Bicycling Scotland’s Highlandsby Joeann Gutowski - Tuesday, August 2, 2011
The cat is out of the bag, we have another new favorite cycling destination—Scotland. I was fortunate enough to join the inaugural group on our 11-day Bicycling Scotland’s Highlands Coast to Coast Plus! the Isle of Skye (there is also an 8-day option) and everyone gave the trip an enthusiastic thumbs up.
We all found the scenery to be consistently beautiful as our cycling routes varied between lush rolling hills; steep climbs in the Cairngorms National Park; thick ancient pine forests; miles along canals, rivers, and lochs; and shorelines with views of the Inner Hebridean Islands before crossing by ferry to the magnificent landscape of the Isle of Skye and its Old Man of Storr.
The 8 day bicycle tour has it all – country lanes, canals and locks, green hillsides dotted with sheep and flowers, castles, and vistas of tall mountain peaks; and the last bit of the ride to Ardnamurchan Point with its historic lighthouse on the cliffs of the Atlantic is one of my all-time favorite sights. The lighthouse steps can be climbed for an even more spectacular view of the area, but be warned; your legs may have a thing or two to say about it. Either way, we celebrated the completion of our coast-to-coast goal with a glass of champagne, a cheer of sláinte and some Scottish music. But, the fun was not over as the Plus! extension trip continued to Skye for even more dramatic scenery. Our final two-night stay in Portree was a perfect base for cycling, hiking, and strolling through town taking in its small harbor lined with artist pallet colorful buildings.
We dispelled some myths as we cycled from the North Sea to the Atlantic. Contrary to Scotland’s often reported image, the weather was not dreadful for our time there. The majority of our cycling days were warm and dry, with a sunny blue sky. We did pull out the rain gear when needed a time or two; as with most destinations remember to pack layers to be prepared. Historically, July and September finds favorable weather in Scotland. We can also confirm that the Scots believe in a beautiful presentation of their signature culinary dishes as we sampled fresh salmon and other fish and seafood prepared poached, grilled, or smoked; fish and chips; beef and ale pies (all competing for the flakiest crust); and a variety of couscous, vegetables and bean dishes. For those wanting a full culinary immersion, be sure to try haggis with neeps and tatties. Ale and whisky lovers will not be disappointed.
Local guides proudly share their love and knowledge of all things Scotland. Be prepared to absorb its history, culture, geography, botany, and its welcoming people. If you enjoy cycling quiet roads and climbing hills then Scotland is your made-to-order cup of tea. If you are not the ultimate fan of climbing then a bit of strategic van shuttling will allow you to enjoy the beautiful Scottish Highlands by bike. Our inaugural group took advantage of our complimentary shuttle to and from Edinburgh to enjoy the city and surrounding areas before and after the tour. We are always glad to assist with ideas for your extra travel days. We encourage you to join us cycling the Scottish Highlands and remember… Bob’s your uncle!
Interested? Visit our Scotland photo gallery and join us this September 4 – 14, or September 4 – 11, 2011.