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Biking adventure in the Cairngorms National Park

Experience adventure in the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland

4,528 square kilometres in area. Five out of six of Scotland’s highest mountains. Home to 25% of the UK’s most threatened bird, animal and plant species. Over one million visitors a year. It’s safe to say that the Cairngorms National Park is a truly special place.

The mountains of the Cairngorms were formed over 40 million years ago, and during the last Ice Age the glacial erosion created rounded summits and rolling valleys which make for gradual climbs and excellent descents. There are trails to suit mountain bikers of almost any level, which is why we’ve based ourselves in the National Park for our fabulous Cairngorms Adventure mountain bike tour.

Here are a few particular highlights of this unforgettable Highland adventure:

Unlocking Loch Garten

The legacy of the glacial impact on the Cairngorms means that it is a patchwork of lochs and rivers. One of the most significant of these, in terms of a natural habitat for native wildlife, is Loch Garten. Not only is it home to the famous Osprey, but you can also spot the extremely rare Crested Tit, found only in this part of the Scottish Highlands. Keep your eyes peeled for both!

As well as experiencing the beautiful wildlife, you’ll be steeped in natural history as you pedal the trails around the loch. You will ride through Glenmore and Abernethy Forests, home to some of the last remaining native Caledonian Pine forests in Scotland, and further highlighting the uniqueness and importance of the Cairngorms National Park to the ecology of Scotland, and indeed, the UK.

Trail Utopia

As well as the mesmerising scenery and wildlife that you’ll experience on your Cairngorms Adventure, we have made sure that this is perfectly complimented with some outstanding mountain biking trails.

The Cairngorms are home to some of the most enjoyable and flowing singletrack trails that Scotland has to offer, and they’re also perfect for building skills and confidence on the bike.

Trail highlights include swooping down singletrack at the fantastic new trail centre at Glenlivet; negotiating the forest around Feshiebridge; and – on your day in the Inverness area – an amazing descent to the banks of Loch Ness. Having such world-class trails within an area of such beauty and history will guarantee that a smile will be etched upon your face all week!

A “dram” good trip!

One of Scotland’s finest traits is the amazing selection and diversity of its whiskies. This is particularly evident in Speyside, home to the largest concentration of whisky distilleries in the country. The geography and glacial formation of the Cairngorms producing mountains (literally!) of fresh water means that this is ideal whisky country, with approximately 50 distilleries in operation in the area. Of course, we wouldn’t let you leave our tour without sampling some of our best brands!

Aberlour’s famed distillery will tell you of origins dating all the way back to the Druids and Celtic ages, where they believed the burn next to today’s distillery site spoke words of wisdom to them, hence the name Fairy Hill. In the 19th century, James Fleming started work on the distillery that remains today, with the iconic waterwheel used to power the whole building right up to the 1960’s still standing. Once you have been sufficiently wowed by the history of the distillery, you will of course take part in a tasting session and have the chance to bottle and label your own whisky. Cheers to that!

However, this will not be your only whisky experience of the day, as we take you through to the charming village of Tomintoul, the highest village in the Highlands, and home to Whisky Castle. With over 100 years of trading all over the country, the shop now boasts over 500 single malt whiskies. Needless to say, this is as close to a whisky Mecca as you can get for the enthusiast!

This is but a taster of the week that awaits you in the Cairngorms. Other activities you will enjoy along the way include a a day’s guided canoeing on the river Spey, a wildlife walk in the Caledonian Forest and even some time for Nessie-spotting on the banks of Loch Ness. The whole tour is fit to burst with amazing stories, culture, and of course mountain biking. When you join us on our mountain biking adventure in the Cairngorms National Park what tales will you take back with you?


A taste of the Cairngorms

World-class food and drink in the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland, by H&I Adventures guide Chris Gibbs

My two great loves in life are riding a bike and enjoying great local food.

Whilst working towards becoming a mountain bike guide I had many jobs that allowed me to train, gain qualifications, and replace the numerous bike parts I broke in the process. These included everything from soundtrack writer, to outdoor instructor, to chef.

I’ve always been passionate about good food and have been lucky enough to travel through many different countries, tasting my way through local dishes and getting to know new cultures through their cuisine. A good meal often stays with you for a long time, and can make an adventure even more memorable!

