Ten islands on two wheels

Initially thwarted by lockdown, in July 2020 Jonny Burns and his friend Kevin Sommerville were finally able to complete their Hebridean Way cycle challenge – raising over £1300 by biking the 185-mile length of the Outer Hebrides.

Here, Jonny looks back on a weekend that made memories as well as money, including an impromptu sheep rescue along the way…

“I have been a keen cyclist for a number of years now and have had a love for the beautiful landscape we have in Scotland since I was a boy. I had seen a few videos and read a few blogs about the Hebridean Way cycling challenge and had put it on my ‘bucket list’. My friend Kevin, who has completed various cycle events with me, was also keen.

We decided to do it to support the PHA UK as in late 2017 we lost my father-in-law Derek Rennie after a short battle with pulmonary veno occlusive disease (PVOD), which is a subset of pulmonary hypertension. Derek was another lover of Scotland’s beauty and was intensely passionate about the country, so it only seemed fitting that I completed the challenge in his memory.

We had originally planned to do it in May but due to the lockdown it had to be postponed.  The weather that weekend was almost perfect – with glorious sunshine and little wind – so it was a bit of a blow. We took the earliest opportunity after the islands reopened to start the challenge.

The cycle went well although we did have a few issues to overcome with some restrictions still in place. Our accommodation was limited to tents and we had to plan our food and water stops to make sure we had plenty of fuel to keep us going.

The weather was also rather windy and although about most of the time it was helping us along, there was a section on day one where we were battling a cross head wind for several miles and had to seek shelter in a bus stop.

Something we will always remember is when Kevin jumped to the rescue of a sheep which had become entangled in a wire fence in quite a remote spot on Harris. He had to pin the sheep down and cut the wire free from around its neck using a multitool I had taken along. That, I am pleased to report, was the only time we had to use any tools on the trip as we didn’t even suffer a puncture!

Overall, it was a special experience and will take a bit of beating. If it wasn’t for the temperature it would be easy to mistake some of the beaches as being somewhere in the Caribbean. And we were certain that Derek was looking down on us as the weather was mostly in our favour.

I am sure Kevin and I will be signing up to more challenges in the future, and we already have some rough plans to walk to the most remote pub in Scotland and back. Watch this space!”

Pictured below: Derek Rennie, who inspired the challenge