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Earlier this month 10 Arran Belles travelled to the Outer Hebrides to cycle the 145 miles from Castlebay on Barra to Stornoway on Lewis staying in hostels, bunkhouses and even a tractor shed along the way.
On a beautiful, calm morning the seven hour ferry trip from Oban to Barra, calling in at Coll and Tiree, passed very quickly before a quick eight mile cycle through Barra took them to their next ferry to Eriskay then South Uist for their first night stop. On Eriskay they detoured to the bar SS Politician, well known for its association with the film Whisky Galore! and where they were shown a bottle of whisky from the sunken ship. The following day they headed north through the Uists and Benbecula, stopping at the birthplace monument of Flora MacDonald, a bleak, remote spot but one full of atmosphere.
With rain arriving it was with relief that they reached The Tractor Shed in North Uist, where they spent their second night of the tour. The old tractor shed had been converted into a kitchen, living room and bunkroom along with other turf covered huts outside. After drying off, a nice dinner and a good night’s sleep the Belles rose to a lovely day to continue their journey to Tarbert, South Harris via the Berneray/Leverburgh ferry. Turning west on Harris they were treated to the stunning beaches of Scarasta, Seilebost and Luskentyre overlooking Taransay. At this stage the Belle’s were thankful for the tailwind that they had enjoyed since their departure as the route became more hilly with a lunar like landscape.
After another overnight stay in a Tarbert hostel rain had returned for the last day but undeterred the Belles set out to tackle the Harris Hills between North Harris and the Isle of Lewis. Cross winds blew two of the cyclists, Sue and Fiona, across the road so the planned detour to the Callinish Stones had to be cancelled. However, they did pass the Bonnie Prince Charlie monument commemorating his visit in 1745, before finally arriving in Stornoway.
This was the first cycle tour for most of the Arran Belles, full of doubts and concerns about their fitness but they coped with determination and motivation surprising themselves with their ability. Well deserved medals were presented to Isla Murchie, Sue Archer, Fiona Leslie, Fiona Douglas, Fiona Carswell, Toni MacKenzie, Carol Vella Boyle, Linda Johnston, Jillian Plenderleith, Wee Flo and Janice Small who all agreed the Outer Hebrides had been a truly wonderful experience, a place of isolation, haunting beauty, antiquities, dazzling beaches, turquoise seas, sea lochs and dramatic hills and a place to return to.
The Arran Belles who took part in the Outer Hebrides tour. No_B30belles01
The Belles inspect their accommodation for the night, an old tractor shed in North Uist. No_B30belles02
Taking time to appreciate the scenery, the Belles stop for a quick break. No_B30belles03