Mountain bike in the beautiful Cairngorms National Park
The Cairngorms National Park boasts everything you could want from an adventure holiday in Scotland. Rolling, heather-clad hills; ancient glens; secluded lochs; abundant wildlife; great local food and drink; and fantastic mountain biking trails.
This is the UK’s largest National Park and hides a wealth of diverse ecosystems and landscapes, including Britain’s highest and most massive mountain range, the cleanest rivers and lochs, huge native forests, moorland and farmland.
We’ll share all this with you during this week-long mountain bike holiday in one of the most unspoilt and naturally beautiful areas of the Scottish Highlands.
You’ll also have a day’s canoeing on the crystal clear waters of the River Spey, and a guided wildlife walk to spot some of the native species living in this part of the Scottish Highlands. This same crystal clear water supplies the area’s many distilleries, and no visit to Speyside would be complete without a distillery tour and whisky tasting.
During your Cairngorms adventure tour you will have your own home-from-home in a traditional Highland guest house or country lodge in Aviemore, the outdoor capital of the Highlands.
Our mountain biking holiday in the Cairngorms National Park is for novice/ intermediate mountain bikers with level 2 fitness, and to find out what this means read the explanation of our skill and fitness levels.
Tour dates 2014
- 12 – 19 April 2014
Cairngorms Adventure tour diary, by Kevin Henderson – mountain bike guide and poet
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.
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.
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.
Mountain biking holiday in the Cairngorms Itinerary
Your guide will meet you at Inverness train station at 12 noon and we’ll head into the Cairngorms and our first adventure of the trip at the new trail centre at Glenlivet.
Glenlivet, an area most well-known for its famous whisky, now boasts the newest man-made trail centre in Scotland, and benefits from many years of Scottish trail building knowledge!
We’ll spend the day enjoying the different trails, checking bikes and practising skills that will come in handy during the rest of your mountain bike adventure tour in the Cairngorms.
At the end of the day we’ll drive half an hour to your home-from-home for the week: a beautiful country lodge house in Aviemore.
On our day in the Loch Garten area we’ll pedal through Glenmore Forest, over the rocky Ryvoan pass and through Abernethy Forest towards Boat of Garten. These areas contain the most important remnants of the original Caledonian pine forests in the whole of Scotland.
On our fantastic mountain bike ride, we can stop at the Osprey Centre at Loch Garten to see if we can spot any of the resident birds. There are a couple of climbs ahead of us now, before joining the Speyside Way and heading back into Aviemore to some delicious home baking at the Mountain Café!
Today we will have a short pedal to the banks of the river Spey where we will meet our open canoe guide who will be leading you down a stunning stretch of the famous salmon fishing river.
Your guide will be on hand to talk you through all safety aspects and paddling techniques involved with river canoeing, and to tell you a bit about the history of the flora and fauna of the region. During your trip along the river Spey your guide will find a picturesque spot on the banks for a picnic lunch of local food of outstanding quality.
At the end of your fabulous day on the river, you’ll collect your bikes and pedal back to your Highland home for an evening of good food, drink and story-telling!
No visit to the Speyside area would be complete without a visit to a distillery and a whisky tasting. Speyside has the largest concentration of distilleries in Scotland, thanks to Cairngorm mountains and the abundance of fresh, clean water.
This is not, however, a morning activity, so we start the day by heading out to Kincraig, in the southern Cairngorms.
There is a vast network of amazing natural mountain bike trails all over this area, with flowy, narrow trails and nice, steady climbs. Lots of reward, for not too much work! Then when we have had enough we will retire for lunch before heading to the Dalwhinnie distillery for an afternoon tour and whisky tasting session.
Today you will be guided around the Caledonian forest at the foot of the Cairngorms massif by a local wildlife expert who will endeavour to spot some of the local wildlife for you.
The Cairngorms are the most important habitat for the seriously endangered Scottish wildcat, and the park authorities have a conservation programme in place to protect the wildcat from extinction. There is also a managed herd of reindeer that lives in the mountains near Aviemore – much easier to spot than the wildcat!
