The Gathering of the Clans
The clarion call went out from the ‘Great Highland Chieftain’ “Is there anyone out there tough enough to take on the challenge of the Hebridean Way?” Rising to the throw of the gauntlet, the ‘clans’ came from far and wide to ‘set up camp’ with the ‘Southern contingent’ at the Kelvin Hotel in Oban while the ‘Beverley Clan’ opted for the nearby Dunarle Guest House. Unfortunately for Chieftain Phil he had to cry off at the last minute leaving Chris to step into his shoes to keep the motley crew in check. Later the ‘clans’ met up at the Oban Inn to discuss tactics and logistics. (At least that’s what they claimed). Of course this involved copious amounts of food and alcohol to stimulate the brain and fortify the body for the challenges ahead.
The Hebridean Way covers a journey of around 185 miles from Vatersay to the Butt of Lewis crossing 10 islands, 6 causeways and 2 ferries. The first obstacle was to transfer bikes and luggage and establish a ‘beach head’ on the island of Barra. Our task was greatly assisted when Richard offered to transport the baggage in his camper van leaving the rest of us to walk on to the ferry along with bikes.
Fortified by a full Scottish breakfast we were ready for the trip on the Calmac ferry “Isle of Lewis”. The crossing from Oban to Castlebay, the largest village on Barra, takes about 4hr 45m passing through the Sound of Mull before being exposed to the Atlantic. Luckily the weather was relatively calm giving us a smooth passage. After docking in Castlebay, it was time to haul bikes and luggage to respective ‘bivouacs’. Seven ‘clansmen’ settled into the Castlebay Hotel while the remainder were a short distance away in the Craigard Hotel.
While lugging our bags upstairs to our rooms, Puggy was intercepted by an elderly lady, (later to be christened Bag Lady) “You’re not carrying that bag on your bike are you?” she asked before adding “How are you getting it to Stornoway?” After explaining the baggage pickup and the fact that one of our group had a camper van she quickly adopted some pleading eyes “Do you think I would be able to put my bag in the van to deliver to Stornoway?” Well what could I say. “I’ll ask the question but….”
During dinner there was much discussion about how “Bag Lady” would have coped if Richard had not kindly offered to oblige her, along with a lot of speculation as to how she had intended to get to Stornoway and what she might have in said bag. Conspiracy theories were running wilder and wilder as the liquid refreshments got to work. All too soon it was time to say good night and get ready for our first big day.