Fresh Scottish smoked salmon on our Cairngorms Adventure mountain bike vacation

Fresh Scottish smoked salmon from the River Spey

I’m very lucky to now live in the Cairngorms National Park, in the beautiful Highlands of Scotland, which is home, not only to incredible mountain bike trails, but also to some of the best local produce in Britain.

The Cairngorms have a history of food and drink production dating back hundreds of years. Over 75 percent of the Cairngorms National Park is owned by private estates, each of them producing and supplying exceptional local ingredients to the surrounding area, and indeed, the whole of the UK.

One of the most distinctive and iconic flavours of the Highlands is venison. Rothiemurchus Estate, just outside Aviemore, has been supplying famous London restaurant Simpson’s in the Strand with venison since the 1930′s, a time when this fine meat was only accessible to the wealthiest households. It is now much more widely available and can often be found on menus across the country, which can be attributed in part to the fact that venison is lean, low-fat and full of flavour.

In the Cairngorms you are never far from a river and this provides an extremely fertile farming environment. The farming here is low intensity, which benefits the land and creates a habitat suitable for many types of plants and wildlife that would otherwise no longer exist here. For example, the vast moorlands of heather that bloom in the Cairngorms in July and August provide the perfect nectar for bees to produce sweet heather honey – delicious on a freshly baked scone!

Chocolate fudge cake and fresh Scottish raspberries - the perfect combination!

Chocolate fudge cake and fresh Scottish raspberries – the perfect combination!

Other delights for those with a sweet-tooth include sumptuous strawberries, brambles and raspberries grown on Alvie Estate, who supply their fruit to local shops and restaurants to create other sweet temptations to enjoy after a big day on the bike.

It would be remiss of me to talk about the produce of this part of Scotland without mentioning the world-famous Speyside whiskies, made from the clear, fresh waters the come from the mountains and rivers around the Cairngorms National Park. Speyside boasts the highest concentration of whisky distilleries in Scotland, producing well-known brands of our ‘liquid gold’ such as Glenlivet, The Macallan and Glenfiddich.

The whisky industry is closely linked with many other food industries, for example, salmon and trout caught in the River Spey, Scotland’s second longest and fastest flowing river, are often smoked in whisky barrels, giving them a fantastic, unique flavour.

Conversely, some locals might also argue that an even more iconic taste of the Cairngorms is that of the local beers brewed at the Cairngorm Brewery.

There’s nothing better than a nice cold craft beer after a big ride, and with an extensive range of permanent cask ales and seasonal brews, the Cairngorm Brewery has beers to suit all tastes. The best-selling Trade Winds has won numerous awards and it’s hard to find a decent bar in the area that doesn’t have it on tap. Black Gold is the big brother of the beers based on a traditional Scottish stout recipe and won the UK’s Supreme Champion of Beers award in 2013.

Local food and drink production is thriving in the Cairngorms National Park and the quality of the ingredients and dishes available here is world-class. The connection between mountain biking in the hills and forests of the Cairngorms, then enjoying a meal produced from this very environment is really special to me and I’m looking forward to sharing all this with you on our Cairngorms Adventure tour!


Highland Fling mountain bike adventure in Scotland this summer!

Mountain biking, canoeing, wildlife spotting, whisky tasting, and the Highland Fling… All part of an unforgettable mountain bike adventure in Scotland this summer!

Mountain biking in the Cairngorms, Scotland

Group riding together on their Cairngorms mountain bike holiday

From July 13th – 20th join us for our mountain bike adventure in the Cairngorms National Park, in the very heart of the Scottish Highlands, then end your holiday with a trip to the Inverness Highland Games on Saturday July 20th to round off the perfect “Highland Fling” adventure!

The Cairngorms is the largest National Park in the UK, boasting a huge diversity of landscapes, wildlife, eco-systems, communities, views, and – incorporating the Speyside Whisky Trail – includes the largest concentration of distilleries in Scotland. And in 2013 the Cairngorms National Park celebrates its 10th anniversary, so there’s no better time to come and explore the UK’s biggest natural playground!

On our Cairngorms mountain bike adventure in Scotland this July you’ll enjoy the unspoilt, natural beauty of the Scottish Highlands and discover why, in 2012, National Geographic Magazine voted the Cairngorms National Park as one of the Top 50 ‘Last Great Places’. We’ll show you some fantastic hidden mountain bike trails that weave through ancient, silent pine forests, then suddenly open out to a glorious mountain panorama. We’ll take you on a guided canoe ride on the magnificent River Spey, then to a whisky distillery to taste the liquid gold produced from the clean, fresh waters of the Spey.