In this area, if you are lucky, you could see deer, pine martin, birds of prey, and capercaillie. After your wildlife walk and lunch we will bike back to our accommodation and settle in for the night.
You’ll also have a day off the bike to try some of the other activities available in the area or to do a bit of sight-seeing – you decide. You could even come out mountain biking with our guide if you feel up to it!?
Today we will travel 45 minutes north to the Highland capital of Inverness, where we will cycle a four-hour route that will see us high above the banks of Loch Ness, before descending to lunch on the banks of the loch, and a spot of Nessie hunting.
After our lunch we will cycle back towards Inverness city along the banks of the River Ness and into town for last minute gift buying, before returning to Aviemore for our last supper in a local restaurant to celebrate the end of an unforgettable adventure tour in Scotland!
We will spend the morning packing, organising your luggage and transport you back to your Inverness airport or train station at lunchtime to say our farewells.
Cairngorms Mountain Biking Holiday Price
£995 / $1,692 USD per person (ex. flights, based on two people sharing a room)
A single supplement of £220/ $374 will be payable should a single room be requested.
H&I Adventures is bonded by the Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust Limited (ABTOT), so you can be sure that when you book with us your money will be safe.
- All breakfasts
- Seven nights’ accommodation in a beautiful Highland country house
- The services of a fully qualified and experienced mountain bike guide for the duration of your trip
- One day guided canoe trip on the River Spey
- One day guided wildlife walk
- Entry to the distillery
- All group safety equipment
- Transportation around the Highlands
- Transport to and from Inverness
- Lunches and evening meals
- Travel and activity insurance
- Personal safety and cycling equipment
- Bike hire – bike rental costs are: £180/ $306 for a good quality hardtail bike; or £275/ $468 for a good quality full suspension bike for the duration of the trip
- Alcoholic/ non-alcoholic beverages
- Any other items not mentioned as included
Arrival and departure details
Your Cairngorms Adventure mountain bike tour will start and end in Inverness. Your guide and/or driver will meet you in the main concourse at Inverness train station at 12 noon. He/she will be holding an H&I Adventures sign and should be easy to see since neither the airport nor the train station are particularly large or crowded.
If you are flying to Scotland we recommend that you arrive the day before and book an overnight stay in Inverness, in order to allow for any delays in flights and/or luggage.
On your departure day we will return you to Inverness train station at 10am, at the latest. If you have an earlier connection please let us know and we can discuss it with you.
Travelling to Inverness
If you would like help booking your flights, our partners Flight Centre will work with you directly, with our support, to plan your travel itinerary and book your flights. We will advise Flight Centre of your chosen itinerary and from there, they will use their expertise to find you the most suitable flights at competitive prices.
Inverness is well connected to the rest of the UK by good rail, air, and coach links. We have compiled some useful information and links for travelling to Inverness and the start of your trip from London, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
You must book your bike on to your flight in advance, otherwise you could face a heavy charge at the airport. Here are some handy hints and tips on travelling by air with your bike.
Preparing yourself and your bike for the Cairngorms Adventure tour
Please read the full kit list before you start packing for your Cairngorms Adventure tour, so that you have everything you need!
Our mountain biking holiday in the Cairngorms, Scotland is for novice/ intermediate mountain bikers with level 2 fitness, and to find out what this means read the explanation of our skill and fitness levels.
The ideal bike for the Cairngorm trails is a good quality hardtail (front suspension only) with around 100mm of travel in the forks.
To get the most out of your mountain bike holiday in Scotland you should plan some training in advance of your tour, and it is essential that, if you’re bringing your own bike, you ensure that it has been properly serviced before the trip.
We can arrange bike hire for you, and have the bike ready for your arrival, at a cost of £180 /$306 USD for a high quality hardtail mountain bike for the duration of your trip.
Accommodation and food
One of the things that set our tours apart from other mountain bike tours in Scotland is the excellent accommodation we use. We understand that when you’ve had a big day in the saddle on the Highlands trails, you want a warm welcome, hot shower and a comfortable place to relax and unwind – because that’s exactly what we’re looking for too. This is why we only work with accommodation providers across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland whose standards of service match our own high expectations.
