstier.
  • Drink plenty of water and add something like Nunn hydration tablets. The electrolytes found in Nuun electrolyte tablets (sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium) will help alleviate cramps and help muscles function, thereby aiding hydration. I can understand that if I am dehydrated, my blood is thicker and will be more likely to form a clot.
  • On a long journey move around. Sitting can increase the risk of DVT. Do some exercises as you fly…bend and straighten your legs, press the balls of your feet down hard against the floor, stop frequently on a long car journey and walk around for a while.

Wearing knee high compression socks can reduce the risk of DVT. Compression stockings are specially designed to apply pressure to your lower legs, helping to maintain blood flow.

I have found that wearing compression socks after exercise aids recovery and also helps with cramp. After a long bike ride I put compression sleeves on after my shower and if I can force myself out for a gentle walk, recovery is quicker and the risk of leg cramp is greatly reduced.
My regime for long haul flights was to drink as much gin as I could persuade the cabin crew to part with: eat the food and then try to go to sleep for the rest of the 10 hours flight. So now that I have a heightened awareness of the risk of a DVT I will be doing everything possible to minimise that. No more alcohol or caffeine. I will be taking some bottled water (bought airside) and a tube of Nuun tablets. I will drink 250ml of electrolyte liquid every hour, do lots of leg exercises in my seat. Of course – drinking so much will necessitate a walk to the toilet at regular intervals. I will wear compression sleeves on the drive to the airport, throughout the flight and afterwards too.

In conclusion, be aware that DVT can affect anyone, especially people who are physically fit and very active…

Believe you can and you’re halfway there. Happy New Year.

Happy New Year. I hope you had a fabulous 2017 and wish you all the very best for 2018.
I had a fantastic 2017. All my nearest and dearest are happy and healthy – the rest is a bonus!
In the last 50 years 2017 was the first year when I did not participate in competitive sport. In retrospect the change came when I qualified for the 2016 Ironman 70.3 World Championships and I realised that I didn’t want to do it. Then I eschewed my good for age place at the London Marathon in 2017.  These two events required an active decision whereas subsequently I’ve just not bothered to enter anything. This situation may not last. I think there is a very good chance that I may do a triathlon in 2018.

During the  Ironman UK 70.3 run in June 2016

I have continued to ride in Audax events,  but Audax is non – competitive. I find the Audax challenge a useful motivator. AAARTY is on the 54th month and I will keep that going for as long as possible. I seem to have fallen into another RRTY attempt but have only completed 3 months so far. A 200km in January is an early challenge for 2018.

Steve and I on an Audax 200km – serious stuff.

Running, which was my first love, is increasingly challenging and sometimes when I don’t run for a week or more I think that I may have given up. But then I manage to get out of the door and I find that I still do love running. My performance continues to deteriorate, and I am now really slow compared to just 5 years ago. I will keep running into 2018. I am fortunate in that I do not have any chronic injuries despite having run for over 50 years.

I spend more of my active time cycling than on other stuff. This year I have ridden just short of 11,000km with 156,000 metres of elevation. This is quite a lot of time spent on a bicycle. I am fortunate to live in a lovely part of the world where I can cycle in challenging, scenic, rural countryside all the year round. An increasing amount of my cycling is with my husband, Ian. We enjoy mountain biking together.

Mountain biking in the Forest of Dean

‘De-strawing’ MTB. Joys of dry, mud free riding in the summer.

In June we had a great tour of the West Coast of Scotland and the Outer Hebrides.

Touring in Scotland

Loch Corran

I didn’t really get into open water swimming so much this year as I have in the past. This is something which I will rectify in 2018. I am not keen on cold water but I will just have to man up.

Swimming on the Dorset Coast near Seatown

When we are at home we do 2 Iyengar yoga lessons a week and usually some other strength and conditioning work.

Iyengar yoga

We had some lovely holidays, most notably 3 weeks travelling around California, Arizona and Utah.

Death Valley in California.

