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Cycling holidays in the Outer Hebrides - itineraries by air and by ferry

Electric bike hireWe'll call you linkAn island hopping holiday by bike is great on your own bicycle - but it's a long way to bring your bikes.  Now, Hebridean Hopscotch Holidays offers the convenience of bike and electric-bike hire included with your holidays - together with accommodation,  your holiday ferry tickets, ferry timetables and local back-up.

The prices and schedules below are shown as a guide. Your holiday price may vary, depending on the accommodation you choose,  the number of guests in your party and other factors.

Please call our advisors on 0845 2301236 or 01851 706611 for an exact quotation.....

Introduced in 2011, Freedom of the Isles is our  end-to-end holiday including cycle hire. More information about cycling in the Western Isles appears below the price panels.

Hebridean Hopscotch in Cycling World

Outer Hebrides cycling holiday informationA complete story of the 'Freedom of the Isles' itinerary, as told to Cycling World - click to view the magazine on Yudu  (article starts on page 82 - just replace the 1 at the top of the reading screen with 82, then hit enter).

There's plenty of detail and photos, too.  If you prefer a PDF, click this link.

How can we get there and back with our own bikes

We know that few of our guests who want to bring their own bikes will want to bring a car over to the islands as well.  So we have researched  a number of ways that you can enjoy an end-to-end bike trip through the Outer Hebrides, while leaving your car somewhere convenient.  

These ideas are not as simple as using one of our hire bikes, but they are reasonably straightforward.

Click here to view the travel advice - it's a PDF which you can save and print, if you wish.

How long will the end-to-end journey take? 

Having noted feedback by some of our 2011 guests, we have adjusted the advice that we offer in respect of holiday duration.

While we know from our own experience that it's perfectly feasible for an averagely fit 60 year old to cycle from Stornoway, Lewis to Castlebay, Barra over the four full days of a five night holiday, there is insufficient spare time in the itinerary for taking a day off travel to either rest after the longest leg of the journey, or to wander around an individual area.

Our revised itinerary suggestion, which includes eight nights, makes a much more relaxed holiday - easy enough in the saddle that we feel that a wider range of guests may wish to enjoy the journey.  There's time to spend two nights in each of at least two accommodations, plus a night each in the other four.  Alternatively, the amount of travel each day can be shortened, by splitting the 120 miles into seven stages - an average of less than 20 miles per day.  If one or two guests in a group feel intimidated by this much activity, using one of our electric bikes is a great way to take part with confidence.

Although we've priced the 8 night example holiday below, please feel welcome to discuss an alternative holiday period with us if you wish - we'll happily quote for a longer or shorter period,

Which way to travel - exploding the south to north 'wind behind you' myth

When researching other cycling web sites, we have been both amused and to some extent frustrated by the freely given advice that you should cycle from south to north, because of the prevailing winds.

Having made the journey by bike several times in spring/summer/autumn months, the writer has real experience of the winds.  He gives his personal assurance that the wind blows in pretty much equal proportions from all directions  (usually the opposite to his direction of travel)!  The winds here are generally much lighter through the summer months.

This is born out scientifically by reference to weather maps over a period of time.  While the prevailing winds (the jetstream) come from the south west, they are propelling a series of high and low pressure areas over and around the UK.  

Every pressure system has winds that circulate around its centre - highs in a clockwise direction and lows in an anti-clockwise direction. This means that every pressure system carries both winds from north to south and from south to north.  

We reckon you're therefore best to forget the so called 'prevailing winds' and book for the time you fancy.  

FREEDOM OF THE ISLES - AN END-TO-END HOLIDAY WITH CYCLE HIRE INCLUDED - 8 NIGHTS FROM £499*

Bike hire included for a fantastic, pedal powered end to end island hopping experience - explore places inaccessible by car..

Hebrides short break holiday accommodation in Lewis Harris and Skye

FROM ULLAPOOL OR OBAN, VISITING LEWIS, HARRIS, BERNERAY, NORTH UIST, BENBECULA, SOUTH UIST, ERISKAY AND BARRA

We suggest a relaxed, eight night itinerary - other durations are available.

Travel here by the method most convenient to you, then use our modern hybrid touring bikes (including pannier bags and helmet).

Electric assisted bikes may be booked at a supplement of £18 per day. 