We have researched and selected the best local restaurants, cafes and pubs, so that during your mountain biking adventure in Scotland you’ll enjoy some of the most delicious, home-cooked meals, made from fresh, locally-sourced produce.
- The average daily lunch and dinner costs are £25-£35 per person, not including drinks
- Tipping is not compulsory, but if you were to tip, 10% of the cost of your meal would be acceptable
Our mountain bike guides in Scotland
Our mountain bike guides are qualified to the very highest level in the UK, through the Scottish Mountain Bike Leader Award. They are qualified in first-aid and for this type of trip they also hold an expedition leader award, which means that they have the knowledge and experience to lead a group safely in these very remote, wild and unpredictable parts of Scotland.
In addition to formal qualifications, our guides have years of experience in the saddle on the Highland trails and will be able to enhance your holiday with facts and fables on local history, flora and fauna.
The team is made up of local riders who are experts in their fields, superb local guides and genuinely nice people. Their passion for mountain biking and for the Highlands and Islands is truly infectious and they’re completely committed to responsible tourism and making sure that our business is run as sustainably as possible.
Health and safety in Scotland
- No vaccinations are required for visiting Scotland
- You can drink the water from the rivers on our tours, following the instructions of your guide
- Purification tablets will be available should you require them
- Your guides are fully trained first aiders
Currency and foreign exchange
- The currency in Scotland is GBP (£), and this is the only currency that will be accepted, without exception
- Where we will be travelling there are few banks, so you will need to have enough cash to see you through three to four days of travelling. Your guide will advise you of how much cash you should have with you
It is not compulsory to tip your guides or drivers in Scotland, but if you feel that you have had a good service or experience, you can tip at your discretion.
Visitors from certain countries require a visa to holiday in the UK. Please check www.ukvisas.gov.uk before booking to see if you will need a visa for your mountain bike holiday in Scotland.
You are required as a condition of booking to be insured against medical and personal accident risks. In this policy you must include cover for mountain biking and we recommend that you take out a policy which covers cancellation and baggage.
We work closely with WorldNomads whose policies are specially designed for mountain bike holidays. You can arrange your insurance cover directly with them and we ask that you send us your policy details.
Please note: if you have arranged your own holiday insurance, you must bring a copy of your policy with you on your mountain bike holiday with us.
A wonderful adventure
This is a long overdue note to say what a wonderful time we had with Euan in the Cairngorms National Park. Not only was the scenery spectacular, but it was such a special way to see the countryside. The planning and support throughout the trip were fantastic and we couldn't reccomend it more highly!
Thank you for an amazing holiday!
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. Thank you Euan and Catherine, I had an amazing time... and to Kev who arrived day one when the real work had been sorted but more than made up for it with his cooking!! I hope to get the chance to join you again...
The Cairngorms Adventure was the perfect blend of breath-taking scenery, amazing singletrack, delicious meals, and new friendships. It\'s ideal if you\'re looking for exciting mountain biking, but also want to explore a bit of Scotland too.
Cairngorms June 2012
We wanted a trip which wasn\'t going to be too difficult for one of us, but challenging enough for the other. Euan was great in answering questions about this trip and assuring us this trip would \"fit the bill\". 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!
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) for our mountain biking holiday in the Cairngorms, Scotland
Q. How many people will be in the group?
A. We only run small group adventures to ensure that everyone has the best experience possible, and there will generally be between six and eight people in each group. The minimum number of people we require to run our Cairngorms Adventure mountain biking holiday in Scotland is four.
Q. What’s the age range of people who come on this holiday?
A. The Cairngorms Adventure caters for a wide age range; typically between 30- and 55-years-old, but age is simply a state of mind, as they say, and we welcome anyone over the age of 18!
Q. What style of mountain biking vacation is it?
A.The Cairngorms Adventure tour is a guided mountain bike vacation, ideal for beginner and intermediate mountain bikers, which includes other activities, such as a day of canoeing, wildlife watching, and a distillery tour. There’s a huge variety of beautiful, natural trails around the Cairngorms National Park, and we can tailor each day’s riding to the group’s needs.