Some of the time was with our daughter Jenna and her fiancé Jay. We are back in California in the spring for their wedding.

Alamere Falls at Point Reyes Seashore, California.

So…2018: My Audax targets are to continue with AAARTY and complete the year of RRTY. I have a few Calendar Events in the diary but none further than 200km. I have only completed one 300km Audax event and I didn’t enjoy it very much. Another 300km ride is simmering on the back burner for 2018.

Ian and I have a couple of MTB tours in mind and also perhaps a road tour in France.

The running challenge is simple – just keep running.

Operation Close Pass

In July 2017 Dorset Police launched Operation Close Pass. This scheme is adopted from a scheme run by West Midlands Police and similar schemes are being rolled out in most parts of the UK. The initiative is designed to improve the safety of cyclists and to raise awareness among all road users on how to behave courteously to each other.

In the last 2 years 3 cyclists have been killed on Dorset roads and a further 133 seriously injured and 144 slightly injured.

Close passes are a regular occurrence for all regular cyclists. Such dangerous manoeuvres are rarely done from a position of malice by the driver, but from ignorance. The Operation Close Pass aims not only to protect cyclists but to educate drivers to be more considerate road users, benefitting everyone using the roads.

At times drivers may feel frustrated and inconvenienced by cyclists and fail to understand that cyclists share the road with drivers and are equals with drivers on the road. All road users have equal rights to use the highway safely.

Operation Close Pass is trying to educate drivers to overtake a cyclist in the same way that you would overtake a car. Give cyclists at least 1.5m clearance in slow moving traffic. At higher speed or in bad weather a full cars width is recommended.

There is much that cyclists can do to improve the safety of themselves and other road users. The roads would be much safer if we were all thoughtful and considerate of each other’s situation and treated each other with kindness, tolerance and courtesy. Patience is important. Good behaviour is not only the responsibility of the drivers; cyclists must also do their part to create a safer travel environment for all.

Dark clothing, no helmet, no light, no glasses, no gloves. The illegal bits are no bell and no pedal reflectors – Oh and riding on the pavement of course!

A frequent mistake that new cyclists make is riding in the gutter or too near the pavement. This may feel safer but it is actually very dangerous. It encourages drivers to make that close pass to get past you when there is not enough space. You are less visible not only to cars but also pedestrians who may step out into the road. If there is an obstacle ahead, or a pothole, you have less space to avoid it. It is safer to ride in the centre of the lane when travelling at the speed of the traffic or when you believe it is not safe for the following car to overtake you.

Fluorescent and reflective clothing will help make you more visible to other road users.

I passed my driving test a very long time ago but I can still here Stan my instructor saying ‘mirror – signal- manoeuvre’. It is no different on a bike. A cyclist needs to glance behind frequently so they know what is going on behind them. If they are planning a change in direction then before anything else look behind and check what is going on. If possible make eye contact with those around you and then make a clear hand signal to indicate your intention. Only when you are sure your intentions are clear make the manoeuvre.

Make that manoeuvre in a very positive way. If you are coming to a junction or a roundabout, be in the middle of the lane. Do not allow a car to move alongside you. Stay in the centre of the lane and this allows you to move off safely.

It is much safer for cyclists to think like a motorbike when it comes to overtaking. Motorised vehicles are trained to expect other vehicles on the right. This is a safer place to be. Cycling along the nearside of vehicles is very dangerous as they could turn into your path at any time. I think the safety of cycle lanes to the left of the main carriageway which are not separated from the main traffic compromise the safety of cyclists using them.

When I am cycling in traffic or in an urban area I have my hands permanently positioned on the brake levers so that if there is suddenly a need to brake then I’m ready.

Cyclists seem to think it is cool to make half hearted gestures to indicate the direction they are going in. Cars are unlikely to see this. As a courtesy to all road users your arm should be straight out. This shows authority on the road and is a clear indication of your intentions. Check behind before that signal and move when you think other road users know what you are going to do next.