You might travel by car or train to Oban (secure parking), then join the scenic ferry route to Barra. Return via the Stornoway - Ullapool ferry, or use public transport back to South Uist for an Oban ferry. 

Or, fly from Glasgow to Stornoway or the beach airport at Barra, returning directly from your finishing point; we can book flights if required (add £110 low season, £160 main season). 

We'll offer you a choice of sensible itineraries, based on experience gained by our own staff who have enjoyed 'cycle hopping' here. See overleaf and our web site for more information.  

Bookings not advised outside of April-September - while we experience some wonderful days from October to March that are perfect for cycling, the chance of eight in a row is rather less likely. 

Take a discount of £25 per person from the prices on the right, when you choose to start in Stornoway.

* £499 is after deduction of discount.


 
topp insurance

Holiday Price
Examples

Main
Season
01/05/14
to 30/09/14

Low
Season
01/01/13
to 30/04/14
and
01/10/14
to 30/04/15

BIKE 08

B&B

B&B

8 nights

£

£

4 nts G1 +  4 nts G2

629

524

Group 2

669

619

6 nts G3 +  2 nts G2

739

639

6 nts G4 +  2 nts G2

819

689

Extra Nights

£

£

Group 1

46

40

Group 2

55

53

Group 3

69

60

Group 4

79

62

The above prices are per person, based on two adults travelling together and sharing a twin or double room.
Dinner prices - see property listings in the brochure.
Note: Low season prices include ‘saver’ discounts where available subject to itinerary choice.

The price calculations for these cycling holidays are based on itineraries that have suitable daily distances, so  particular properties have been pre-selected for the itineraries.  Our travel advisors will be able to give you more information.

If extra nights are booked, additional bike hire charges will also apply.

BIKE HEBRIDES - BRING YOUR OWN BIKE - 8 NIGHTS FROM £429

As the above 'Freedom of the Isles', but with your own bike/s.

Travel by car or train to Oban, then take your cycle, to Barra or South Uist by Caledonian MacBrayne, on one of their most scenic routes.  For your return trip, you can travel by ferry to Ullapool, then make your way back by public transport to collect your car - or travel to Inverness for a rail/coach connection.

The prices shown here cover your accommodation and ferries, including those between the islands and the mainland.

Alternatively, fly back to Glasgow or Edinburgh with your bikes - Loganair (Flybe) will carry them for just £10 each, in your own cycle bags but you must book early and reserve ahead for the bike space on the aircraft.  It's not possible to fly with bikes between Barra and Glasgow, other than some very compact folders, such as small Bike Friday models.  Costs for this are not included in the prices shown here.

Cycle bags.

Airlines and Cityling coaches require that bikes be placed in a bike bag for transport.

If you arrive with your bike in a bag, we suggest that you unpack it on arival, then post it (or send by island carrier) to your last accommodation, where you can repack the bag for your onward travel. 

Bike bags are not required on ferries, where you lean your bike against a bulkhead on the car deck and secure it with one of the ropes provided.

OTHER ROUTES (Costs not included in price panel)

If you have a car to collect at the end of your holiday, it's possible to return to your start point by taking public transport back through the islands, perhaps sending your bicyle by local carrier, which is fairly convenient. Our advisors can give you more information and a downloadable fact sheet is in preparation.

Another route between Lewis/Harris and Oban can include the Isle of Skye, a steam train journey on the Mallaig-Fort William line and a further rail link between Fort William and Oban. 

topp insurance

Holiday Price
Examples

Main
Season
01/05/14
to 30/09/14

Low
Season
01/01/13
to 30/04/14
and
01/10/14
to 30/04/15

BIKE 08

B&B

B&B

8 nights

£

£

4 nts G1 +  4 nts G2

499

399

Group 2

539

499

6 nts G3 +  2 nts G2

639

489

6 nts G4 +  2 nts G2

619

519

Extra Nights

£

£

Group 1

46

40

Group 2

55

53

Group 3

69

60

Group 4

79

62

The above prices are per person, based on two adults travelling together and sharing a twin or double room.
Dinner prices - see property listings in the brochure.
Note: Low season prices include ‘saver’ discounts where available subject to itinerary choice.

The price calculations for these cycling holidays are based on itineraries that have suitable daily distances, so  particular properties have been pre-selected for the itineraries.  Our travel advisors will be able to give you more information.

If extra nights are booked, additional bike hire charges will also apply.

Electric bike hire

OUR HIRE BIKES.

