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Hebridean hopscotch — cycling along Scotland's magical west coast

Laura Villinger

Hebridean hopscotch — cycling along Scotland's magical west coast

Bike Touring Collection by komoot

11

Tours

41:15 h

428 mi

17,925 ft

Scotland's northwest coast is truly a magical island landscape: endless white sandy beaches, crystal-clear, sky blue water and lush green meadows covered in wildflowers, all splashed across a rugged lunar-like landscape built of rolling moorland and craggy coastlines. Lucky visitors may even spot a few dolphins, whales, otters or eagles, although all who visit will leave with one thing: Everlasting memories of this region’s unique, untouched scenery.

Along this route, thanks to the combination of numerous bike trails and the odd ferry crossing, you’ll hop through the center of Gaelic culture and get to know eleven of the islands. The ride starts on the Western Isles, better known as the Outer Hebrides, where you’ll enjoy tranquil and quiet streets, secluded bays, and the opportunity to visit a gallery or a whiskey distillery. Here, you can immerse yourself in the past and explore Callanish's megalithic stone formations and the traditional black houses of the 18th and 19th centuries.

On the Isle of Skye, you’ll discover the home of Scotland's most renowned landscapes: The Fairly Glen, the Quiraing, the Old Man of Storr and the Cuillin Massif. Here, you’ll have to share Skye’s majestic sights with a fair few tourists, however, or head out onto the islands lonely roads to enjoy the rough beauty of the island undisturbed. Just remember: Flat is not a word that describes anything here.

Along each stage, you’ll find picnic areas, cafés, supermarkets and accommodation, and many of the islands are so small that you can explore them in one day. And if this is not motivating enough, you can also pedal safe in the knowledge that spontaneity is all you need: The islands’ infrastructure is perfect for on-the-fly decision making, and you don’t need to plan ferry-crossings or accommodation in advance. And if you travel with a tent, you can start individual stages more easily and look forward to lonely nights on the beach with a view of wonderful blue water as far as the eye can see. Just keep in mind that you’re in Scotland; the weather here can change at a moment’s notice. Don't forget to bring your windproof rainwear, and cycle in a northerly direction if possible—that way the wind will give you a nice assist from behind.

Although the Hebrides are often visited by boat, Oban is the most ideal starting point for this Tour, which can be reached comfortably by train. And after you’re done, Harry Potter fans, in particular, are in for an extra treat on the way back: the Hogwarts Express will be departing from Mallaig.

Ferry timetables can be found here: aferry.co.uk

On The Map

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Hebridean Hopscotch

413 mi

18,000 ft

18,000 ft

Last updated: December 6, 2021

Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Hebridean Hopscotch – E1: Von Barra nach Vatersay & Eriskay

    Intermediate
    02:47
    29.4 mi
    10.6 mph
    1,125 ft
    1,100 ft
    Ferry
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    On this first leg of this Tour, you will already discover three of the eleven islands. You’ll start in the picturesque coastal town of Castlebay before making your first detour south to the southernmost of all the islands

    by komoot

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  • Intermediate
    03:33
    37.9 mi
    10.7 mph
    550 ft
    600 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Today's stage is very flat. With a bit of luck, and with the wind behind you, your bike will almost seem to pedal itself.

    

    Starting out, a near mile-long (1.5 kilometer-long) causeway will take you to South Uist. This

    by komoot

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  • Intermediate
    03:45
    40.2 mi
    10.7 mph
    800 ft
    800 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Today’s ride is mostly flat — a welcome relief — although the landscape loses some of the striking green colors you’ll have fallen in love with by now. The next island waiting for you is Grimsay.

    

    Once you get underway

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  • Difficult
    04:03
    45.6 mi
    11.3 mph
    1,750 ft
    1,750 ft
    Ferry
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    To start this stage, you’re going to have to jump on the ferry. And don’t worry if you miss the next connection and have to wait a while; you’ll not get bored on Berneray. While you wait, watch the seals and the otters

    by komoot

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  • Difficult
    03:58
    39.5 mi
    10.0 mph
    2,000 ft
    2,000 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    From Tarbert, head over to Lewis and Harris. In fact, you’ll be returning to this port later to take the ferry across to Skye — but that will have to wait for a few days. Otherwise, you’ll miss the epic secrets hidden

    by komoot

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  • Difficult
    04:04
    42.3 mi
    10.4 mph
    1,675 ft
    1,650 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage 6 is a day where you will pedal from Highlight to Highlight. First, you’ll reach the "Broch Dun Carloway", a well-preserved Iron Age tower. A few miles further down the road, you’ll encounter an entire village of

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  • Intermediate
    02:48
    28.6 mi
    10.2 mph
    1,050 ft
    1,050 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Up here, you’re at the top of the world. You literally can’t cycle further north, so all that’s left to do is to turn around and experience the rest of the island. And today’s ride will be dominated by the ‘Black Moor

    by komoot

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  • Difficult
    05:07
    63.5 mi
    12.4 mph
    1,925 ft
    1,950 ft
    Ferry
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    You’ll already be familiar with a fair amount of today’s ride, although you’ll likely get a new perspective over the landscape as you cycle in the opposite direction. The ride itself is largely flat through moorland that

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  • Difficult
    03:18
    31.2 mi
    9.4 mph
    2,350 ft
    2,325 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Welcome to the Isle of Skye — the Island of Fog. Or island number 11 for you. This island is perhaps the most well known out of all the ones you’ve explored yet.

    

    Skye is packed with dramatic landscapes and majestic nature

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  • Difficult
    04:36
    36.5 mi
    7.9 mph
    3,250 ft
    3,275 ft
    Expert bike ride. Very good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    If you liked yesterday’s stage, you’re going to love this one. Today, the adventure rolls on, taking you off the beaten track and up the Struan, a one-lane track through the middle of the island.

    

    If your legs are tired

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  • Intermediate
    03:15
    33.2 mi
    10.2 mph
    1,475 ft
    1,475 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    As you wake up today, you’ll be witness to a spectacular site: A bridge with three arches nestling behind the Cullin Hills. Today is your last day; the culmination of your Hebridean hopscotch, so it’s important you make

    by komoot

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Questions and Comments

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    11
  • Distance
    428 mi
  • Duration
    41:15 h
  • Elevation
    17,925 ft

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Hebridean hopscotch — cycling along Scotland's magical west coast

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