It makes sense to be visible to road users by wearing bright colours, and having flashing lights and reflectors on your bike. The clothes you wear are personal. Wearing a helmet is also personal and some cyclists choose not to do so. I always wear a helmet. I need a new one as I had a collision last week which meant my helmet hit the tarmac with some force causing it to be damaged. My head was undamaged. As I say – I always wear a helmet.

Bright clothing –rear flashing light gloves shades helmet – this is what I usually wear. (add front light and bright reflective jacket in low light condition). 

The things that seem to annoy car drivers most are those that result in the cyclist making better progress that they are. Some are legal like choosing the road over a cycle path or riding two abreast. Some are illegal – like jumping a red traffic light.

I’ll finish where I started. We are all on this road together. We all have equal rights. If we all treated each other with patience, kindness and courtesy the roads would be much safer for everyone.



The Scottish Tour Part 2. The Western Isles

It was raining as we boarded the Calmac ferry ‘Loch Seaforth’ to take us form Ullapool to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. The announcements warned us to expect heavy seas as wind speeds were up to gale force. The stabilisers would be out. Visibility was low as we left Loch Broom and sailed through the Summer Isles. It didn’t look much like summer with the grey skies merging with the grey heaving seas. We settled down in the quiet area on the ferry and were pleasantly surprised at how smooth the crossing was.

Lewis came into view and we were soon ashore and went straight to our B & B in downtown Stornoway.

The plan was to ride out to Callanish Stones in the afternoon.

The Callanish Stones that we failed to see

The promised gale force winds proved to be too much for us and we abandoned. The inland scenery on Lewis is endless heath and moor with thousands of lochans. Not a pretty sight especially with the grey skies with frequent squalls of horizontal rain. The island’s diverse habitats are home to an assortment of flora and fauna, such as golden eagles, red deer and seals. We saw eagles and seals on our journey.

The scenery of inland Lewis.

On Lewis life is very different from elsewhere in Scotland, with Sabbath observance, the Gaelic language and peat cutting retaining more importance than elsewhere.

On Sunday 17th June we crept out of Stornoway carefully avoiding all the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, where almost everything but worship, Bible study and eating is banned on the Sabbath.

On the road to the Butt of Lewis

The up side of this is that the road was deserted so we had the wind, rain and moor to ourselves. In the absence of any other form of shelter being open on a Sunday we followed Audax tradition and used a lovely bus shelter to get some respite from the weather.

Any port in a storm

We continued to the Butt of Lewis (Scottish Gaelic: Rubha Robhanais) which is the most northerly point of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The headland, which lies in the North Atlantic, is frequently battered by fierce weather. There were quite a lot of people here, despite it being the Sabbath, but I think they were all tourists like us – though all in motorised vehicles.

The Butt of Lewis

We were now at the official start – or end- of the Hebridean Way.

The Hebridean Way

The cycle route (NCN780) is 300 kilometres from the Butt of Lewis in the North down the length of the Outer Hebrides to Vatersay in the South. The route passes through 10 islands linked by a combination of causeways and ferries. The stunning landscape is varied and follows the dazzling Atlantic coastline on the western side of the archipelago and in places goes over rugged hills and along the moonscape of the eastern coast. The Outer Hebrides retain a culture that is different to mainland Scotland. Gaelic is often spoken as a first language and there remains a sense of culture and tradition on each of the inhabited islands that make up the archipelago.

Most people cycle South to North with the prevailing wind. We were cycling North to South and hoping for the best!

While we were exploring the Butt of Lewis  the rain stopped and there was some brightness in the sky so we made a detour to the Port of Ness with its once busy harbour and fine beach. We stopped for a while watching the Gannets fishing. The gannet’s supposed capacity for eating large quantities of fish has led to “gannet” becoming a disapproving description of somebody who eats excessively – a glutton.

Port of Ness harbour and beach

Our overnight billet was about 20km south so we were at the start of the 300km journey – into the wind as it turned out!

