Foodie mountain biking adventures across the globe

If you’re the kind of mountain biker that plans your rides around the great local eateries, you’re going to love our selection of tantalising foodie mountain biking adventures around the world!

H&I Adventures Spain trip to the Sierra Nevada, February 2014

Here at H+I Adventures we’re big foodies and we’ve travelled across the globe, sampling myriad local produce to ensure that you enjoy only the best local dishes when you adventure with us. It’s been tough!

In Andalucía, Southern Spain, our culinary mountain biking journey includes sampling the finest jamón iberico in the mountains of the Alpujarra, enjoying the day’s catch of fresh fish on the coast, and culminates with a fantastic wine and tapas tour of the Old Town of Granada. The combination of sensational singletrack and sumptuous local dishes on this adventure is a match made in heaven.

Oaxaca is undeniably the gourmet capital of Mexico and on this foodie mountain biking adventure you’ll get to experience home-made, family dishes high in the mountains of the Sierra Norte, as well as contemporary world-class cuisine in Oaxaca City. And there will be a little Mescal tasting too!

Delicious local cheeses in Slovenia

On our tri-country European mountain biking odyssey in Slovenia, Austria and Italy, you’ll experience the subtle differences in cuisine of these three countries, and all in one day, even! Breakfast in Slovenia, lunch in Austria and coffee in Italy. Creamy local cheeses and crisp white wines are particular specialities in Slovenia – perfect for topping off an unforgettable day of cross-border mountain biking.

Last, but not least, our Tastes + Trails of Scotland adventure marries spectacular Highland scenery with the finest whiskies, local craft ales, and the freshest, most delicious seafood. From the heart of the Caringorms National Park, to the wild and rugged west coast, you’ll discover some incredible flavours in the most remote and unlikely places.

The benefits of travelling and riding with a local guide don’t just extend to finding the best trails around, but also the very best food and drink, created with care and love by local people who have a real passion for their country and the produce it provides. Come and join us to eat and pedal your way around the world on our foodie mountain biking adventures!

Tastes and Trails of Scotland: tour diary

Tastes + Trails of Scotland tour diary, by Andrew Clark, Operations Assistant

I have been a part of the H+I Adventures team for a little over five months now, and when I was asked to come along on our Tastes + Trails adventure that takes you from the glorious Cairngorm National Park to the awe-inspiring west coast of Scotland and back again, I jumped at the chance. What better way to further build my mountain biking skills and experience what our company does best than to try it first hand! Bags packed, bike at the ready and carefully-crafted itinerary in hand, it’s time to set off!

Day 1: Inverness to Grantown-on-Spey; introductions and warm-ups

Our week begins in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, where we pick up our American guests from the airport and grab a coffee in a local café. A gentle warm-up ride takes us through the local forest trails to familiarise ourselves with the bikes and to shake off any jet-lag, before a short transfer to the picturesque town of Grantown-on-Spey, and the first of a plethora of top class Scottish cuisine at the Garth Hotel. Our accommodation for the next two nights is at the charming Strathallan Guest House, and after a day of travelling, riding and eating, a good night’s sleep is not hard to find!

Day 2: Rothiemurchus Loop; welcome to the Cairngorms!
Our day gets off to a slightly unorthodox start as the Thunder in the Glens festival passes through town. The sound of over one thousand rumbling Harley Davidson motorbikes is certainly an effective alarm clock!

After a hearty breakfast, it’s time to start our Tastes & Trails tour in earnest, and we pedal out of Aviemore into the Rothiemurchus Estate.

Throughout the ride, awesome double and singletrack trails are intertwined with beautiful Scottish scenery and fascinating history. We pass through one of Scotland’s last remaining Caledonian pine forests to Loch an Eilean, and learn about the tyrannical Alexander Stewart, (the Wolf of Badenoch), who owned the 15th century castle that stands on an island in the middle of the loch.

Swooping through rivers, glens and woodland trails, our guide is constantly on the lookout for nuggets of information, pointing out birds of prey, a crash course in identifying the three different types of Scottish Heather, and even dishing out some juniper berries growing in the bushes. I can still taste the gin…

After a late lunch on the shores of Loch Morlich, we spend the afternoon charging through the final singletrack section of our loop, gaining speed and confidence in our bikes with each pedal stroke, before diving into the Cairngorm Brewery to try out some local craft beers and ales; a perfect end to any bike ride!

Dinner is enjoyed at the local Craig Bar, a small pub with a big heart, famed for its extensive range of delicious Scottish connoisseur pies and never-ending Scots “banter” from the staff!
Castle Tioram Scotland
Day 3: Glenfeshie to Fort William; a Highland Odyssey

We say our goodbyes to Grantown in the morning, and make the short transfer to the Southern Cairngorms for a ride around Glenfeshie. It’s a glorious day, so after putting on our sunglasses (and sunscreen for the slightly frecklier ones in the group…) we get going.