Country house accommodation Cairngorms, Scotland

Beautiful country accommodation in the Cairngorms, Scotland

You’ll have a half-day, guided wildlife walk, where our local expert will help you to spot some of the more elusive native species that make the Cairngorms such an important natural habitat.

After all this activity you’ll return to your warm, comfortable Highland lodge base in Aviemore to relax with your group, before heading out for a delicious meal in one of the local restaurants or pubs. Alternatively, you could choose to stock up on local produce and create your own culinary masterpiece in your Highland home-from-home!

This mountain bike adventure in Scotland is suitable for novice and intermediate mountain bikers with level 2 fitness, and to find out what this means read the explanation of our skill and fitness levels.

So, if you’re planning an active holiday this summer, why not join us in July for this fantastic natural, cultural mountain bike adventure in the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland?! See you there!


Top 10 reasons to book a mountain biking holiday with us

If you’re spending hours searching the web, comparing trips and operators, and feeling like you’re going round in circles, here’s a very quick overview of the top 10 reasons to book your guided mountain biking holiday with H&I Adventures. (You see, we’re helping you already!)

Prayer flags in Nepal

All the colours of Nepal

1. We do all the hard work for you
We spend years researching and testing the best trails, accommodation, guides, cultural experiences, transport services, and food in the most exciting destinations around the world so that you don’t have to. All you need to do is decide which one of our incredible mountain biking holidays is right for you, book your place via our secure online system, then organise your travel. It’s that simple!

2. Exceptional, professional local guides
Our mountain bike guides are some of the best in their field and local to the areas in which they operate. Not only that, they are genuinely nice and interesting people, with lots of life experiences and plenty to talk about both on and off the bike. For example, one of our guides in Scotland, Kevin, is an accomplished poet, artist and teacher, as well as being a mountain biker. At the end of a superb day on the bike in the Cairngorms National Park you can relax with a ‘wee dram’ and some Scottish poetry recited by Kevin.

3. Safety first
Your safety is our number one priority and when you come on one of our mountain biking holidays you can rest easy and have the time of your life, comfortable in the knowledge that our expert guides have planned and risk assessed every detail of your trip before your arrive, and are managing your safety every step of the way.

Local boy in Oaxaca, checking out our bikes

Local boy in Oaxaca, sizing up our bikes!

4. Responsible travel policy
We operate a responsible travel policy so you can be sure that local people in the communities you’re connecting with are benefitting – in real terms – from your being there. For example, on our mountain biking adventure in Oaxaca, Mexico, you’ll stay in rustic cabanas in the Sierra Norte, run by a sustainble tourism partnership of eight local communities who all benefit equally from tourism monies spent in any one of the villages.

5. Experience new cultures
Exploring an area by bike is one of the best ways of experiencing the local cultures and traditions of that region. You can cover more ground than is possible by foot, and wherever we go in the world, people just love bikes and cyclists! In Nepal we visit the famous Buddhist Stupa of Boudhanath in Kathmandu, thangka artists in Bhaktapur, and stay in family-run tea houses in remote corners of Mustang and the Kali Gandaki Valley.

6. Go home a better rider
An integral part of all of our mountain biking holidays is on-the-trail skills training, as and when you need it. We don’t run formal skills sessions, we simply work with you as you’re riding and if you come across an obstacle you’re not sure how to tackle we’ll talk you through it and help you to improve your riding technique in a natural, informal manner.

Local chagra at hacienda in Ecuador

Local chagra at hacienda in Ecuador

7. Great local accommodation
We select the most comfortable, welcoming, interesting accommodation providers in every area we take you to. From traditional working haciendas in Ecuador, to luxury yurts in the Yukon in Canada, you’ll enjoy the best hospitality available, after a big day in the saddle.

8. Food, glorious food!
Food is a very important part of all of our mountain biking tours around the world; after all, why expend all that energy on the bike if you can’t enjoy a good meal afterwards?! We’ve eaten our way around the world to find the best local cafés, restaurants, pubs, and even homes, to make sure that you’re well rewarded for all your efforts and ready to tackle the next ride!

