Day 6 – Monday 17th June
North Uist to South Harris
Waking to glorious sunshine on Clachan Sands I was more than tempted to just chill on the beach all morning and catch a later ferry South Harris, especially after the long cycle the day before.
But, with my weatherman skills improving all the time I sensed (okay I saw) dark clouds moving over with the northerly wind from South Harris and thought it best to get going. After packing up the tent the clouds were looming large and the half hour cycle to Berneray Ferry was grim and overcast. But on the ferry the decision to head for the early South Harris ferry was vindicated – now behind us the Uists were awash with clouds but the sky above South Harris ahead was a sea of blue.
Arriving late (or I supposed just on time) for the ferry again were the two over-eager cyclists from the first ferry from Oban-Barra. So it was encouraging to know I was heading at the same speed as some other cyclists. We all also had our short lycra shorts hidden underneath some more comfortable, and less embarrassing shorts. No mamils (middle aged men in lycra) allowed. On seeing my Wellington Phoenix jersey they went off on a story about the crazy fans of German side FC St.Pauli, who allegedly collapse during most games in a drunken stupor. They weren’t actually German, but had visited once. Their plan was to head east around Harris on the ‘shorter’ route (19 miles) to reach the Tarbert-Uig ferry that day, and despite my insistence on the matter I couldn’t convince them that the flatter, more picturesque and only marginally longer west coast route (20 miles) would be nicer and probably quicker. They did however get away with a free ferry ride on departure after ‘forgetting’ to buy a ticket on board and being privy to the Scottish “nay bother” attitude on departure.
The West Coast route of South Harris turned out to be all I had expected, and then some. Sandy machair-backed beaches and bays with vividly clear turquoise waters, interspersed between rolling bright green hills and rocky headlands. Despite the bright sunshine, the chill wind from the north meant it was actually quite cold on the bike (4 layers worth of cold), but down on the sheltered beaches you could escape from this wind into sunbathing territory – hot enough even for a swim in the sea – in Scotland!
The day wasn’t quite idyllic though, especially for a poor sheep. As I was lifting the bike down towards one of the bays I heard a great screech of brakes behind me, and turned to see a hefty sheep being obliterated by a van, now smoking from the bonnet. The driver was understandably shaken, which was probably why he expected me to have the phone number for the local RSPCA, despite my English accent and relatively obvious touring attire. The driver was still on the job, so I stayed at the incident until a member of the local RSCPA did arrive. It’s certainly a warning to watch out for kamikaze sheep on the roads, seeing as there are actually more sheep in Scotland than Wales.
I detoured out to the Losgaintir peninsula to camp right by the beach overlooking the Island of Taransay, made famous by its use in Castaway. I wasn’t the only one with this idea, meeting some un-talkative German campers, as well as some friendly English tourers. It perhaps shows the beauty of this spot that this couple, who had also cycled up from Barra rated this area as the paradise they had hoped for on the Hebrides. Behind the beach were vast sand dunes, which when climbed provided panoramic views of the mountains of North Harris and the coastline I had just travelled up in South Harris, before I made my way back down to the bay for the sunset overlooking the isle of Taransay.
Cycling stats and route
– Distance: 20 miles
– Route: https://www.komoot.com/tour/109393185
– Duration: ~2 hours
– Ascent/Descent: 850ft/850ft