CYCLING IN THE HEBRIDES
By Richard Barrett
Published by Cicerone Feb 2016
Paperback Gloss Laminated
For those who have not yet been persuaded to take their bicycles to the Hebrides and have a jolly good ride around, Richard Barrett's Cicerone guide might well just be the final push needed.
There are a variety of routes - some very short due to the size of the island and others that ingeiouslt attempt to cover as many of the roads on an island without using the same one twice - with the region divided up into seven areas. For the purposes of the guide, the author has included the Clyde and Kintyre area, as well as the Hebrides, Inner and Outer. This makes sense as a coherent tour requires island and mainland hopping to avoid repetition. Indeed, there are some mainland-based link routes between ferry ports. Taken overall, this helps the planning an execution of a number of island explorations or a fully-fledged grand tour.
The author runs a guest house on the Isle of Harris and recommends visiting between April and October. Sound advice, if only for the length of daylight hours and the liklihood of calmer days on some of the more windswept islands - and smoother ferry crossings. However, the Clyde islands have provided the reviewer with some very pleasant late autumn and early spring cycling - just be prepared. In fact, be prepared whenever you go. The book covers an incredibly beautiful and fascinating area, one that is wild and peaceful and relitavely remote compared to the much of the UK.
Whilst you might occassionally take a look at the map and consider a route guide unnecessary as there are only one or two roads that could possibly be followed, the importance of a guide in this area derives as much from information about what is on the route as much as finding the best way. Where to stay, stock up on rations, find a warm cuppa and what might be seen are covered in sufficient depth to plan and undertake a tour, taking with you a sound understanding of the practicalities and the the unique heritage, landscape and wildlife. An up-to-date bibliography is very useful.
It would have been handy to know alittle bit about the cyclability of some of the tracks which one sees on the OS maps. However, this may well have extended the guide to an impractical size. Equally, the roads are quiet, so escaping the traffic is unlikely to be a priority.
Updates to the guide will be available at www.cicerone.co.uk/827/updates
The wise traveller will always check out ferry timetables - which change seasoanlly - and other detail in advance. However, Cycling in the Hebrides will provide any prospective visitor with a host of good ideas and plentiful information. Take a look at some of the photos and put the islands of the west coast of Scotland on your destinantion list.
REVIEW PUBLISHED MARCH 2016
REVIEWED BY STEVE DYSTER
SOME OTHER CICERONE REVIEWS ON SEVEN DAY CYCLIST