Outer Hebrides

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
david20807
Posts: 12
Joined: 10 Oct 2015, 11:01pm

Outer Hebrides

Postby david20807 » 5 Feb 2020, 1:32pm

Hi All,
Im planning a cycle trip to Outer Hebrides next spring. Im from N Ireland and plan to take a bus with my bike to Glasgow.
Any advice on best way to travel from Glasgow to the Islands and return would be very much appreciated. I need to spend as little time as possible on the travel

Thanks
David

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Paulatic
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Joined: 2 Feb 2014, 1:03pm
Location: 24 Hours from Lands End

Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby Paulatic » 5 Feb 2020, 1:41pm

Train to Oban > ferry to Castlebay > How you come back depends on what you do after that.
Whatever I am, wherever I am, this is me. This is my life

https://stcleve.wordpress.com/category/lejog/

Jdsk
Posts: 132
Joined: 5 Mar 2019, 5:42pm

Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby Jdsk » 5 Feb 2020, 1:53pm

As above.

We went:
Sleeper train from London to Glasgow
Train from Glasgow to Oban
Ferry from Oban to Castlebay
...
Ferry from Stornaway to Ullapool
Ride from Ullapool to a station near Inverness
Train to Inverness
Sleeper train from Inverness to London

So I'd replace our last leg with Train from Inverness to Glasgow.

That gives you the full one way route on the islands. If the timing works of course you can ride from Ullapool all the way to Inverness.

The main alternative is to cross back to Mallaig.

Jonathan

Adnepos
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Joined: 15 Jun 2016, 1:47pm

Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby Adnepos » 5 Feb 2020, 2:24pm

If you end in Mallaig, the return to Glasgow by the West Highland Railway is scenic and I recommend, even if not on The Jacobite (steam engine &c).

Crossing Skye to get to Mallaig in holiday season is marred by lots of close-passing caravans and similar misbehaviour on the part of motor vehicle drivers.

david20807
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Joined: 10 Oct 2015, 11:01pm

Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby david20807 » 5 Feb 2020, 3:16pm

Adnepos wrote:If you end in Mallaig, the return to Glasgow by the West Highland Railway is scenic and I recommend, even if not on The Jacobite (steam engine &c).

Crossing Skye to get to Mallaig in holiday season is marred by lots of close-passing caravans and similar misbehaviour on the part of motor vehicle drivers.


Thank you very much. Sounds good to me!

david20807
Posts: 12
Joined: 10 Oct 2015, 11:01pm

Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby david20807 » 5 Feb 2020, 3:17pm

Jdsk wrote:As above.

We went:
Sleeper train from London to Glasgow
Train from Glasgow to Oban
Ferry from Oban to Castlebay
...
Ferry from Stornaway to Ullapool
Ride from Ullapool to a station near Inverness
Train to Inverness
Sleeper train from Inverness to London

So I'd replace our last leg with Train from Inverness to Glasgow.

That gives you the full one way route on the islands. If the timing works of course you can ride from Ullapool all the way to Inverness.

The main alternative is to cross back to Mallaig.

Jonathan


Thanks Jonathan. Good to know

david20807
Posts: 12
Joined: 10 Oct 2015, 11:01pm

Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby david20807 » 5 Feb 2020, 3:18pm

Paulatic wrote:Train to Oban > ferry to Castlebay > How you come back depends on what you do after that.


HIya Thank you, looking into this all now

phil parker
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Joined: 31 Dec 2009, 5:09pm
Location: Hants/Wilts

Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby phil parker » 5 Feb 2020, 4:03pm

If you’ve got time...

