Scottish Highland and Islands - busy?

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robing
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Re: Scottish Highland and Islands - busy?

Postby robing » 21 Aug 2017, 8:01am

Lawrie9 wrote:If you go to the east coast of Scotland, the borders and Dumfries and Galloway it is very quiet and just as beautiful. Skye is very quiet in the Autumn and the Highlands as well and not so many midges about.

I cycled through Galloway 4 years ago. Lovely countryside and often overlooked as people head straight to the Highlands.

HighRustler
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Re: Scottish Highland and Islands - busy?

Postby HighRustler » 22 Aug 2017, 5:24pm

I've been reading this thread with interest today, some interesting comments for sure. I have some observations to make on riding on the Scottish islands in general, having spent more than 100 days cycling in the Outer Hebrides in the last seven years alone and that doesn't include my cycle trips to Arran, Mull, Skye and a host of other islands. Since April I've cycled on 15 islands over 25 days, so I have been able to observe any changes taking place this summer too. Here are my thoughts:

- Are the Scottish islands getting busier? Yes, there has been a steady increase over the last few years with the advent of RET (Road Equivalent Tariff - essentially subsidised ferry travel) This year has been the busiest to date based on my observations and also speaking to friends who live and work on a number of the islands. The upturn this year is probably due to a combination of factors: More stay at home visitors due to Brexit and possibly terrorist threats elsewhere and the fact that current exchange rate is beneficial to foreign tourists visiting. I'm sure tourism figures released at the end of the year will back this up.

- What is the cycling experience like with increased traffic? The experience remains as fantastic as ever and is relatively unchanged. Skye is in a unique position due to the bridge, so I won't discuss the situation on Skye but everywhere else the increased visitor numbers are regulated by the fact that a ferry is required and the ferries have a finite capacity. Each one of the 25 days this summer has been generally quiet riding on great roads with an absolute minimum of fuss regarding vehicles etc. Two recent examples - I cycled 150 miles round Mull and Ardnamurchan last month on a Saturday and the number of vehicles I passed on the amazing west coast road from Loch Na Keal to Calgary Bay was incredibly small for prime time tourist season on a day where the weather was great. The previous weekend I cycled the entire length of the Outer Hebrides from Vatersay to the Butt of Lewis in a day and there was only a handful of occasions for the entire 180 miles where two vehicles passed at the same time. My friend and I rode two abreast for many miles due to the lack of vehicles. Fantastic experience!

- In general I find local island drivers to be superb and incredibly warm and friendly relative to what you might find at home - usually a friendly wave from most and those who are in a hurry tend to give cyclists a wide berth. Any issues I've observed tend to happen where there is either a nervous cyclist who has little experience on single track roads or a nervous driver who is also in a similar position with limited experience of driving on the islands.

-If I was to give any cyclist a little advice when riding on the islands or any of the single track roads across the Scottish Highlands it would be to give oncoming traffic a beaming smile and big wave. This often totally dissipates any potential situation totally flat before it even starts. I tend to wave at every vehicle who passes as the locals have always done to me. The roads can't be that busy or my hands would never return to the handlebars :)

If you're thinking about a trip to the islands then you should go. This year I've met tandems, recumbents, parents with their kids in a trailer, dogs travelling in a trailer and a couple in their 80's who had given up cycling 20 years ago but with the advent of e bikes they have started cycling again. All of these people were having an amazing time and their situation was potentially more challenging than the average cycling tourist. If they can enjoy the cycling in the islands then I think we all can.

Here is a wee link to my slideshow from my adventures in the Outer Hebrides last year. I haven't created one for this year yet :)

Scotland - Outer Hebrides Cycling and Hiking 2016



OR you can watch it direct from YouTube HERE

Moonbeam
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Re: Scottish Highland and Islands - busy?

Postby Moonbeam » 22 Aug 2017, 6:03pm

Great post!

gloomyandy
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Re: Scottish Highland and Islands - busy?

Postby gloomyandy » 22 Aug 2017, 6:08pm

HighRustler wrote:
Here is a wee link to my slideshow from my adventures in the Outer Hebrides last year. I haven't created one for this year yet :)



I'm very much looking forward to seeing the 2017 video! What islands did you get to visit?