Q. How far will we be mountain biking each day?
A. The distances we cover on each riding day will depend largely on the fitness and enthusiasm of the group, but will usually be between 15km and 30km per day. This can be easily increased or decreased as the group wishes. The terrain consists of double track, natural singletrack, and some minor roads, through forests and over low-level hill passes. Each evening your guide will chat with you about the following day’s mountain biking and give you an idea of the sorts of trails you can look forward to. If there’s anything you feel anxious about, your guide will be happy to discuss it with you.
Q. What if I come across a section of trail that I can’t ride?
A. Your guide will be very happy to give you some bike skills training during your trip to help improve your confidence and your enjoyment of your Cairngorms adventure tour! It’s not a race or a competition, everyone is there to have a great time, take photos, and revel in the spectacular landscapes of the Cairngorms National Park.
Q. What level is the day of canoeing and is it compulsory?
A. The day of guided canoeing on the River Spey is beginner level and your guide will be on-hand to talk you through all the safety aspects and techniques involved. It is not compulsory, you can have a day off to explore Aviemore, however there is no reduction in price if you choose not to participate in the canoeing.
Q. Who will be guiding us?
A. Your mountain bike, canoe, and wildlife guides are all local, qualified, experienced professionals who have a real passion for their particular specialism and for the fabulous outdoor playground that is the Highlands of Scotland. Your safety is their number one priority, closely followed by your enjoyment of the tour. They will always be on-hand to answer any questions or requests you may have throughout your trip. You can meet your mountain bike guides on our ‘Why H&I Adventures page?’.
Q. What sort of accommodation will we be staying in?
A. On this Cairngorms Adventure tour you will be staying in a traditional country lodge in the Aviemore area, in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. There are comfortable bedrooms and guest lounges so that the group can relax together in the evening and chat over their day’s adventures.
Q. Which meals are included in the tour?
A. All breakfasts are included in the price of the tour, and we will supply a range of delicious local ingredients for you to make breakfast at your group accommodation. Lunch and dinner are not included in the trip price. We will either shop in the morning for picnic supplies to take with us, or we will stop at a local cafe or pub for lunch. There are a number of restaurants in Aviemore for dinner. This means that everyone can choose exactly what they want for lunch and dinner and only pay for their own choices. You should allow around £25-£35 per day for lunches and dinners.
Q. What type of mountain bike is best for this trip?
A. A good quality hard tail (front suspension only) mountain bike with 120mm travel will be ideal for this mountain bike tour. We can arrange bike hire for you for the duration of your trip; please let us know if you would like to rent a bike in Scotland.
Q. What clothes and kit should I bring?
A. The weather in Scotland is changeable at any time of the year, so you must make sure that you have a waterproof jacket that you can ride/canoe in, and you should also bring plenty of layers of breathable clothing to ensure that you are always warm enough and can remove a layer if you get too hot. You should also bring cycling shorts/trousers, gloves, a warm jacket for the evenings, padded undershorts, and comfortable shoes for cycling and for walking. We would also ask you to bring a pair of binoculars for your day of wildlife spotting. Read the full kit list to find out what you need to pack for your Cairngorms Adventure mountain bike tour in Scotland.
Booking your mountain biking holiday with us couldn’t be simpler:
- Click the ‘Book now’ button, then select your preferred holiday dates
- Follow the simple steps to complete your online booking and pay a 25% non-refundable deposit
- The final balance for your mountain biking adventure is due 60 days in advance of the tour start date
You can add bike rental and travel insurance during the booking process also, then all you need to do is ride your bike and look forward to your fantastic mountain bike vacation with us!
Attention! Don’t forget to read our booking terms and conditions, BEFORE you complete the booking process!
Terms and conditions of booking a mountain bike holiday with H&I Adventures
Please take the time to read and understand the conditions of booking available in the link below prior to booking your mountain bike vacation with H&I Adventures.
We strongly recommend that you also read all the details set out in the web page relating to your holiday prior to booking to ensure that you understand the itinerary and style of the mountain biking holiday you are undertaking.
The Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust Limited (ABTOT) provides financial protection under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 for H&I Adventures Ltd, and in the event of their insolvency, protection is provided for the following:
1. non-flight packages commencing in and returning to the UK;
2. non-flight packages commencing and returning to a country other than the UK; and
3. flight inclusive packages that commence outside of the UK, which are sold to customers outside of the UK.
1, 2 and 3 provides for a refund in the event you have not yet travelled. 1 and 3 provide for repatriation. Please note that bookings made outside the UK are only protected by ABTOT when purchased directly with H&I Adventures Ltd.
You are required as a condition of booking to be insured against medical and personal accident risks. In this policy you must include cover for mountain biking and we recommend that you take out a policy which covers cancellation and baggage.
We work closely with WorldNomads.com whose policies are specially designed for mountain bike tours. You can arrange your insurance cover directly with them by visiting worldnomads.com and then we ask that you send us your policy details.
Please note: WorldNomads don’t cover for domestic travel, so for example, if you live in the UK and have booked on a holiday in Scotland, or you live in Canada and have booked our Yukon adventure, you cannot arrange an insurance policy with them.
You must bring a copy of your insurance policy with you on your holiday with us.
The following code of conduct is a guide to how we expect our customers to behave on our mountain biking holidays around the world. By observing them you will have a more enjoyable vacation and will gain the respect of the local people. We ask you to travel respectfully and pay attention to local rules and values.
Why do we have these guidelines?
During our mountain biking vacations we will be travelling through communities, homes and sensitive areas, and as a responsible tour operator we want our type of tourism to be sustainable and of reciprocal benefit to you and all of these communities. Over the years our guides and customers have made friends whilst travelling in these remote areas, and we don’t want any of these relationships to be compromised.
Respecting cultural differences
In the areas that we visit during our mountain bike holidays things may be done differently from where you live and work, which is why we love them, and why you are there. So when dealing with local people please accept their differences and respect their way of life. A traveller who is happy and converses with locals will have a much better experience and will leave a better impression than one who seeks fault.
There are a few general behaviour rules that apply throughout the world:
- Shouting at a member of waiting staff is frowned upon, a gentle hand signal is all that is required
- No smoking in any enclosed public places
- It is impolite to enter a store or restaurant and not say hello in the local language
- In most countries it is inappropriate to express anger in a raised voice. Becoming angry is embarrassing to the local people with whom you are dealing – they will not be embarrassed for themselves, but for you making a fool of yourself
The world is beginning to realise the impact that our waste management is having on our environment. We have identified the recycling points situated along the routes that we take during our mountain bike holidays, so we ask you to keep any rubbish that you may have, so we can dispose of it into the correct bins when we return to civilisation. There are bins for plastic bottles, paper, glass, aluminium cans and general rubbish.
When our guides are on the hill they will be picking up any litter that they come across, but more importantly, they will encourage you to do the same.
Packed lunches: some of the day rides during our adventures take place in very remote areas, where there are no food stops or support vehicle stops, so we need to carry our lunches with us. We ask the providers of these lunches not to use layers of packaging and when they need to, they use recycled paper bags or reusable containers.
Drinking water: before our holidays commence we supply you with a kit list, asking you to bring your own water carrying device, like a bladder or bottle that you can fill up at a designated place each day. We actively discourage the use of throw-away bottles. In some countries water can be taken from the taps and rivers that we will pass on our daily mountain bike rides, and the guides will be on hand to advise you and dispense purification tablets should they be needed.
Food and accommodation
Food is an integral part of any country’s identity. During our mountain biking holidays we will take you to a selection of hand-picked local restaurants and cafés that offer traditional dishes, created from locally-sourced produce. In using a selection of one-man-band cafés to top quality expensive seafood restaurants, we believe that we are distributing the tourism wealth fairly around the areas we visit.
In order for you to get the full ‘experience’ we use small family-run guesthouses, or bed and breakfasts that employ local workers, as far as is possible. If we have to use larger hotels, we opt for non-chain, locally-owned establishments.
Being a responsible traveller doesn’t finish at the end of your holiday…
We hope that during your travels with us through some of the wildest and remotest parts of the world you will have learned something from our guides and your experience, that you can take back home with you to your daily life.