9. Excellent personal service
We pride ourselves in offering excellent, personal customer service at every stage of our relationship with you: from the first time you contact us, to after you have returned home from your trip. Our team will offer as much help and advice as you need to help you plan your mountain biking vacation, but you won’t have to deal with several different people and explain your circumstance anew with every contact. You’ll have one point of contact who will manage your booking from end-to-end.

10. Our customers keep coming back
It’s all very well for us to say how wonderful our tours are, but what do our customers think? Well, one of our coast-to-coast Scotland customers said:

Leg busting climbs and thrilling descents! I’d travel to the ends of the earth with H&I Adventures, dedicated as they are to providing adventure and comfort while safety and competence lead the way.

We’re delighted that so many of our customers keep coming back to us year after year to experience new places and have new adventures with us. You can read more customer reviews of our mountain biking holidays on our Why H&I Adventures page, and if you’d like to discuss any of our trips just drop us an email or give us a call on 0044 (0)1463 239716, or toll-free from the US and Canada 1-888-228-50-35. We’re looking forward to sharing your next mountain bike adventure with you!


The importance of good accommodation on a mountain biking vacation

One of the things that we believe sets us apart from other mountain bike tour operators is the quality of the accommodation that we use on our mountain biking vacations around the world.

Drinking tea on the roof of the world, Nepal

Sharing tea in the home of a local farmer in Nepal

When you’re spending between four and eight hours in the saddle for several days in a row, you want to know that you can relax and unwind at the end of each day in comfortable surroundings, enjoying a warm shower, exceptional hospitality and get a good night’s sleep to set you up for the next day. We carefully plan every aspect of your mountain bike adventure with us and the importance of good accommodation on a mountain biking vacation cannot be underestimated, as far as we’re concerned.

That doesn’t mean that you’ll be put up in five-star luxury hotels everywhere you go! Our mountain bike adventures around the world are as much about expriencing local cultures and enjoying the diversity of people and places, as they are about great mountain biking, so we seek out the best local accommodation in each area, which is often in small, family-run hotels and B&Bs.

In some regions, such as the Himalayas of Nepal, we stay in family-run tea houses in remote mountain villages, which are very basic by western standards, but your hosts will ensure that you are comfortable, well-fed and warm, and the experience you’ll have with them will be one that will stay with you forever. You won’t find this kind of intimate connection with local people in a big hotel chain, no matter where you are in the world, and having someone open their home to you is one of the truly special aspects of a mountain bike adventure with us.

Beautiful country accommodation in the Cairngorms National Park

Beautiful country lodge in the Cairngorms National Park

We like to use a diverse range of accommodation, from the traditional, like a Highland country lodge in the Cairngorms in Scotland, or a working hacienda looking out on to the world’s highest active volcano in Ecuador. To the more unusual, like our luxury yurt accommodation in the Yukon, Canada, which sits on the bluff high above the capital city of Whitehorse, with an almost 360° view over the surrounding mountains.

In the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, Mexico, you’ll stay in rustic ‘cabanas’ in the village of Llano Grande, which is part of the most successful community-run sustainable tourism project in Mexico. The eight mountain villages in the Sierra Norte work together to provide accommodation and guides, and the revenue that comes into any one of the villages is shared equally amongst all eight communities.

Our mountain biking vacations aren’t just about the riding; it’s the whole package that counts and good quality local accommodation is an important aspect of all our mountain biking holidays around the world.

Luxury yurt accommodation, mountain biking in Canada

Luxury yurt accommodation, mountain biking in Canada


Two-minute tour of Scotland

Two-minute tour, mountain biking in Scotland

Pausing to admire the loch, mountain biking in Scotland

Pausing to admire the loch, mountain biking in Scotland

Where? Scotland is the northern-most nation in the United Kingdom, on the western edge of Europe, and east of the United States and Canada. The Highlands and Islands are the most northerly region of Scotland, and also the most diverse and beautiful

When? The best times to experience mountain biking in Scotland are between April and October. 2013 is the Year of Natural Scotland, a celebration of Scotland’s wild places

Why? Spectacular scenery, world-class mountain biking, delicious local food, whisky!, castles, history, friendly locals, remote wilderness, real adventure

Best for beginner mountain bikers? If you’re just getting into mountain biking our Tastes and Trails of Scotland tour, or our Cairngorms Adventure, could be just what you’re looking for

Best for intermediate mountain bikers? Our coast-to-coast Scotland tour is a real adventure and ideal for intermediate mountain bikers looking for a challenge and to improve their biking skills

Best for experienced mountain bikers? Our mountain bike tour in Torridon and Skye, on the west coast of Scotland, is our most technically advanced trip and perfect if you’re looking for the best mountain biking in Scotland. This tour is also a ‘must-do trip’ in National Geographic Adventures’ Ultimate Adventure Bucket List 2013!

