A One-Man Triathlon in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides

Endurance Swimming
Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides. Photo Shutterstock

On August 1, James Armour completed his self-imposed challenge of running, swimming, and cycling the length of the Outer Hebrides in Scotland.

It took the 25-year-old Scotsman 52 hours and 52 minutes to traverse the entire 308km. The Outer Hebrides lie on the edge of the North Atlantic. The archipelago has 119 islands, 14 of which are inhabited.

Seasickness from big waves

In total, Armour swam 32.9km, ran 92.2km, and cycled 183.5km. He began the first swim at Barra Head lighthouse and almost immediately felt seasick. Perhaps counter-intuitively, seasickness is common in open-water swimming.

“They were huge slow waves that would pick me up and take me down and I started to feel very nauseous,” he said. To make matters worse, the tide turned and pushed Armour eastward. He had to swim an extra two kilometers to counter the effects of the tide.

Photo: @jamesarmour_

After making it to Vatersay, he ran 25km to Barra before starting the second swim of the challenge, which brought him to Eriksay. Here, he set off on a 100km cycle to Berneray in North Uist.

The longest swim was 10km through the Sound of Harris. Armour describes the choppy sea as soul-crushing: “I felt absolutely dead, I had no energy left to keep warm and I thought there was no way I could get across…I felt so empty.”

He pushed on. During the swim, his tongue became so swollen because of the saltwater that he could barely speak. At one point, about 60 seals started coming toward him. Armour was okay, but the support crew member in a kayak alongside him was scared, as the seals kept bumping into the small boat.

Photo: @jamesarmour_

In total, Armour had six swim sections, two bike legs, and three runs. He had to amend his route slightly, as about one-quarter of his running route had no trail and wandered through waist-deep heather. He completed the journey with an 80km cycle to Achmore and a 60km run to his endpoint in Port of Ness.

Armour is the first known person to complete such a journey on the Scottish Islands.

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About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca is a freelance writer and science teacher based in the UK.

She is a keen traveler and has been lucky enough to backpack her way around Africa, South America, and Asia. With a background in marine biology, she is interested in everything to do with the oceans and aims to dive and open-water swim in as many seas as possible.

Her areas of expertise include open water sports, marine wildlife and adventure travel.

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Kevin A Mapes
Kevin A Mapes
2 months ago

Hey I’m pretty sure I chatted to friends of yours in the queue for the ferry from Ardmhór to Eriksay.

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