This day of mountain biking really does have a bit of everything packed into it. Starting on a quiet country road, we are soon off the beaten track and getting our legs warmed up with a sharp, but ultimately short, uphill doubletrack section. The effort put into the climb is highly rewarded with an epic, flowing, rocky singletrack descent, passing through forests, mountains and open glens. The magnificent views do everything they can to take your eyes off the trail, and by the foot of the hill, the adrenaline is really flowing. Cue mass whoops of delight and high-fives all around!

By the end of our ride the sun is beating down, and we head for an al-fresco lunch at a charming local cafe, leaving the Glenfeshie locals to continue their rock-jumping into the nearby river.

The afternoon is spent passing by the beautiful Loch Laggan, and taking a trip to the highest whisky distillery in Scotland at Dalwhinnie, home of the famous 15-year single malt.

After a few well-deserved drams, we make for our destination for the evening at the Outdoor Capital of the UK, Fort William. The inspiring views onto Loch Linnhe make our accommodation for the evening hard to leave, but our dinner at the Ben Nevis Inn is definitely worth getting up for. Based at the foot of the UK’s highest mountain, this converted barn is always a highlight for mountain bikers, locals and tourists alike, with amazing views and a great atmosphere always experienced. Our group even enjoyed an impromptu jamming session, a common feature within pubs in the Highlands and Islands.

Stomachs full and voices hoarse from singing, we make our way back to Fort William to rest up from a fantastic day.

Day 4: Fort William to Mallaig to Arisaig; capturing the magic

After dousing any remnants of yesterday’s whisky with a delicious breakfast, it’s all-aboard the world famous Jacobite Steam Train as we travel from Fort William to the thriving coastal fishing village of Mallaig. Once again, the weather is spoiling us with a sunny, near-cloudless sky, as we follow the route made even more famous by the Harry Potter films, passing over the astonishing Glenfinnan Viaduct, which stands next to the equally beautiful monument. Standing at 18 metres, it commemorates the location where Bonnie Prince Charlie first raised his royal standard on Scottish shores, thus beginning the Second Jacobite Uprising of 1745/46.
Upon arriving in Mallaig, we enjoy another lunch in the sun, watching the world go by in this busy, industrious village. We even spot a few seals playing in the sea as we stroll along the harbour.

Before heading to our overnight stop at the nearby village of Arisaig, we take advantage of the weather to spend a couple of hours on one of the many beaches surrounding the two coastal towns. After a quick dip in the Atlantic Ocean and soaking up the afternoon rays, strawberries and cream in hand, the mountains of Torridon and Skye are clearly visible in the distance. It’s difficult to remember that you’re actually on the west coast of Scotland, and not in the Caribbean!

Just when we think we can’t top the spectacular scenery experienced today, our arrival in the small, tranquil village of Arisaig dispels this. After a short evening ride around some local trails, our magnificent dinner is interrupted by a truly stunning sunset as the fishing boats anchor up in the bay, forcing the majority of us from our table to capture the moment.

Our dinner and accommodation is provided by the Old Library, a charming B&B by the sea which uses fresh produce from the day’s catches by the local fishermen. It also allows our American guests to sample their first Gaelic coffees. Needless to say, it wasn’t their last of the holiday!
Ferry to the Isle of Skye
Day 5: Mallaig to Skye to Balmacara; an Island Odyssey

The historic Isle of Skye is our destination for the next day of our adventure. After waving goodbye to the seals in Mallaig harbour, we take the morning ferry for the short crossing to Armadale. The dramatic change in landscape from the rolling hills of the Cairngorms to the rocky, jagged mountains of Skye is clearly visible.

Before long we are gearing up for our bike ride, and the rocky climbs and white-knuckle descents that are typical of the Skye region are certainly sufficient to get the blood pumping! Nevertheless the effort is well worth it, and we can take in the stunning views, scenery and wildlife; sometimes having to dodge Highland cows and sheep sunbathing on the trails! We even have time to take a short hike through the grasslands to discover a beautiful, secluded white sandy beach.

Lunch is at Michelin Star winning restaurant The Kinloch Lodge, where customers are treated to a dining experience to rival any. You simply need to taste it to believe it.

A bit of exercise is in order to work off our full stomachs, and so we travel to the north of the island for a walk up the famous Old Man of Storr. This iconic rock formation was created by massive ancient landslides, and has since become a walking route popular with locals and tourists alike. With such beautiful and awe-inspiring landscapes, it’s not difficult to see why.

After a quick descent and “healthy” debate over who invented the television (he was Scottish, honest!), we pay a quick visit to the Sligachan Hotel and its 300+ whiskies.