I cycled from Glasgow train Station to Ardrossan, ferry to Brodick (Arran), cycled to Lochranza, ferry to Claonaig, cycled to Oban, Ferry to Castlebay. On the way back: ferry from Stornaway to Ullapool, Cycled to Fort William, via Inverness (Beauly) and train from Fort William.

bogmyrtle
Posts: 923
Joined: 5 Mar 2008, 10:29pm

Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby bogmyrtle » 5 Feb 2020, 11:17pm

david20807 wrote:Hi All,
Im planning a cycle trip to Outer Hebrides next spring. Im from N Ireland and plan to take a bus with my bike to Glasgow.
Any advice on best way to travel from Glasgow to the Islands and return would be very much appreciated. I need to spend as little time as possible on the travel

Thanks
David

The difficulty getting to and from the Wester Isles is the time it takes getting there and then back again.
Don't know how long the bus journey takes to get to Glasgow but the Barra ferry leaves Oban at approx 1.30pm and it takes just under 5 hours to get to Barra. The train from Glasgow to Oban takes just short of 3 hours so you would need to leave Glasgow fairly early to make that ferry. You may need to be prepared to spend a night in either Glasgow or Oban if your bus times don't fit.
Coming back, you can cycle to Garve and get the train to Inverness then on to Glasgow. Again this is time consuming.
Although south to north is best, maybe look to see if your transport options are any better if you go north to south.
A bike does more miles to the banana than a Porsche.

LollyKat
Posts: 2920
Joined: 28 May 2011, 11:25pm
Location: Scotland

Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby LollyKat » 6 Feb 2020, 12:53pm

The only train from Glasgow that would catch the ferry is the 0823 from Queen Street, very close to the bus station. Make sure you book your bike on the train well in advance (easy throught the Scotrail website) as spaces are limited. There are plans for new rolling stock this year to carry more bikes on that line but they are unlikely to be in service this spring.

...ScotRail is transforming five Class 153 trains to carry up to 20 bikes to enhance existing services on the West Highland Line, providing custom designed racks to accommodate bikes, sporting equipment and large items of luggage as well as more seats for customers....

The first refurbished Class 153 carriage is due for delivery in 2020 and will be gradually rolled into service on the completion of staff training.

https://www.scotrail.co.uk/about-scotra ... ic-railway

Adnepos
Posts: 85
Joined: 15 Jun 2016, 1:47pm

Re: Outer and Southern Hebrides

Postby Adnepos » 6 Feb 2020, 4:11pm

phil parker wrote:If you’ve got time...

I cycled from Glasgow train Station to Ardrossan, ferry to Brodick (Arran), cycled to Lochranza, ferry to Claonaig, cycled to Oban, Ferry to Castlebay. On the way back: ferry from Stornaway to Ullapool, Cycled to Fort William, via Inverness (Beauly) and train from Fort William.


Excellent call!

When I've cycled the Western Isles, I haven't spent a lot of time at my 'destination'. I have made to journeys out and back part of the fun. Consider going directly from Ardrossan to Wemyss Bay or Gourock. It's not a long cycle although the road isn't fun on a bike. There's a Stagecoach bus but you would need to check whether onboard cycles are taken on this route. You could also get a train from Ardrossan to Glasgow then out to the west coast, eg still catching a ferry either from Gourock or Wemyss Bay; takes less time than public transport to Oban, Mallaig or Ullapool. After the ferry you get to cycle in beautiful territory that can take you to Castlebay in a few days (and more ferries). Ferry prices are all reasonable.

If you really want to spend a lot of time in the Western Isles and have deep pockets, then consider flying there. You can rent cycles at Castlebay and arrange to deposit them in Stornoway.

mikeymo
Posts: 416
Joined: 27 Sep 2016, 6:23pm

Re: Outer and Southern Hebrides

Postby mikeymo » 8 Feb 2020, 9:25pm

Adnepos wrote:
phil parker wrote:If you’ve got time...

I cycled from Glasgow train Station to Ardrossan, ferry to Brodick (Arran), cycled to Lochranza, ferry to Claonaig, cycled to Oban, Ferry to Castlebay. On the way back: ferry from Stornaway to Ullapool, Cycled to Fort William, via Inverness (Beauly) and train from Fort William.


Excellent call!

When I've cycled the Western Isles, I haven't spent a lot of time at my 'destination'. I have made to journeys out and back part of the fun. Consider going directly from Ardrossan to Wemyss Bay or Gourock. It's not a long cycle although the road isn't fun on a bike. There's a Stagecoach bus but you would need to check whether onboard cycles are taken on this route. You could also get a train from Ardrossan to Glasgow then out to the west coast, eg still catching a ferry either from Gourock or Wemyss Bay; takes less time than public transport to Oban, Mallaig or Ullapool. After the ferry you get to cycle in beautiful territory that can take you to Castlebay in a few days (and more ferries). Ferry prices are all reasonable.

