Cycling the Hebrides: Day 4 – Benbecula to Leverburgh

Day 4 Benbecula to Leverburgh, South Harris.

The B&B we stayed here was basic but welcoming. The same was for the breakfast and seemed we were spoilt the previous days. After fuelling up on a fried breakfast we made leave and headed for the Bakery which my Aunt had told me was a must. Seeing online it was open from 8:30 we headed via the airport to see what it was like. A bigger operation than that of Barra with a novelty Tarmac runway to boot! There was even a plane on the stand.

Rolling into the bakers we saw that in fact it was open from 9:30, with it just turning 9 we had a decision to make. North uist was to be sparse and with 70kms to Berneray where the Leverburgh ferry departs we had to make sure our supplies would last. Not that we were in danger of starving.

We decided to wait so we passed time watching the world go by and looking out over the mudflats surrounding the North of Benbecula.

Bakery open we bought enough food for two days. Our trip to St Kilda would require us to take our own food with us. So we bought pastries, sandwiches and cakes!

Stocked and ready we headed with the wind northward across the Causeways that links Benbecula to Grimsay and eventually onto North Uist.

We were flying thanks to a brisk southerly. I wondered how long this would last and if a head wind would ever present itself.

The flat of Benbecula was long gone as North Uist western road undulates and twists around the inlets and towns of western north uist. The wind was now on our left side which meant it was cooling but we were working to it really wasn’t too bad. The landscape of Uists all are very similar. Heather and bog barren inland with green patches and rocks dotting the hills and road sides. The coast was of green patches, islands of grass which when the tide comes in would be cut off. In between patches of sand and mud. The odd house would introduce bushes and non heather horticulture to the landscape. The road was good, passing places a plenty but always not in the right spot which meant pedalling hard to reach on so as not to hold up the vehicle traffic or waiting until the back up of cars passed while letting cars pass that were coming toward us.

We were making good progress the ferry at Berneray was at 1600 and we’d covered more than half the distance by lunch. It was time to fuel. I’d made a plan to get to Scolpail Bay and eat lunch there. It looked from the map like a northerly facing bay with beach, perfect to escape the wind and a good place to chill. However when we got there we noticed it was a private road and were made to feel unwelcome so we made off to find another spot.

We eventually after a detour to a working port found a spot just off the main road where there was a grass patch before the land stopped and the beach started. It was kinda out the wind but the views north were fantastic.

The road was most definitely undulating. We were glad to have been fed and the dark chocolate was working well. We stopped at the coop buying juice and crisps. It felt good to be eating junk guilt free and used a picnic area as shelter to eat away.

We were 20kms away from the ferry and these 20kms passed quickly. Andy was riding the furthest he’d been in a day and was going well. We crossed the causeway to Berneray and as I’d noticed a sign headed for the cafe for shelter and cake.

There’s nothing better than cafe when cycling. It makes the whole experience worthwhile.

Still time to kill we headed further on the east side of the little island and to a beach which faced Harris. The views were amazing. The sea looking angry and with moody skies the scene captured what the Hebrides are for me, wild rugged and untamed. It would have been nice to have sun but inclement weather tells the story of reality and it was good to face it if only briefly.

It drizzled on the way back to the ferry terminal and we took shelter in the waiting room. The walls adorned in posters, leaflets, business cards and graffiti for local businesses and passing tourists. The ferry arrived on time and again we boarded pushing our bikes on and leaning them against the side. I was pleased to find out this ferry had an inside. The wind was becoming a pain.

The ferry route from Berneray to Harris is incredible. The sheer amount of Islands meant navigating was difficult. The shipping channel marked by green and red bouys the ferry would skim and turn when passed. Leverburgh came into sight and upon disembarking we headed to the restaurant – the only one in this town – to reserve form dinner.

The guest house, 5 mins up the road by bike was large, we had a family room adjacent to the tv lounge. It was comfortable and homely and felt like someplace we could rest and come and go unlike the previous nights. Shower and a change we headed to the pub / restaurant – the anchorage. Deuchars went down well and so did the food. I’d have carried on but the alarm was set for 6:30 as our boat to Kilda would leave at 7:45. It was time for bed!

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