With a quick dram warming us up, it’s off to the quaint fishing village of Plockton for a wonderful seafood dinner at the Plockton Inn, before a well-earned night’s sleep at the nearby Balmacara Mains, overlooking Loch Alsh.

Day 6: Glenelg to Balmacara; what goes up, must come down…

Our final day on the west coast takes us on a wonderful trail that starts and ends in the small town of Glenelg. The route has been dubbed the Camel Trail, thanks to the outlines left in the hill that we climb at the start of the trail. As ever, the views at the top of the hill are a wonderful reward for the effort put into the climb, and as our guide reminds us “what goes up, must come down!”. This leads us onto an amazing, ear-popping descent, whizzing past dragonflies and sheep until we reach the shoreline, taking a quick break to hold a highly competitive stone-skimming contest.

Re-energised, we continue the trail along the coast and through the grasslands, reaching some slightly technical but wonderful singletrack, passing through rivers and dense forests. We are introduced to Myrica Gale, more commonly known as Bog Myrtle, a plant that when crushed is an excellent repellent for the incessant midges. You learn something new every day!

After a couple more exciting climbs and descents, we return to Glenelg for a great lunch at the quirky Glenelg Inn.

The afternoon is spent visiting the iconic Eilean Donan Castle, famed for its astonishing location and backdrop. Three seperate lochs (Duich, Alsh and Long) surround the island that the castle is built on, and the building itself has been occupied by ancient Scottish clans and the Jacobites over the centuries, and was restored in the early 1900s. The tour is simply a must for any budding historians!

Yet another glorious dinner is consumed in Plockton, this time at the Plockton Shores restaurant (the venison is a must), before we settle in for one more night at Balmacara.

Day 7: Balmacara to Fort Augustus to Inverness; where’s Nessie?

Waking up to see the sun rise over the loch is an experience that no-one could grow tired of, but unfortunately the last day of our tour has arrived! After an awesome breakfast of porridge, smoked salmon and eggs (not together, of course!), we head for the settlement of Fort Augustus to pick up some final gifts and memorabilia, spotting some Highland cows on the way. Before we know it we are back in Inverness. Has a week passed already?!

Fortunately, there is still time to fit in one final breathtaking ride, accumulating all the skills we have gathered during the holiday to pass through flowy forest singletrack, rocky yet manageable hills, and finally a fast, swooping and adrenaline-pumping descent right onto the Dores Inn pub on the shores of Loch Ness. Bliss!

After lunch and some Nessie-spotting on the shores of Loch Ness, it is with a collective heavy heart that the group pedals back to Inverness and hops off our mountain bikes for the last time on this amazing holiday. Over dinner we all recollect the trails, meals, experiences and stories that will live long in the memory.

Day 8: Departures and Reflections

All too soon, it’s time to end our Tastes and Trails adventure, as we drop off our customers at the airport and say our fond farewells.

Heading back to the H+I Adventures office, I have time to reflect on where we’ve been over the past seven days; from the rolling hills of the Cairngorms to the rocky, dramatic mountains of Skye; from some of the finest Scots whisky to juniper berries and Bog Myrtle; from the Wolf of Badenoch to the Highland cow and the Old Man of Storr.

I learn that with each tour comes new experiences and new memories, but the things that remain constant are the amazing quality of the trails, the huge increase in ability and riding confidence of the customers by the end of the week and, most importantly, the unanimous agreement across the board that they have experienced the mountain biking holiday of a lifetime!

Biking, wildlife, history & whisky 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.

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?

Tastes and Trails of Scotland: the highlights

With Scotland being voted Best Biking Destination in the Outside Travel Awards 2014, we thought we’d put the spotlight on one of our newer Highland adventures, aimed at novice bikers, and share with you the highlights of our Tastes and Trails of Scotland experience.

This holiday is the perfect combination of effort and reward. Our expert local guides will share with you some of the most remote and beautiful corners of the west coast of Scotland, and your adventures aren’t just limited to the bike…

Days of Steam

Relax on the Jacobite (Hogwarts) Express steam train

Continually voted one of the most impressive train rides in the world the Jacobite Express steam train will take you from Fort William, along the coast, to the beautiful fishing village of Mallaig. You’ll be spellbound by the breathtaking scenery and the true scale of the Highlands and, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, the highlight of this trip on the ‘Hogwarts Express’ might well be the famous 21 arches of the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

In the shadow of a giant

Situated at the foot of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain, Glen Nevis is another Scottish landmark steeped in a turbulent yet fascinating history. With some truly staggering views awaiting you at every corner, it’s easy to see why this is another favourite with movie makers, with the majority of Braveheart filmed in the Glen. It is also home to one of Scotland’s highest waterfalls, Steall Falls, offering you further spectacular photo opportunities.

