Day 5 Sollas to Rheinigidale.  43 miles, 1000m climbing.

I’ve always felt a bit allergic to B and Bs as previous experiences have usually consisted of ‘this is a polite notice’ followed by a list of instructions.  But we landed at a good one with Peggy and John.  A comfortable room, a proper bath with lashings of hot water and fabulous breakfast that included fresh crab caught by John’s brother the night before.  Peggy had an interesting accent.  At first we thought she was Scandinavian.  However she explained she was an interloper in North Uist, having been born and bred in South Uist.  But the norse influence is strong in the history of these islands and that seems to have persisted in her lovely accent. 

Well fortified, we set off for the 11 miles to the Berneray ferry over to Harris.  I’d had a definite ‘day 3’ day on the previous day, with legs aching and body objecting to this lark of having to cycle every day.  My legs were still aching today, but the scenery was remote and magnificent and I really enjoyed it.  The ferry to Leverburgh was full of cyclists but most opted to take the road round the west of the island where there are meant to be magnificent beaches.  Being contrary, we opted for the very minor road round the east of the island which is a rocky moonscape. One person had warned us against it (it’s just rocks the road is continuously up and down) but we thought it was incredibly beautiful and remote. The wind had also put people off but in fact was not a problem.  The road was very ‘up and down’, which I find the most tiring sort of cycling, so we were tired when we stopped for our picnic lunch.  We brewed up some coffee as a ‘pick me up’ as we looked at the steep hill we had to climb back to the main road.  “Main” being relative here.   One of the things I love about the islands is that the A road is often a single track with parking places.

With renewed vigour we  took the hill in one go, then coasted down to the village of Tarbert. We hunted for the supermarket only to find it was a very friendly little mini market” but it enough to stock up with provisions for the evening where we were heading for a hostel.  So how far do you cycle in a day the friendly shop-keeper asked.  “About 50 miles” I replied.  A look of total horror came across her face and she said “I was expecting you to say about 5”.  It is funny how perspectives are different.

We had been warned there was a big hill out of Tarbert and the warnings were right.  It was very steep to start with then eased off as we carried on climbing to just short of 200m.  Just as we reached the top we saw an eagle – close by to start with but by the time we got the binoculars out it had drifted far away.  

We turned off the main road towards Rheinigidale – plunging back to sea level and then climbing the same again to almost 200m, this time in permanent bottom gear with legs definitely objecting.  A final zoom down to the tiny settlement and a gorgeous little hostel, well equipped, warm as toast hot shower and views to die for. The road was only put in in 1990 – before that the group of 8 houses could only be reached by sea or by walking. It seemed mad to leave ourselves with 2 massive climbs again tomorrow morning as we have to go back the way we came but it feels magical place.  After a reviving cup of tea we took a short walk along the old walking track alongside the loch and David got a good view of 2 birds of prey, which he identified as looking a bit like sea eagles but they were big, dark plumage and had spaces in the wing feathers.  They might have been another bird of prey, in the binoculars before they again decided to fly off behind the cliff but even with our aching legs it was worth the walk in the evening sun feeling as if we were almost at the ends of the earth in total peace. 

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