Find out more about our mountain biking tours in Scotland and book your perfect 2013 adventure!


Reviews of our mountain bike tours in 2012

As the end of the year fast approaches, we’ve been reflecting on the past 12 months and the incredible adventures we’ve had, and rather than give you our perspective on it, we thought we’d do a round-up of customer reviews of our mountain bike tours in 2012.

And just for fun, we’ve created this word cloud from comments made by our customers this year!

Customer comments

Coast-to-coast Scotland, September (Dave and Margaret, USA)
…epic, challenging, awesome. A few words to describe our recent holiday with H&I Adventures. This was our first experience with H&I Adventures and we’re already trying to figure out when we can holiday with them again. We were impressed with the resources available to allow individuals of varying abilities to maximize their experience over the course of the week. The skill level rating and description for this tour reflects the scope and scale of all that the Coast-to-Coast Scotland has to offer.

Ecuador, December (Holger, Germany)
Amazing trip and perfect trails in the very beautiful country Ecuador. Unbelievable how different the trails are: from jungle trails to sandy trails in the desert, up to Highlands and downhill on the slopes of Cotopaxi. Perfect bike trip with lots of culture and gorgeous landscape!

Nepal, November (Gavin and Elaine, Scotland)
If you love the idea of riding some awesome trails in the Himalayas then this is a must. If you also love the thought of mixing this with a cultural experience unlike any other then even better. Every day is special in its own different way making this without a doubt one of the best adventure experiences you’ll ever have.

Torridon & Skye Scotland, September (Luke, Canada)
Amazing trip from beginning to end!!! Trails were challenging and fun. The scenery is inspiring and absolutely beautiful. The guides were knowledgeable, helpful, and friendly and I’m a better rider today because of them. Even the food and accommodations were great! Best of all, I now have some new riding buddies to go on future trips with. H&I Adventures took care of everything perfectly!

Mexico, October (Cynthia, USA)
This adventure is a great cultural biking experience. Welcoming and friendly local guides, fantastic food, amazing biking, breathtaking views, and fun company made this trip truly memorable!

Cairngorms Scotland, June (Samantha, England)
A brilliant holiday! The trips out were amazing with beautiful scenery and challenging routes. Being in a small group was ideal as we all got a chance to get to know each other. Also meant that the holiday could be tweaked so it suited everyone. I would definately recommend this holiday… for the cycling, the beautiful Cairngorms and the holiday itself which felt personal and very relaxed.

Nepal, October (Brian, England)
Ride in the shadows of the Himilayas from rainforest to baron wastelands it feels like riding on mars. If you really want to see all that Nepal has to offer and I mean ALL book it! The most amazing trip you will ever do!

Coast-to-coast Scotland, September (Joni, USA)
Leg busting climbs and thrilling descents! I’d travel to the ends of the earth with H&I Adventures, dedicated as they are to providing adventure and comfort while safety and competence lead the way.

Torridon & Skye Scotland, June (Fernando, Spain)
An amazing bike trip. Best way to know awesome landscapes, trails and people. and all of it put together with a fantastic guide. The food and acommodation are really good. The Torridon area is unforgetable and what can I to say of Skye…. uffff. If you are thinking about this trip, no doubt any more, do it!

This is just a selection of the comments that we’ve received from the fantastic people we’ve had the privilege to mountain bike with this year, and if you’d like to experience one of our unforgettable adventures for yourself, join us for the ride in 2013! You can also follow us on Facebook to see more informal, ‘live-from-the-action’ photos and videos of our tours.


Last chance to book your mountain bike tour for 2013 at 2012 prices!

Mountain biking in the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland

Stopping for photos of the castle on Loch an Eilean in the Cairngorms

We’re currently reviewing the price of all our mountain bike tours in Scotland and will be making increases in November for next year, so this is your last chance to book your mountain bike vacation for 2013 at current 2012 prices!

