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Outer Hebrides

After arriving in Castlebay, we cycled south to the beaches of Vatersay, where there is an informal campsite that lets you pitch a tent in a beautiful setting next to the beach.

The beach was stunning and in the morning the sun came out to greet it.

We started cycling north along the west coast of Barra. As we had some time to spare until the ferry to Uist, we had a look at the Barra airport which is located in a bay, where during low tide, small passenger aircrafts land and take off.

In all our trip we haven’t seen as many cyclists as here on the Outer Hebrides. I guess the remoteness of the place is rather an attraction to most people and we could see some familiar faces in the campgrounds along the way.

Sheep are grasing directly next to the road and are more startled by the occasional cyclists than by the cars and motorhomes passing them.

Some of the islands are connected by causeways and one can experience the open spaces between the islands directly from the saddle.

We celebrated Andrea’s birthday in a small hostel with a bottle of Argentinian Malbec. As it was a quiet evening, we found some pleasure in getting creative with the photos in the newspaper.

The weather was enhancing the experience and sometimes the dramatic dark clouds were broken by the sunlight illuminating the ocean below.

Our last campsite was on the isle of Harris and we had a fantastic view from our tent.

We stayed an extra day which proofed a little difficult. We had eaten our emergency food the night before as the only store in town had already closed when we arrived. We scraped together a last meal with rice, cous cous and soy sauce and made the last kilometers the following day to Tarbert on an empty stomach. Because of time and energy constraints, we changed our plans and made our way directly to Skye instead of cycling north to the isle of Lewis.

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Kyntire

The ride along the eastern coastline north of Campbeltown is amazing, though hilly at times. We pitched our tent just next to the Arran ferry at the beach near Claonaig. I hadn’t heard about the isle before but it looked inviting.

The water was also inviting and we didn’t mind the cold temperature too much.

We made our way to Tarbert, which has a bit of an odd history.

There was a festival in town and we had a bit of a chat with this guy until he was asked by a little girl why he was so tall, as if there was something suspiciously wrong.

On a long cycling trip, one has to make sure to stretch. A pretty backdrop to do so is easy to find in these parts.

We still came past the odd castle in forgotton places like here Carnasserie Castle.

We wildcamped for three nights in a row but we stayed in places that let us wash up at the end of the day in the ocean or in a nearby river.

We still felt quiet fresh when we rolled into Oban from where we took the ferry to the Outer Hebrides.

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Northern Ireland

We spent our first night in Northern Ireland just next to the border. When we crossed it, we hardly noticed it. If it weren’t for the big protest signs from the border communities against the Brexit and consequently an EU border deepening the separation of the two Irish countries once more.

The next day we stayed in Portstewart with David from couchsurfing. An incredible kind host and interesting character. It took a while to get our bags inside and to get settled in as we were soon deep in conversation.

The next day David started to cycle with us and was our local guide.

The sun was out and the coastline shone in bright colours with the different blues of the sea and the white of the sand and the limestone.

About halfway we met Dave again whom we first met at the Leitrim cycling festival a week earlier. Together we cycled to Bushmills and a coffee break before he set off again to take the ferry to Scotland the same day.

We had more time and also stopped at the biggest attraction along the coast, the giant’s causeway.

There was some climbing to be one and usually gave one a fantastic view of the coastline.

Whitepark bay was as far as David went with us where we stopped for a small break and ate the leftovers from last night’s dinner.

Our goal for the day was Ballycastle, where we would stay with Paul, another cyclist who was so kind to let us stay in a spare room of his house. Once again a kind host and interesting character. We had a long and enriching evening together and talked until midnight when we finally went to bed.

The ferry to Campbeltown in Scotland wasn’t leaving before the afternoon. So Paul was showing us his favourite spot just outside town. We took the guitar with us and he his camera and a small audio recorder. We passed the afternoon playing some songs and making a photo and recording session out of it.

The ferry ride began entertaining enough. The small boat bouncing on the waves and seemingly an almost exclusive service for cyclists, four out of five passengers had their bikes on bord. After an hour our stomachs felt duly entertained and we were glad when we finally arrived at the harbour and had some time on the bicycles to find our balance again on the first kilometers in Scotland.