ELECTRIC ASSISTED CYCLE HIRE

Woosh Sirocco CD

2013 is our first year of offering electric assisted bikes. We selected the Woosh Sirocco CD which is a hybrid touring bike based on a similar style to our Pathfinder bikes.

The Woosh allows you to pedal and have up to about 80% of effort contributed by the motor, or use the throttle only, travelling totally under battery power.  Provided you put in a reasonable amount of effort, you can get about 40 to 60 miles from a battery charge, which you do each night at your accommodation. If you prefer not to put in any effort at all, you can expect to be pedaling a fairly heavy bike along with a flat battery - possibly miles before you reach your chosen accommodation! 

One of the main reasons we chose the Woosh Sirocco CD, apart from the high quality branded components with which it is assembled,was that it is 'crank drive' meaning that the motor helps to power the chain, rather than being in the wheel hub.

This provides much better torque, to power you uphill with little effort.  As the cycle drive components are similarly arranged to those on an unpowered bike, you are also able to get a decent turn of speed with the bike when you are putting in the effort to cycle at over 15mph (when electric assistance cuts out to comply with UK legislation).

Note that the pannier set supplied with the bike is a little smaller than those supplied with the unpowered bikes in our fleet. It's the only pannier set we coud find to fit the Woosh, which has a different carrier configuration.  It's practical to bungee a soft bag to the carrier top, to carry your extra clothing.

If you are thinking about buying an e-bike/pedelec at some time in the future, this is a great way to have an extended trial with the Woosh Sirocco CD, which we selected as giving the 'best bang for the buck' - fabulous hospitality, wonderful views and a very thorugh product test.

You can read more about the bike at the Woosh website, linked here
This link is to a video demonstration of the bike.

PEDAL BIKES

Image link to large view of Hebridean Hopscotch Bicycle hireAfter a great deal of research and experience of cycling the route between Barra and Lewis, we selected the Revolution Pathfinder exclusive to Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative.  The Nexus and Derailleur gear models offer several advantages for people of average ability whose aim is to make a leisurely journey through the Western Isles, rather than pedalling furiously to cover the entire journey in two days.

When you book our hire bike itinerary for two people, we'll ask you about rider sizes - we can fit guests from around 5'3" to 6'4", using a mix of frame sizes from 18" / 20" / 22".

If you have a preference between Nexus or Derailleur gear, please ask and we will try to accommodate your choice - but cannot guarantee it.  

Revolution Pathfinder main features:

  • Aluminium frame and adjustable suspension fork and suspension seat post, for lightweight and comfortable ride.

  • Compact 'unisex' frame size with low cross bar allows 'step through' for comfortable mount/dismount.

  • Shimano Nexus hub gears - like the old Sturmey Archer but with 8 gears, equivalent to a wide range derailleur, so you enjoy a cleaner ride and are less likely to shed the chain or knock the shifter out of alignment.  Chainguard and mudguards also fitted.  Nekus is only available on some of our 20" and 22" frames.

  • Derailleur gear versions have a greater number of gears (21) and are about half a kilo lighter (currently only available in 18" size). Click shift levers on the handlebars.

  • Only 15.8kg total weght so practical to pedal uphill..

  • The handlebars are higher than a mountain bike yet closer-reach, thus enabling a more upright riding position and therefore less strain on the back; less crick in the neck; less pressure from the nose of the saddle and less weight on the hands and wrists.

  • Edinburgh Bicycles call it their 'sit up and smile bike'.

This link opens Edinburgh Bicycles web page describing their current Pathfinder bikes into a new window.  If you have any doubt in relation to the 'fit' of these bicycles, we suggest you visit an EBC store and try the size.

LUGGAGE AND HELMETS

We provide 2 panniers per bike, plus a helmet - if for some reason you don't want to use them, the guests at the other end will, so they do have to go with the bikes.  We provide some antiseptic wipes to clean the helmet straps at each turn round.

The bikes are scheduled to be ridden by one party of guests in a southerly direction, the next party of guests in a northerly direction and so on.  This minimises the number of times we have to have bikes transported from one end to the other (this is a 'green' holiday, after all).

As far as travel from your home to the islands is concerned, we suggest you pack your lugage into a frameless soft bag or rucksack, which can be emried into the panniers on arrival.  The empty bag may then be folded or rolled up and fixed to the bike carrier using a bungee strap.  The pannier set will take a total of 40 litres - bear in mind you'll need to keep some room for food/drinks, etc.