Perhaps you’ve been spending too many hours watching the spell-binding video for our mountain bike tour in Torridon and Skye with Danny MacAskill, Hans Rey and Steve Peat? Or reading the increasing number of great reviews for our epic coast-to-coast challenge?

Maybe you like to enjoy fine local food and drink as much as you like biking, and have been dreaming of our Tastes and Trails of Scotland adventure? Or fancy a mountain bike vacation that also includes canoeing and wildlife, like our Cairngorms Adventure tour?

Whatever your mountain biking style or passion for adventure, if you’re planning to take a mountain bike vacation next year you’ve only got a few weeks to secure your place and save a little money by avoiding the price increase on our mountain bike tours for 2013.

So, what are you waiting for?! Stop dreaming and start booking that unforgettable mountain bike tour with us!


Customer reviews of our mountain bike tours

This blog is dedicated entirely to customer reviews of the mountain bike tours and adventures they have experienced with us around the world. Our customers’ views of our mountain bike holidays are infinitely more important than ours, so we’ll stop talking now…

Coast-to-coast Scotland

Coast-to-coast Scotland mountain bike tour

Coast-to-coast Scotland, June 2012
Romy and Alain, Luxembourg

First of all a big thank you to the guides who made this adventure just perfect. Riding the most fantastic singletrails was a big part of a day. We definitely enjoyed the second part too where we were hanging out together in the nicest places sharing funny moments. Still bunny hopping through our dreams; we already miss Scotland.

Mountain biking Torridon & Skye, Scotland, June 2012
Jim King, Canada

We had fantastic weather, only a wee bit of the real Scottish stuff. It was a nice way to see a very dramatic landscape. We had some really fun rocky singletrack to ride, both up and down. Torridon was great riding. The accommodation were some very friendly B&B’s, and Euan, our guide, instructor and Scottish historian, kept us well fed (boy that pudding was good) and well connected (there’s wifi almost everywhere). It was a very memorable holiday with new and old friends.

Mountain bike adventure tour, Mexico

Mountain biking in Oaxaca, Mexico

Mountain biking in Oaxaca, Mexico, October 2011
Cynthia, USA

This adventure is a great cultural biking experience. Welcoming and friendly local guides, fantastic food, amazing biking, breathtaking views, and fun company made this trip truly memorable!

Mountain bike holiday in Spain, March 2012
Mark Henry, Scotland

Fantastic trails, from nice and flowy to technical and rocky with switch backs to die for. Beautiful scenery, sunny skys, amazing white mountain villages. Accommodation and food just superb.

Pausing to admire the loch, mountain biking in Scotland

Mountain biking in the Cairngorms

Mountain biking in the Cairngorms, Scotland, June 2012
Gary and Dorothy, USA

We wanted a trip which wasn’t going to be too difficult for one of us, but challenging enough for the other. The trails were great, giving us a varied experience through out the week. Along with the great rides, we thoroughly enjoyed the evenings, spending time with the other riders and guides. H&I Adventures is definitely a first class operation!

Coast-to-coast Scotland, May 2012
Gavin and Elaine, Scotland

This is a fantastic tour through some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland with some of the best riding we have experienced. Even coming from Scotland, it was great doing this guided tour as all of the thinking was done for us (where to ride, navigation, accommodation, where to eat etc).

Mountain biking in Scotland at its best

Mountain bike tour Torridon and Skye, Scotland

Mountain biking in Oaxaca, Mexico, October 2011
Lindsay Carruthers, Scotland

Fantastic trip! If you want to see and experience the proper Mexico whilst riding some world class trails, look no further, thoroughly recommended.

Mountain biking Torridon & Skye, Scotland, May 2012
Fernando, Spain

An amazing bike trip. Best way to know awesome landscapes, trails and people, and all of it put together with a fantastic guide. The food and acommodation are really good. The Torridon area is unforgettable and what can I to say of Skye…. uffff.
If you are thinking about this trip, no doubt any more, do it!!

You can read all our customer reviews, find out more about H&I Adventures, and even meet your guides in the Why H&I Adventures? section of our website. If you’d like to find out more about any of our mountain bike adventures around the world, please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.


Cairngorms adventure tour June 2012: poetry in motion

Pausing to admire the loch, Cairngorms, Scotland

Pausing to admire the view, mountain biking in the Cairngorms

Our guide, and resident poet, Kevin shares his experiences with a super-fun group on a thoroughly successful mountain bike adventure tour in the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland.

