Thomas Clowes

3 friends, 2 bikes, 1 Penny Farthing, riding 528km along the Hebridean Way

Fundraising for Stroke Association
raised of £10,000 target
by 315 supporters
In memory of Paul Young, Cynthia Ray McDonald & June Wells ...
Stroke Association

Verified by JustGiving

RCN 211015
We support people to help rebuild lives after stroke.


We are three great friends. Tom, Woody and Simon. We all want to raise money together for the 'Stroke Association', but for our own personal reasons.

NOTE:: the title states 528km, this is the actual distance that we will be cycling. The Hebridean Way itself is ‘only’ 297km long but, remember that we will have to cycle from the first ferry port at Castlebay to the actual start (extra 10km), then we will do a detour to Mangersta where the ‘Eagle’s Nest’ bothy is (extra 82km), and once we reach the finish at the Butt of Lewis we then have to cycle to Stornaway (extra 46km). The real  sting-in-the-tail is that there is no train station in Ullapool, so we will have to then cycle all the way to the the train station in Inverness (extra 93.2km)!

On the 17th May, 2023, we shall be boarding the Caledonian Sleeper train to Glasgow and then another train to Oban where we shall catch a ferry to the island of Vatersay which is where the ‘Hebridean Way’ starts. It ends 297 kilometres later, at the Butt of Lewis lighthouse in the far north of this archipelago, the Outer Hebrides. As far as I know, no-one has ever completed this mission on a Penny Farthing. Some brave soul might have done back in 1880 but we do not know for sure. Woody and Simon shall be carrying a tent and provisions on their bicycles, as one is limited in what one can carry on a Penny Farthing! It is a team effort and we have chosen to camp along the way with one precarious night in the Mangersta Bothy (also known as the 'Eagle's Nest'). Google it and you will see what we mean! We shall be washing ourselves in the sea and if a friendly local offers us a bed or/and a bath, then we shall be sure to accept!

When you ride a Penny farthing, people laugh and point at you (in a friendly way!). They are drawn to you because they have usually never seen anything like this before. We shall be using two ferries and six causeways to hop between the islands.

Tom writes   In 2021, I rode my 29” unicycle 100 miles along the South Downs Way near my home and I raised nearly £8,000 for Prostate Cancer. Thank you to all those who sponsored me. Personally, this was a very tough challenge which took me 3 days. 

A new challenge now beckons which does not involve my unicycle. In 2017, my dear brother-in-law, Paul, had a stroke and died. He was only 59. He did not smoke, he was not over-weight, he was fit and did not drink. He loved nature and the outdoors and he also loved old fashioned things. He would have loved my Penny Farthing. For this reason, I want to raise as much money as I can for the Stroke Association. We have set the target high at £10,000 but together, we think that it is possible.

Woody writes:    I want to dedicate my Hebridean Way ride to the memory of my sister, Cynthia Ray McDonald. She died on November 15, 2022 very suddenly. Cynthia was an artist that loved drawing and painting. She was an art teacher and a librarian in Memphis secondary schools. In retirement she enjoyed drawing with several artist groups near her home in Sarasota, Florida and spending time on their boat with her husband Webster.

Simon writes:    Likewise, would like to dedicate my contribution to this ride to the Stroke Association to the memory of my Mother June. She died on 7th October 2022 – and suffered from very bad aphasia for the last 3 years of her life. Aphasia  is the inability to speak or understand language caused by stroke damage to the left side of the brain. Being a very sociable person, this loss of her ability to communicate affected her well being massively over the last few years of her life.

Everyone should ride, or at least have a go at riding a Penny Farthing, as it is good for the soul and good for the human spirit! Tom's Penny Farthing is a modern replica of the old fashioned one which was popular in the 1870’s and 1880’s. It is also known as a ‘high wheel’, a ‘high wheeler’ or an ‘Ordinary’. It has no brakes and the wheel is fixed so it is not possible to free wheel. All the braking will be done with his legs. On steep descents and steep ascents he will have to walk, while Woody and Simon will patiently wait!

The first challenge will be persuading the guard on the train to allow Tom AND his Penny Farthing onto the train, as it is a lot larger than a standard bicycle!

Please follow us on this journey and please sponsor us, if you are able. We shall be posting updates here as well as on Tom's instagram page (search for tomclowes).

Thank you!

Tom, Woody and Simon

A message from the Stroke Association

When stroke strikes, part of your brain shuts down and so does a part of you. Life changes instantly and recovery is tough. But the brain can adapt. Our specialist support, research and campaigning are only possible with the courage and determination of the stroke community. With more donations and support from you, we can rebuild even more lives.

About the charity

Stroke Association

Verified by JustGiving

RCN 211015
When stroke strikes, part of your brain shuts down. And so does a part of you. Life changes instantly and recovery is tough. But the brain can adapt. Our specialist support, research and campaigning are only possible with the courage and determination of the stroke community.

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