Lightweight, quick drying clothes are recommended for cycle holidays - so you can be prepared to layer up if necessary.  You don't need lots of 'going out' clothing for evenings - casual is the order of the day.

LUGGAGE TRANSPORT

In an ideal world, we would have a little van running back and forth between all the accommodation properties every day, to move cyclists luggage.  As that's impossible, the best suggestion we can make, if you really don't want to put your luggage on the bike, is to have it moved by local taxi each day.  As the distances are short, a number of our  guests have considered the cost affordable, especially for groups of four riders. We can provide a list of taxi phone numbers, so you can call them when you're ready to have luggage moved. Budget around £200 for all of your party's luggage on the full end-to-end journey.

BIKES ON BUSES

The size of buses currently in use throughout the islands makes it difficult to guarantee space for bikes on any particular bus at any specific time.  If you decide you want to skip a section of the journey by using the bus, speak to the driver and he/she will always try to help if possible, but please understand that carrying bikes is subject to space available.

Between Stornoway and Tarbert, a full size bus runs at the busiest times - you can check these by calling Hebridean Transport on 01851 705050. Other operators' numbers are listed on the local council website (follow this link)

ROUTE PLANNING

Depending on your level of fitness, you may find our suggested 8 day itinerary too easy or perhaps you don't have the time to spare - we're happy for you to adjust the route and choose your own holiday period, with the proviso that our own cycle hire may only start or finish in Stornoway (Lewis) or the Isle of Barra.

If there are points along the way where you wish to stop off, to stay with friends or family,for example, it's no problem for us to fit additional days into the cycling holiday itinerary,without accommodation.

Most books/guides etc suggest that a direction of travel, from south to north, takes advantage of prevailing winds - but our own practical experience shows there is no guarantee of their compliance to the rules. The wind is so variable that you may as well take pot luck.  If you don't happen to pick the driest week of the year, there’s usually plenty of ‘frequent’ nice weather in between the fairly ‘frequent’ showers that sometimes prevail. Long periods of continual rain are not often a major problem during summer bike holidays in the Western Isles. 

Cycling in the Outer HebridesThe best known cycling route through the islands is from Barra to Lewis (also known as Butt to Barra for those tackling it the hard way and doing the complete end-to-end).  Distance is around 140 miles, depending on the exact route chosen and the only really serious hill to be conquered is the mountain pass between Harris and Lewis, with a climb of around 200 metres. It's worth it for the freewheel on the other side.   

If you have rented our bikes, it's easy to return by ferry and public transport, or by air, from your finish point to your start point. Consider travelling up and back by air, leaving your car at Glasgow airport.

For a return journey to your original departure port with your own bikes, you may choose to use public transport some of the way, where carriage of bicycles is available for some of the route.  

Call and ask one of our advisors about cycling packages and a price quotation.

SECURE PARKING AT OBAN

Hazelbank Garage provides ample parking for guests of the Hebridean Princess cruise line and has confirmed to us that they will also assist our cycling holiday visitors with their secure facility, prior to boarding the Calmac ferries.  

To book, contact them direct on 01631 566476

Price £7 per night, or £35 per week.

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

Cycle shops offering repairs:

Rothan Cycles, 9 Howmore, Isle Of South Uist
01870 620283
www.rothan.com

Alex Dan Cycle Centre,
67 Kenneth Street, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis     
01851 704025

www.hebrideancycles.co.uk

CARRIER TRANSPORT

You'll see from the notes below that availability of public transport for bikes is becoming somewhat disjointed.  An alternative means of having your bike moved, while you travel by bus, is to use a carrier such as Hebrides Haulage (01851 703255).  In this way it's possible to get your bike/s from Stornoway (or further south) to  a ferry port such as Lochboisdale with no effort and at reasonable cost.




PUBLIC TRANSPORT

IMPORTANT - PLEASE NOTE THESE CHANGES ON STORNOWAY TO LEVERBURGH ROUTE:

The Hebridean Transport bus between Stornoway and Leverburgh used to be a 53 seater at all times with plenty of boot space for bikes.  from April 2009, without prior notice, it has been necessary for HT to reduce the number of trips using the 53 seater and while they will try to accommodate cyclists' needs with the smaller buses, capacity is not guaranteed at any specific time - it's up to the driver to decide.

