Isle of Harris circular
with thanks to Iain Gow who contributed this article
Distance - 40 miles; Est Time - 6 hours
Most of the Harris road network is single track with passing places which requires more care and attention than normal. Further information on single track roads is available in the Highway Code.
From Tarbert, join the A859 and head south taking a steady incline for about 0.5 mile which levels out and all too quickly becomes single track. However, there are sections of regular 2-way road at intervals along the route, terrain permitting. After 4.5 miles, you reach the highest point of the route at 140mtrs which gives you the luxury of an easy fast pedal all the way down to the wide Luskentyre bay where there are usually wind-surfers enjoying the crystal-clear sea. If you are not impressed with this beach, don't worry as the best is yet to come.
Continue weaving along the road with views of Taransay in the distance. There are several more beaches on your right and stopping places to admire the view. Shortly after Borve, the magnificent Scarista Beach comes into the landscape. As you come down the slope past the golf course and approach the village of Scarista, stop at the gate in the fence about 100m before the white house with the conservatory. Lock your bike to the fence, cross the field and through the far gate to make your way to the beach through the gap in the sand dunes and enjoy a leisurely walk along arguably the best beach this country has to offer. As there are no parking places for cars, cyclists have this beach to themselves. The joy of cycling on the Hebrides. Looking to your right is the mountain range of North Harris.
If you can drag yourself away from the beach, continue through Northton and Leverburgh then a steady climb to 70m up through the bealach before heading down towards Rodel. Approaching Rodel, keep to the main road towards the left of St. Clements church then stop at the gates to visit. Inside are some remarkable stone carvings but it is the carvings high on the outside of the church that might raise the most interest and discussion.
Retrace your route for 100m back to the T-junction and head down to the harbour and the Rodel Hotel for a well-earned Scooby snack.
Having slaked your thirst and hunger, continue up the east coast 'Gold Road' so called because of the cost of construction. This single track road across undulating bleak rocky countryside is only broken by hundreds of lochans and the occasional hamlet along the way.
Just after Aird Mhighe, you have the option of turning right to follow the longer route round the coast line or continue ahead with the tie-in near the highest point of your outward journey. Either way, return to Tarbert and rest, having cycled up the equivalent of a Munro.
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