If you really want to spend a lot of time in the Western Isles and have deep pockets, then consider flying there. You can rent cycles at Castlebay and arrange to deposit them in Stornoway.


Last time I was there (last summer, we go every year) it looked to me as though there were rental bikes available at Barra airport.

mikeymo
Posts: 416
Joined: 27 Sep 2016, 6:23pm

Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby mikeymo » 8 Feb 2020, 9:38pm

CalMac timetables here:

https://www.calmac.co.uk/calmac-summer-timetables

We've been to the Outer Hebrides for the last eight years. It's the southern islands I know best (my father was from South Uist). I'm planning on the same trip in May. Even if I don't do that, we'll be going there as a family in the summer.

If you're struggling to get to a ferry consider sailing from Mallaig to Lochboisdale (South Uist). The ferry from there goes at 17:20, whereas the Oban one goes at 13:30. Though Mallaig is about 60 miles further, it still gives you an extra 4 hours to get there from Glasgow. Which means you should be able to get from Glasgow and onto the islands in a day.

Going from Mallaig means you arrive at Lochboisdale, so you will miss Barra, if you're cycling south to north on the Hebridean Way. If you really want to see Barra there's nothing to stop you cycling Lochboisdale to Eriskay (which is 12 very easy miles) then catching the 40 minute ferry from Eriskay pier to Barra, and a lap of the island, then back. You could do that in a day, depending I suppose if you want to cycle out to see Vatersay (joined to Barra). Which you should, the beaches either side of the isthmus are the most beautiful I've ever seen. The short Eriskay-Barra ferry stops about 6:00pm, so you can't do Glasgow-Mallaig-Lochboisdale-Eriskay-Barra in one day.

You've probably researched it, but cycling on the southern islands is a doddle really. Not quite Norfolk flat, but still pretty easy. People tell me there's a hill on Harris.

Hope this helps.

mikeymo
Posts: 416
Joined: 27 Sep 2016, 6:23pm

Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby mikeymo » 8 Feb 2020, 9:44pm

Oh yes, Scotrail are apparently planning to add new bike carriages to the West Highland line, with space for about 20 bikes all in one dedicated carriage:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-50168117

The West Highland Line includes the lines to both Oban and Mallaig, it seems.

By the way, if you're using The Trainline be aware that it sometimes ignores the fact that there are two stations in Glasgow and they are only about half a mile apart, and attempts to put you on trains with more changes than you need, just to keep you arriving and leaving from the same Glasgow station. At least planning a trip from England it did.

mikeymo
Posts: 416
Joined: 27 Sep 2016, 6:23pm

Re: Outer Hebrides

Postby mikeymo » 8 Feb 2020, 10:11pm

It really depends what time you can leave Glasgow.

Consider this:

The Oban Ferry is bigger (I think) and more popular than the Mallaig one. There's only one train from Glasgow that can meet it (the station is on the ferry terminal, by the way). So if you get your biked booked on all good. If not, or if the train is delayed, you miss the ferry, have to B&B in Oban and catch the ferry the next day, getting you to Castlebay at 18:15 on day 2.

If you go from Glasgow to Mallaig you've a far better chance of making the ferry. Though there's still only one train that meets the ferry. You arrive in Lochboisdale, cycle south to your B&B somewhere near Eriskay. Or just stay in Lochboisdale. Next day get up and get the first short ferry Eriskay to Barra. You're on the same island, but about 9 hours earlier than the Oban route.

It might seem a bit odd to cycle south just to turn round and go back north, but it adds up to the same thing. And Lochboisdale to Eriskay is easy cycling. Well, apart from getting over the hill on Eriskay, but it's short enough to get off and push, if you have to. But as a plan it gives you more time on the islands.

Actually, I lied. There is an earlier train from Glasgow to Oban, 5:20. Eek!