We had arrived in plenty of time to enjoy the now sunny afternoon and we walked to the nearby Atlantic coast. The scene was reminiscent of Cornwall. The Outer Hebrides reminded us of the Isles of Scilly in so many ways.

The coast on Lewis in the sunshine! Cornwall?

Monday 19th June 2017 the South of England was ‘suffering’ in temperatures over 30 degrees. The Isle of Lewis did not have that problem.

A humid start to the journey south

Next up – Harris!

Our route took us towards Stornoway, but we found an unofficial bypass by cutting across at Laxdale to the A859 which took us away from Lewis towards the more inviting landscape ahead. Harris promised to be more to our liking than Lewis.

Views of Harris  hills in the distance

The Isle of Harris is actually joined to the Isle of Lewis, and has a short border shown by a ‘dashed’ line on the Harris map. Harris has a wide range of landscapes, all of which have their own interest. On the West coast are the beaches with the large open machair areas like the other islands in the chain.

Machair is a Gaelic word and refers to a fertile low-lying grassy plain found on the western coasts of the Outer Hebrides. It is low lying arable or grazing land formed near the coast by the deposition of sand and shell fragments by the wind. Machair is the focus of most Hebridean crofting agriculture. In June when we were there it was covered in wild flowers.


We continued our journey along the increasingly remote A859, rounding the head of Loch Erisort and eventually Loch Seaforth came into view. The Loch forms the boundary between Lewis and Harris and was the boundary between the two traditional counties of Ross and Cromarty and Inverness-shire.

The Lewis – Harris boundary at Loch Seaforth

Loch Seaforth forms the boundary between Harris and Lewis. Our overnight stay was at a crofting cottage named Seaforth at the foot of The Clisham.


The Clisham is at 799m is the highest point on the Outer Hebrides. The highest point on the road climb is 201 metres. We were lucky that the weather was good for our journey over the Clisham and we had no problems at all. The scenery was varied and interesting and we are used to Dorset hills which are much steeper!

The climb up the Clisham

We enjoyed our ride through the pass and the long descent to Tarbert.

The descent to Tarbert

In Tarbert we met up with friends from Bridport who coincidentally were on Harris. We met them at the Harris distillery and they joined us for our ride along the East coast of Harris.

Bridport Cycles reunion at the Harris Distillery

It was the East coast that we were excited about. I knew from our planning that the isolated East coast of Harris was going to be a highlight of our tour. It has some of the oldest rocks in the world dated some three thousand million years old. The exposed rocks are a result of scouring by the glaciers in the Ice Ages. The area is known as ‘The Bays’ because of the many small inlets. The inlets are populated by small villages – or townships – each with their own unique character.

The East coast of Harris

The Golden Road winds and twists through the East Coast of Harris. The single track road runs from Tarbert to Rodel through the coastal townships which have Viking or Gaelic names. The name was given to this lovely winding road in part by the ‘locals’ who really did have to fight to get a grudging authority to spend the money to build the road.

The Golden Road

The spectacular scenery encompasses what is sometimes described as a ‘lunar ‘landscape.

Lunar landscape on Harris with the Isle of Skye in the distance

The sun came out to make our day perfect.

Views from the Golden Road out to The Minch

We had a sneak preview of the beaches on the West Coast of Harris but our journey was moving South onto Berneray. The West Coast of Harris will have to wait for another day.

A glimpse of the West Coast of Harris

We had time to pose for a photo with the well travelled Dorset flag at Leverburgh whilst waiting for the evening ferry across the Sound of Harris to Berneray.

The Dorset flag at Leverburgh

Berneray is one of fifteen inhabited islands in the Outer Hebrides. It is small with an area of 10 square miles. There is strong evidence that Berneray has been occupied since the Bronze Age. The island is scattered with ancient sacred sites, stone circles and historic buildings. We made a detour to the island’s West Beach which was pretty spectacular.

The West Beach on Berneray

We continued our journey south crossing from Berneray on the 900m causeway to North Uist officially opened by Prince Charles in 2000.