The 8.25 am service from Tarbert (possibly Leverburgh) to Stornoway and the 12.35 pm service from Stornoway to Tarbert (possibly Leverburgh) MAY be 52 seaters, but please do not take this as meaning 'always'  - you should build some flexibility into your schedule.

Cyclist visitors often ride the islands in one direction, then use buses to return to their start point. You can sometimes take cycles on a number of larger buses.  However, in some areas buses do not have space for bikes, so then you will  have to get back on your bike and ride it some of the way.  

See our travel notes for the ways we have researched for reasonably convenient travel modes to the islands for guests bringing their own bikes. This link opens the PDF in a new window.

Depending on your schedule, it's possible to travel part of the way by ferry between Lochmaddy (North Uist) and Tarbert (Harris) - this should only be done in one direction as the road journey for this stretch is one of the most spectacular days of the entire route, as you explore Berneray and south-west Harris.

It can be an attractive proposition, when crossing the Clisham range, between Lewis and Harris, to pop your bikes in the boot of the Hebridean Transport bus, then get off on top of the mountain pass and freewheel down. A thoroughly exhilarating experience, which makes the entire holiday all the more worthwhile, especially travelling on the smooth, sweeping tarmac south towards Tarbert.  Check your brakes first!

You'll find bus routes, timetables and operators' phone numbers at the website of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar by following this link.

Bus operators in the Hebrides are a friendly group of people and will do their utmost to help you.  A phone call to the one that operates the sector you're interested in will provide any information you need.

Travelling from Butt of Lewis to Barra (north to south), the following services are used:

W1: Port of Ness - Stornoway
Operated by Galson Motors (GM) 01851 840269

W10: Stornoway to Leverburgh
Operated by Hebridean Transport 01851 705050

FERRY

W19: Berneray to Lochmaddy
Various operators and it's most likely you will ride this section, as the vehicles are generally too small for bikes.  Grenitote will put a bike rack on the bus if you arrange with them a few days beforehand.

W17: Lochmaddy to Eriskay
Operated by:
Hebridean Coaches(HE) 01870 620345
W Macvicar(WM) 01870 603197

FERRY

Barra: It's most likely you will ride this short section.

Some bus operators will carry unaccompanied luggage, normally charging an adult fare per case or rucksack. If you place your luggage on a bus, you must meet it at the ferry terminal, otherwise the driver will probably just leave it in the waiting room. Probably perfectly safe, but entirely at your risk.

If you are booking with us and want a list of taxis that may be used for luggage transfers, as your travel advisor to send you a copy.  Budget around £200 for the whole holiday - quite reasonable if you're sharing the cost between a party of four guests.

Buses do not cross on the ferries, so you must accompany any luggage on board.



0845 230 1236

0845 calls to us cost no more than 4p per minute for BT customers/from BT landlines (prices at July 06). Call costs from non-BT lines may vary. 
(Check with your operator for details).

or call 01851 706600
your normal phone operator's charge applies


Relaxing holidays for stress relief, convalescence, inspiration in Western Isles of Scotland

Holiday insuranceFor holidays using car/ferry travel only 
 
Total Payment Protection (topp) Policy cover:

In compliance with the UK Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 an insurance policy has been arranged with Travel & General Insurance Company plc, authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority, to protect customers’ prepayments in the unlikely event of our financial failure and paid in respect of:
·    non-flight inclusive packages commencing and returning to the UK
·    the ground handling aspects of packages where the customer is responsible for arranging travel to the destination
·    inbound business to the UK  
offered in this brochure/literature/document/on this website (subject to the terms of the insurance policy), for:
·    a refund of such prepayments if customers have not yet travelled, or
·    making arrangements to enable the holiday to continue if customers have already travelled
Customers’ prepayments are protected by a topp policy.  In the unlikely event of financial failure please contact the claims helpline on 0870 0137 965. A copy of the policy is available on request.

0845 230 1236

0845 calls to us cost no more than 4p per minute for BT customers/from BT landlines (prices at Aug 2012). Call costs from non-BT lines may vary. 
(Check with your operator for details).

or call 01851 706611 (International +44 1851 706611
your normal phone operator's charge applies

Kenman Holdings Limited, Registered Office: 11 James Street, Stornoway Isle of Lewis HS1 2QN  
Company Registered in Scotland No SC109839. VAT Reg. No: 481 5881 17

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