An explorer's guide to the islands of Britain

Distance: 68 km
Difficulty: Moderate
Method: Road cycling
Wow Factor: 9 out of 10

Key Facts

  • Location: Outer Hebrides
  • Terrain: Minor roads and a section of The Hebridean Way (A859)
  • Access: Road from Lewis; ferry from North Uist
  • Height gain: 1142 metres
  • Map: OS Explorer 455
  • Starting point: Leverburgh Ferry Terminal (57.767516, -7.024824)
  • Accommodation/food:

    This is a bit of a grand cycling tour of some excellent cafes and restaurants and a true celebration of local food. here’s some of our favourite places to eat along this route:

    The Anchorage, Leverburgh – think haggis and black pudding bon bons and good portions of fish and chips

    The Butty Bus, Leverburgh – great place for soup or breakfast and a chat to the locals

    Temple Cafe, Northton – a mini stone hobbit house on the beach with good soups, bread and bakes

    Machair Kitchen, Talla na Mara – great seafood and local fare from the decks with one of the best views in Harris. Nearby, there is also the new and excellent pop-up restaurant Flavour

    Skoon Gallery, Geocrab – excellent coffee and home-baking within an art gallery

    Bay of Harris Community Centre, Lackalee – super-friendly cafe great for hearty soup and mighty scones. Have a look through the visitors’ book to find Charles and Camilla’s entry – they were out inspecting the Household tweed no doubt!

    Sam’s Seafood, Rodel – a personal favourite try the seaweed roast potatoes, lobster flatbreads or salmon goujons. The list of delicious seafood changes daily. Takeaway only but lovely views to savour.

    Harris Community Shop, Leverburgh – well stocked

    There is plenty of accommodation on South Harris including a number of excellent campsites.

  • Island Summary:

    South Harris is linked to Lewis in the north and separated from North Uist in the south by the Sound of Harris. This island offers a lot more to the visitor than the Harris tweed for which it is famed. Full of natural beauty, geological wonder and plenty of cultural and foodie stops this island loop needs to be on everyone’s itinerary.

    The west coast boasts the show-stopper beaches of Sgarasta Mhor, Seilibost and Luskentyre whilst the east coast, known as The Bays’, is deeply indented and a patchwork of small lochs, outcrops of ancient rocks and isolated communities linked together by the Golden Road that winds and undulates through the lunar landscape.

  • Look out for:
    • Cycling past some of the best beaches of the Hebrides
    • Plenty of stops to sample quirky cafes, art galleries, good restaurants and local seafood
    • Pass through lunar landscapes of some of the oldest rocks in the world
  • Route description:

    This is a roller-coaster of a road route that takes in all of the natural, cultural and foodie highlights of this wonderful island with stunning beach scenery along the west coast and wild and stark scenery along the east.

    Heading north from Leverburgh the clockwise route follows the legendary Hebridean Way passing the epic beaches of the west coast, climbing the high pass between Grosa Cleit and Uabhal Beg, before turning off to follow the single-track Golden Road.

    The east coast route passes through almost lunar landscape. Grey rocky outcrops, the oldest exposed rock in the world, juxtaposed with patches of green and splendid waterlily-filled lochans, edged with the wonderfully named bog bean. It winds and undulates through a mix of small communities with Gaelic and Viking names that will leave you tongue-tied. There are plenty of opportunities to soak up the cultural heritage of Harris along the way and have a well-deserved break. For a Tweed-fest pull over at Plocrapol, which still hand-weaves Harris Tweed in the traditional way. There are fantastic art galleries at Holmasaig Gallery, Finsbay Gallery, Skoon Art Cafe, Ardbuidhe Gallery and the Mission House. Definitely take time to enjoy the stunning viewpoint at Manish and don’t miss Flodabay to view the seals basking on the rocks. You’ll know that you are coming up to it by the number of cars parked on the verge. This whole section feels more high mountain plateau than low level coastal.

    The southern end of The Golden Road reaches Rodel with the wonderful St Clement’s Church above the tranquil harbour – both are well worth a visit and good toilets are available. The route climbs out of Rodel before the final descent into to Leverburgh – the best way to finish this energetic ride.

  • Getting there:

    Ferry: there are a choice of Calmac ferry routes including from Uig on Skye to Tarbert on Harris; from Berneray on North Uist to Leverburgh on Harris; and from Ullapool on the mainland to Stornoway on Lewis (then south by road).

    Bus: There are five buses between Leverburgh and Tarbert, taking 45 min. Most continue to Stornoway on Lewis which takes another hour.

     

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