The causeway to North Uist

Our route down through North Uist took us along the Atlantic coast with the beaches and Machair to our right and the bog with heather and lochans to our left. The East coast of North Uist is more rugged.

The Atlantic coast of North Uist

The wind from the south west increased through the day. There isn’t any shelter and at times it became quite hard work!

Coastal scenery on North Uist – you can’t see the head wind

The landscape changed as we continued our journey across another causeway to the island of Benbecula. This island is essentially flat and we stayed there overnight before crossing yet another causeway onto South Uist.

South Uist is the second largest island on the Outer Hebrides and has a population of about 1700.The population is 90% Roman Catholic. We were riding along the West Coast which has a sandy beach broken occasionally by small estuaries.

Estuary on the West coast of South Uist

The machair along this coast was extensive and featured enough level ground for a footie pitch.

Football pitch on the machair

South UIst is connected to the next island on the archipelago, Eriskay, by a causeway which opened in 2000.

South Uist to Eriskay

It was off the shores of Eriskay that the ship the S.S Politician foundered in 1941 – and from here that the local seafaring community set sail to salvage her precious cargo of whisky, which was in short supply on the islands during the war years. Island fishermen used their boats to reach the wreck, reportedly bringing thousands of the bottles ashore. This event gives the story-line to one of Scotland’s most famous stories – Whisky Galore.

There was an improvement in road width and surface as we entered Eriskay.

Better roads on tiny Eriskay

The coastal scenery across to Barra opened up as we approached Eriskay Harbour.

Eriskay harbour

Once again Calmac provided an excellent ferry service across to Barra.

The Calmac ferry to Barra

Barra is the second southernmost inhabited island in the outer Hebrides, after the adjacent island of Vatersay to which it is connected by a short causeway. The population is just over 1,000.

The area of Barra is about 60 square miles. The only centre of population is Castlebay.

Descending to Castlebay

The west of the island has white sandy beaches backed by shell sand, machair and the east has numerous rocky inlets. The predominant faith on the island is Roman Catholicism.

Barra’s tiny airport, near Northbay, uses the beach called An Tràigh Mhòr (“The Great Beach”) as a runway. Planes can land and take off only at low tide, so the timetable varies. Voted the world’s most stunning landing spot, Barra’s airport is claimed to be the only airport in the world to have scheduled flights landing on a beach. The aircraft currently in operation on Barra is the de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, flown by Loganair to and from Glasgow. There are usually flights every day of the week in the summer. The beach is also a source of cockles.

Barra Airport

We circumnavigated Barra and then continued South across the causeway to Vatersay.

The end of the road-Vatersay

The Hebridean Way ends at Vatersay

Vatersay is the most southerly inhabited island on the Outer Hebrides. If you want to ride the Hebridean Way I strongly recommend that you start here and ride south to north with the prevailing wind!

The west coast of Vatersay like the other islands has wonderful windswept sands bordered by the rich Machair grasses which were awash with wild flowers.

We returned to the tiny undulating lanes on the rocky east coast of Barra.

The rocky East coast of Barra.

The next day we were on our last ferry taking us back to Oban.

What a great adventure – the Outer Hebrides are best explored at the speed of a push bike!

The Hebrides


Top tips!  Book accommodation as early as possible and at least six months in advance.  Barra is particularly difficult. Cycle South to North with the prevailing wind. The ferries are regular but infrequent.  Check ferry times when planning your days.  There are very few places where you can get any help with mechanical problems with your bike. Service your machines before you go and take tools and spares in quantity!


GPX Files

Day 8: Aborted trip to Callanish Stones

Day 9: Stornoway to Butt of Lewis

Day 10: Lewis to Loch Seaforth

Day 11: Loch Seaforth to Leverburgh

Day 12: Berneray to Benbecula

Day 13: Benbecula to Lochboisdale

Day 14: Lochboisdale to Eriskay | Tour of Barra and Vatersay

Day 15: Another tour of Barra