There is more than one undeniable truth ascribed to mountain biking, but I’d like you to think about this one: as soon as you begin to turn the pedals, you accelerate yourself into a world of surprise. What will the trails bring me this time? What unforgettable moments will I witness today? How will the light play on a lochan: like a mirror reflecting in dazzling detail the world back on itself at the dawn of summer, in the autumn the surface ruffled by a playful breeze … The Cairngorms Adventure Tour, while “gentler” than other trips (I’ll come back to this), nonetheless lived up to such expectations with private and shared moments of surprise, epiphany, apercu —hard not to, when you’re riding the best singletrack in Highland Speyside and around Loch Ness.

I said “gentler” than other trips, the Coast-to-Coast Scotland tour for example, but such an observation is relative: there is still plenty to challenge riders of varied ability on this trip, and all of the clients – most of whom were women – progressed their riding, and their experience of natural trails well beyond where they were at the start of the week. However this tour is characterised by the inclusion and opportunity to undertake other activities as well. There is a day in open canoes on the Spey, and a day walking in the Rothiemurchus Estate, both with appropriately experienced guides. And underlying this is what I think is particularly special about this adventure: it enables the attentive mind to experience a mountainous Highland landscape at a varied and unique pace depending on the nature of the activity.

Spotting wildlife on our Cairngorms Adventure Tour, Scotland

A day off the bike to spot some wildlife in the Cairngorms

The world appears different when you are riding a mountain bike, walking, or surprising the world from the middle of a river; there’s time for things up close, for being in the landscape in unexpected ways … The Cairngorm landscape – landscape period – is not just a physical space, it is a cultural one too, and each of us who visit, play in it, care for it, contemplate it … remake it anew each time we do so.

Following the group’s arrival on Saturday, the settling into the accommodation that we would share for the rest of the week and a short, late afternoon ride around Loch Morlich, we enjoyed an excellent dinner in Aviemore at ‘International Starters’. Sunday morning arrived with a big breakfast and excited anticipation of the first day-long ride, a route that would take us past the Green Lochan to Ryvoan, to Nethy Bridge, Loch Garten (and the Osprey Centre), before riding back into town on the Speyside Way.

The next day, after a breakfast of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, the group went paddling on the River Spey with a local guide, while I, with H&I Adventures’ owner and main guide Euan took the opportunity to explore and check out another potential route in the area.

Singletrack climb in the Cairngorms Scotland

Mountain biking in the sunshine in Scotland

World-class singletrack took over again in Feshiebridge on Tuesday, and while skills tuition is freely provided on the trails, this ride was followed, after a cup of tea, with a specific session at the accommodation which focused on front and rear wheel lifts, and the bunny hop … real lifelong learning!

On Thursday, on their ‘rest day’, the group said they all wanted to ride! and this for all of them really was the memorable riding moment of the week, partly because of where we were, in the Baden, but equally because by now they were truly dialled into the terrain, their enhanced skill set and their bikes… some tough climbs had the group digging deep, but their reward was flowy descents on the sweetest singletrack the Highlands has to offer: energy didn’t seem much of an issue and we couldn’t get enough of it on this day!

Friday, and the last day of the tour was spent in Inverness and on the banks of Loch Ness. A ride from Torbreck to Dores on the shores of the loch, through a coconut alley of gorse flowers (it is one of the most surprising and uncanny smells to encounter in Scotland) and, after some lunch, a ride back to the van on yet more lovely singletrack. Surprise then, from my perspective, at every turn throughout the week.

Celebrating a great week of mountain biking in Scotland

Celebrating a great week in Scotland

There is much that I have not mentioned, it necessarily must remain in memory, fleeting moments, things seen which in isolation would make little sense to anyone else, but what I have perhaps been trying to write about here is more idiosyncratic and personal than just the logistics, the timetable and description of an adventure holiday; it is as if the bloodstream of the narrative —the people (Dorothy, Sam, Sylvie, Claire, Gary), the trails, the conversation, the food and wine and laughter, the light and sharp breeze first thing in the morning, those fragmentary glimpses of deer, the moments of bliss, quietude and physical endurance, the smell of ozone and trees …as the world appears … joins the bloodstream of our life’s story, contributing to our becoming what we will become and will continue to become.

Kevin Henderson, mountain bike guide – and poet – in Scotland