THE record-breaking popular adventurer and TV personality completed the challenge to cycle the length of the island chain in just 24 hours to mark the launch of the Hebridean Way Cycling Route.
Taking in ten islands and six causeways with two rib crossings courtesy of Uist Sea Tours, Mark completed the 185 mile route from Vatersay in the south to the Butt of Lewis in the north in a single day.
It was part of a push to showcase the unique appeal of the islands at the start of the 2016 tourist season.
Mark, who holds the record for cycling the length of Africa, said afterwards: “This whole Outer Hebrides experience has been unforgettable - from the moment I landed on the spectacular beach at Barra to completing the challenge at the islands’ most northerly point at the Butt of Lewis.
“What struck me most is the amazing immediacy of the landscape, which changes from island to island.
“The scenery is stunning, and you’d miss so much of it dashing along in a car.
“This has to be the best part of Scotland, and cycling has to be the best way to see these fantastic islands. The roads are perfect for cycling – quiet and safe.
“So many communities, schoolchildren and cyclists turned out to wish me well on my journey, and I’m sure I’ll be back again with my bike to soak up more of this unique Hebridean landscape and hospitality.”
Outer Hebrides Tourism’s Ian Fordham explained: “Cycling is an increasingly popular sport these days, and we have seen more and more people wanting to explore our islands on two wheels.
“We’re delighted Mark accepted our challenge to cycle The Hebridean Way Cycling Route in 24 hours and help to put the route on the cycling map.
“It has to be one ofScotland’s most scenic cycling routes, and we know that visitors will be as impressed as Mark was with the changing landscapes from one island to the next.
“Moreover, our tourism industry is well-equipped to cater for cyclists who want a quality experience while they’re here”.
The challenge, which was filmed from start to finish, was attempted with the support of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (CnES) and Calmac Ferries.
Mark tackled an exciting variety of some of Scotland’s most scenic cycling routes in mixed Hebridean winter weather and seemingly unhindered by strong winds.
It was an effort expected to emphasise the islands’ tourism potential to fans of pedal power – and everyone else as well.
CalMac’s head of commercial Graeme MacFarlan said: “CalMac is an integral part of the communities in the Western Isles and a key transport partner.
“We are delighted to be able to support both Mark and the many people who will be attempting this in the future to achieve their goal.
“The Hebridean Way Cycling Route is another fantastic reason for visiting one of the most spectacular areas of the country.”
Footage of Mark’s journey will now be made available through social media channels, where fans of the cycling star have already been following his efforts using the hashtag #HebWay.
The footage will help to highlight the experiences an island-hopping holiday on the Outer Hebrides offers to a global online audience - encouraging cyclists and others from across the world to come and experience the islands for themselves.
Scottish Natural Heritage’s David MacLennan explained that visitors following in Mark’s recently pedalled path could expect an unrivalled experience of the islands’ great outdoors.
He said: “Cyclists on the Hebridean Way will experience spectacular scenery and wildlife from start to finish.
“From unspoilt beaches through the machairs, moors and mountains, people will come across corncrakes, seals, otters, and eagles to name but a few – every day will be different.
“Lots of people come here to cycle already, and we hope the Hebridean Way Cycling Route will encourage many more to come and experience what we have to offer. “
Cycling the islands end-to-end in daylight hours, Mark and his support crew experienced a whistle-stop tour of each island’s unique identity.
Many enthusiastic schoolchildren, islanders and businesses, as well as several supporting cyclists across the archipelago turned out in force, cheering Mark along to the finish line and demonstrating true traditional Hebridean hospitality.
Councillor Alasdair MacLeod, chair of sustainable development for CNnES said: “Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is delighted to have been the lead partner in the establishment of the Hebridean Way Cycling Route.
“Our research suggests that we will soon see an additional 2,000 visitors cycling the length of the islands - contributing an extra £742,000 to the local economy.
“This iconic Cycling Route will provide cyclists with a wonderful opportunity to enjoy, at first hand, the outstanding natural beauty of the Outer Hebrides.
“The Comhairle is confident that our communities will build on this substantial investment and help put the islands on the map as a first-class choice destination for cycling enthusiasts.”
And the adventure does not stop there, as following his successful completion of the Hebridean Way Cycling Route across Scotland’s “Islands on the Edge” Mark will join tourism bosses and local businesses at the Isle of Harris Distillery for the Connected 2020 tourism event which coincides with the start of the Scottish Tourism Alliance’s Scottish Tourism Week.
The event marks not only the official launch of the Hebridean Way Cycling Route, but also offers an opportunity for guests to learn about the brand new Eat Drink Hebrides Trail – another exciting initiative that will help visitors experience a true taste of the islands.
Featured food producers and eateries from across the archipelago are attending the event to showcase their fantastic Hebridean produce and drum up interest in Eat Drink Hebrides – a trail designed to encourage visitors to enjoy island hopping across the Outer Hebrides and discover real Hebridean flavours along the way.
In excess of 100 Connected 2020 guests are expected at the sold-out event in the evening where they will enjoy everything from a cookery demonstration by James MacKenzie, chef patron of Digby Chick in Stornoway to island specialities and wonderful wild food as they celebrate Mark Beaumont’s successful ride and toast the future of tourism in the Outer Hebrides.
Outer Hebrides Tourism is a Community Interest Company which exists to develop, promote and sustain the tourism industry in the Outer Hebrides.
Tourism generates £53m in economic value for the islands, sustains 1000FTE jobs, and is one of the key growth sectors in the economy of the islands.
There are 200,000 visitors per year, 700 accommodation providers directly supported by tourism, and 100’s of other businesses whose livelihoods depends on the visitor economy.
Tourism Outer Hebrides 2020 is the tourism development strategy for the area, and targets a growth in tourism revenues from £53m to £74m by 2020.