Five Ferries Island Hopping – Bike Ride

Jane’s story is a familiar one to most cyclists. Inspired to find a new hobby, it was the sight of her brother’s collection of bikes that evoked happy childhood memories of riding a bike. A short, painful, and exhausting ride aboard a decrepit and rusty mountain bike ensued. But the seed was planted and Jane was hooked. Instantly falling in love with the sense of freedom and joy that cycling brings. Within the space of a few short months, Jane was already looking further afield in search of new and exciting cycling adventures. The Five Ferries Island Hopping ride is one such ride. Here, Jane shares the tale of this spectacular journey.

“I spent a couple of days getting used to being on the saddle whilst holding the wall as I hadn’t been on a bike for around 30 years!”

Jane Eccles

Obviously, if Jane was going to hit the road an 18-year old rust bucket was just not going to cut it. So it was time to hit the web in search of a new bike. This search led her to the Ribble R872 Disc, and Jane has never been happier with her choice. Her newfound passion for cycling has taken her on many great adventures. The five ferries island hopping challenge is one such ride. A journey that would see Jane toing and froing between the mainland and the islands of the Inner Hebrides to complete 122km in a day.

The Five Ferries bike ride is a cycling island-hopping adventure. It takes in some of the most spectacular scenery of Scotland’s west coast.

Five Ferries Island hopping, starting just north of the town of Brodick on the Isle of Arran

Isle of Arran to Claonaig

I rode this on a lovely summer’s day in June with my cycling buddy and fellow Ribble owner of a CGR Ti.  Setting off at 6am just north of the town of Brodick on the Isle of Arran, we cycled towards the ferry terminal at Lochranza.  Heading past the town of Sannox we reached our first climb of the day. We were quickly rewarded with an exhilarating descent into Lochranza and past its beautiful coastal castle. This 22km section was an invigorating warm-up for the first leg of the journey where we sailed over to Claonaig on Kintyre.

Waiting for the first ferry at Lochranza

Claonaig to Tarbert

Arriving at the tiny terminal at Claonaig, we cycled the quiet and peaceful 16km road up the Kintyre peninsula to the idyllic village of Tarbert. There we relaxed in its pretty and tranquil harbour whilst waiting for the ferry to Portvadie. Boarding this second ferry we took the opportunity to rest our legs and take in the stunning scenery across Loch Fyne.

Portavadie to Colintraive

Our arrival at Portavadie saw us setting off on the second-longest single stretch of the journey, 30km to Colintraive. Here we climbed a couple of steep and beautiful hills with some breath-taking views. Looking over to the Isle of Bute and then on to Loch Ruel where we stopped at a magnificent viewpoint atop the climb. Another exhilarating descent took us into a glen and across to the other side of the peninsular. Here we were treated to an undulating and scenic route into Colintraive. Upon arrival, we had a quick pitstop at the Colintraive Hotel to rest our legs. Then it was time to board the third ferry for the tiny hop to Rhubodach on the Isle of Bute.

Enjoying the magnificent views at the top of the climb

Isle of Bute

Arriving on Bute we then had a carefree and mostly flat 14km ride around the coastline, taking in the lush landscape. Upon arriving in the town of Rothesay, we marvelled at the promenade with its palm trees and art-deco style buildings. Then we boarded our penultimate ferry to Wemyss Bay. 

A bike, sunshine, and stunning scenery, what could possibly better this?

Skelmorlie to Ardossan and back to the Isle of Arran

At Wemyss Bay, we followed the coast road for a distance of 32km all the way to Ardrossan.  This was the flattest and busiest section of the journey along the main road. So we just got our heads down and made good time back to Ardrossan. With a more than welcome tail wind pushing us all the way. Here we boarded the last ferry of our adventure. This returned us back to Brodick on the Isle of Arran at around 6.45pm.  The last 8km we headed out of the town, passing Brodick Castle on the coast road and back to our accommodation tucked away in a forest near Goatfell.

The sense of accomplishment upon completing an epic adventure!

“I started cycling in November the previous year and it was my first big outing on my Ribble bike.  The whole day took around 13 hours with just over 9 hours of amazing cycling.  The elevation gain was 1360 meters over 122km.  Taking regular stops on the ferries meant it never felt too challenging and we had no technical issues along the way.  The ever-changing diverse landscapes made turning every corner a new and exciting adventure!”

Jane Eccles

Notes from Jane:

Tickets for the Five Ferries can be purchased from Caledonian MacBrayne (Cal Mac).

If you don’t want to take your own food, avoid this ride on a Monday as many of the pubs and shops along the route are either closed or do not serve food on Mondays.

If you enjoyed reading about Jane’s journey, why not check out more stories from everyday Ribble riders in our Real.Bike.People series here.

Have you considered an electric bike? Find out why it just might be the bike for you here.

  1. I have done this ride many times and never get tierd of it. Its a fantastic day out, even better if the sun shines. I would like it to be better sign posted so that drivers are aware of cyclists on some single track roads and busy sections. I would avoid it at the weekends, too busy.

  2. Hi Graeme,
    I’m not at all surprised, it’s a truly stunning part of the world and you are a lucky man to be able to take advantage of it on a regular basis. Had the pleasure of cycling the Inner and Outer Hebrides along with most of the West Coast many moons ago. Much like the Lake District though, it’s best to tackle it mid-week or out of season rather than the weekends as you rightly point out.
    All the best
    Team Ribble

  3. Respect to anyone completing this! Sounds like a great day out. Loved the photos.

  4. Hi Peter,
    The strict rules surrounding GDPR prevent us from passing on any contact details for Jane, we’re sorry to say. You could try messaging her through Facebook, of course. Using the search facility on Faceook, we quickly located her.
    Best Regards
    Team Ribble

  5. Great description here – I’m looking to do the 5 Island in july – around 20th perhaps as I am visiting from Australia – would anyone be interested in joining me? Steve Burke

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