An explorer's guide to the islands of Britain

56.982584, -7.467643
Distance: 77 km
Difficulty: Easy
Method: Road cycling
Wow Factor: 7 out of 10

Key Facts

  • Location: Outer Hebrides
  • Size: 5875 hectares
  • Terrain: Good quality roads
  • Access: Ferry from Oban or Eriskay
  • Height gain: 201 metres
  • Map: OS Explorer 452
  • Starting point: Isle of Barra Beach Hotel (GR 56.975653, -7.518162) on the west coast
  • Accommodation/food:

    There is a full range of food and accommodation options on Barra but here are a few of our favourites:

    Campsite we love Borve camping and Caravan Site for its stunning shoreside location, cleanliness and helpfulness of Donald it’s proprietor.

    For food we dream about Cafe Kisimul in Castlebay, serving a great range of food Italian,British and Indian. The hand-dived scallop pakoras and curry dishes made with slow-cooked Hebridean lamb or Barra prawns, along with Rohail’s award winning monkfish & cod in a tuna based masala are simply not to be missed. There’s a good range of vegetarian options too. We also enjoy the cafe at Barra Airport where we sit and catch up with their Wifi with a coffee and bacon sandwich waiting for a plane to land on the beach. This is only airport in the world where a scheduled flight actually lands on the beach.  

  • Island Summary:

    Barra is the most southerly of the inhabited islands in the Outer Hebrides. With vast sand beaches, a wild and hilly interior  and beautiful machair it is a wonderful place to visit and this circular cycling route offers the best way of experiencing its breathtaking scenery.

  • Look out for:
    • Views across to Kisimul Castle
    • Cafe Kisimul's scallop pakoras
    • Watching planes land on the beach
    • Finding a deserted beach and watching the pounding Atlantic
  • Route description:

    This circular route is straightforward to follow on the A888 which loops around the island. It includes optional spurs on minor roads to explore the stunning beaches and villages of the most northerly point of the island; along to the Sound of Barra ferry port for great views across to Eriskay; and a southern loop to the causeway across to Vatersay.

    It is possible to start at any point on this route. The west coast is open to the full force of the Atlantic with beautiful machair and vast white beaches and it can be interesting cycling this in a strong wing (this is the only time that I have fallen off my bike going downhill due to a lack of momentum!). The loop around the north is worthwhile to stop and watch one of the scheduled flights landing at Barra Airport’s beach at low tide and then go on to explore the little visited beach of Traigh Sgurabhal.

    The route down the east coast is gentle with plenty of sheltered coves to explore before turning west to climb the flanks of the island’s highest hill, Heabhal, to the high point of the ride and great views across Castlebay to Kisimul Castle perched on rocks in the Bay.

  • Getting there:

    Calmac ferry from Oban to Castlebay daily during the summer and 5 days a week during the winter. From  Uist  you  can  also  take  small  car  ferry  from  Eriskay  which  will  bring  you to Ardmhor jetty in half an hour and runs daily with upto 5 return journeys a day.  

    Fly to Barra  and  land  on  the  only  beach  runway  in  the  world. Travel  daily  from  Glasgow Monday – Sunday.  

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Island overview

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