Fits in very much with my own experiences. I had to cut my trip up there short this year due to my father being ill. I'm hoping to head back in the late autumn to experience a different part of the year, will probably head out to S Uist as it is an island that I'd like to explore further, but who knows.

HighRustler
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Re: Scottish Highland and Islands - busy?

Postby HighRustler » 22 Aug 2017, 7:20pm

Cheers gloomyandy
What islands did you get to visit?

On my two week tour to the Outer Hebrides back in June, it was the usual trip from Vatersay in the south to Lewis in the north and then back to Barra again. I had a day trip to Mingulay which was superb as always but no St Kildan adventures this time. The weather was very good for the two weeks but windy and I never book St Kilda in advance, just take my chances. The trips were cancelled on a couple of occasions when I was in the vicinity due to the wind. I'm heading off to Orkney and Shetland shortly for a two week tour there, so I'm looking forward to that. The sea birds will largely have gone by now which is a shame but I'm sure the cliff top scenery will still be spectacular.

South Uist is a very underrated island I feel. Most cyclists head up the spine and are through in a day but there is so much more to see both to the east and west of the spine road. If you venture east you will likely spot sea eagles down one of the dead end roads as that's where they like to frequent. On the west side, some of the wee roads in and around the machair are superb and you meet the locals there, it's always nice to stop for a wee chat. Tobha Mor hostel is also one of my favourites, Betty the warden makes great cakes :)

gloomyandy
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Re: Scottish Highland and Islands - busy?

Postby gloomyandy » 22 Aug 2017, 7:39pm

HighRustler wrote:South Uist is a very underrated island I feel. Most cyclists head up the spine and are through in a day but there is so much more to see both to the east and west of the spine road. If you venture east you will likely spot sea eagles down one of the dead end roads as that's where they like to frequent. On the west side, some of the wee roads in and around the machair are superb and you meet the locals there, it's always nice to stop for a wee chat. Tobha Mor hostel is also one of my favourites, Betty the warden makes great cakes :)



Couldn't agree more! I had planned a week on S. Uist earlier this year following a tour of the small isles (which I can very strongly recommend by the way, fantastic little islands and each one unique). I ended up with just a couple of nights at Howmore and had to leave very early to rush back home. So I hope to go back and finish exploring this year.

Orkney and Shetland are fantastic places. I've been a couple of times to Orkney (for a week each time) and once to Shetland (again for a week), not cycle touring though we had the car. The first time on Orkney we ended up visiting during some sort of summer festival and basically the main islands were pretty much booked up. As a result we ended up hitting on a great way to explore. Basically we spent each night on one of the smaller islands and then when back to the main island for a few hours before heading off to another of the islands for the night. We had fantastic times on Westray and Papa Westray and on Hoy, but really it is all good! I'm thinking of going back next year to tour Orkney on the bike as I think it will be a pretty good way to spend time on the smaller islands. It was windy though!

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feefee8
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Re: Scottish Highland and Islands - busy?

Postby feefee8 » 22 Aug 2017, 8:30pm

I'd say the main roads are busier from what I've seen and judging by the number of 17 plates on the road, these are visitors from further afield. The side roads are probably busier too but only compared to winter levels. Mostly it's a pain if you're travelling with work only to be held up by some pretty shonky driving (35mph is not reasonable on the straightish bits on the A82 for example). For the most part you can factor that into your day. The only exceptions are for the more serious accidents, of which there have been quite a few this summer, where diversions and/or tailbacks are lengthy.

robing
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Re: Scottish Highland and Islands - busy?

Postby robing » 22 Aug 2017, 11:02pm

I'm staying at the excellent By The Way camping cabins in Tyndrum tonight. ( a tip from here). Getting the ferry to Barra tomorrow. Oban was pretty much fully booked tonight and there were a lot of caravans and motorhomes on the roads up here.

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Re: Scottish Highland and Islands - busy?

Postby Vorpal » 13 Sep 2017, 9:39pm

The speed limit is to be lowered to 30 mph on one section of the A835 http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-hig ... s-41255576
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