Over the sea to Skye

Following the path of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s we’ll take the ferry from Mallaig to the Isle of Skye. You will have time to soak up the atmosphere, majesty and natural beauty of one of Scotland’s most famous islands. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of some of Skye’s more celebrated residents, including seals and otters.

After a scenic walk you’ll be amply rewarded with a Michelin-starred lunch and wonderful dining experience at Kinloch Lodge. And, of course, no culinary visit to the Isle of Skye would be complete without a distillery tour and there’s none better than the Talisker Distillery on the north west of the island, where you’ll enjoy sampling some of the finest malts.

Iconic castles

If the walls of Eilean Donan Castle could talk, they would have one heck of a story to tell!

Inhabited from as far back as the 6th century, and undergoing at least four different builds and rebuilds, the castle has played host to Irish Saints, various medieval clans, and was subject to a Jacobite uprising, the result of which left it in ruin. Thankfully, the castle was restored to its former glory in the early 20th century, and is now regarded as one of the most iconic and picturesque castles in Scotland. A history lesson not to be missed.

Carefully woven into this itinerary of fabulous Highland experiences, are some of the most enjoyable and picturesque biking trails in the country. Our guides will give you hints and tips along the way to help you become a better mountain biker and ensure you get the most of your Tastes and Trails of Scotland experience.

If all this has whet your appetite for adventure, join us on our Tastes and Trails of Scotland tour this summer!

Liquid gold and mountain biking in Scotland!

Selection of fantastic malt whiskySince our whisky mountain biking holiday was launched late last year we have had some fantastic reviews from the press and lots of exciting correspondences with companies in the whisky industry.  One of the most interesting companies we have come across is the Master of Malt, and to top it all of a very interesting package landed on my desk the other day with a selection of sample bottles! For my ‘Ahem’ approval 😉

 

Master of Malt is a UK-based independent bottler and whisky retailer with an incredible range of fine whiskies from Scotland, Japan, America, India and even England! The company has been in operation since 1985, and over the years they’ve learnt a thing or two about what makes a great single malt.

Their own is range is quite something, and it includes a selection of single cask whiskies (completely unique, unadulterated whiskies from a single barrel) and single malts from all over Scotland.

We’ve been lucky enough to sample a little assortment from the Master of Malt, and here are our findings…

We’re kicking things off with a “single cask” 12 year old single malt whisky from the Isle of Arran. There’s only one distillery on Arran, and we’ve heard only good things. Now, this whisky has been bottled straight from the barrel, no dilution here, so it’s at a whopping 54.7%!  The aromas are rich and fragrant. More like a fine brandy than a whisky – very distinctive indeed. The taste is overwhelming with malt and fruit notes. It’s sweet and rich and very long in the finish. Master of Malt Arran 12 Year Old £44.95

Back to the mainland for this next whisky, a beautifully dark single malt from a secret distillery in Speyside. Even without the auspicious “30 year old” on the label, you can tell this is a very old whisky just by looking at the liquid in the bottle; it’s so syrupy and treacle like! This is the 2nd edition of Master of Malt Speyside 30 year old £99.95, and, oh my, it’s a beautiful whisky. Aromas of sherry and spices, it tastes like Christmas! This is a really rich, smooth whisky. It’s astonishing. You don’t get to taste a fine spirit like this every day!

The final whisky is another single cask whisky. This time it’s from the Highlands of Scotland (not too far from our base) from a distillery called Tomatin. This 19 year old single cask Scotch from Master of Malt is actually the favourite whisky of comedian Stephen Fry, who says it’s “like ethereal Dundee cake”. And Fry is not the only fan of this delightful single malt; even Jim Murray (renowned whisky critic and writer) has extolled its virtues, rating it with a remarkable 96 out of 100 points in his Whisky Bible – only 1.5 points below the top rated whisky ever! In his tasting notes he describes this stunning dram as “quite simply astounding”. Master of Malt Tomatin 19 Year Old £69.95

All in all it’s a fantastic batch from Master of Malt. You can browse through thousands of whiskies on their site www.masterofmalt.com and even read about new and upcoming releases as well as their own brand of industry-leading knowledge on their well-rated blog www.masterofmalt.com/blog.

So, enjoy tasting some fantastic whisky after a good mountain bike ride! We did!

Mountain biking and whisky tasting in Speyside, Scotland

Distillery in the Cairngorms, during the Whisky mtb holiday

We’ve just put the finishing touches to our new mountain biking holiday, the Speyside mtb whisky holiday,  based in the Spey valley, near Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands.

The trip takes place during the Spirit of Speyside whisky festival and offers you fantastic mountain biking in the iconic landscape of the Highlands of Scotland with the opportunity to tour the world-famous Speyside whisky distilleries, sampling their finest malts along the way.

The mountains and glens of Speyside provide the perfect terrain for excellent mountain biking, as well as the pure, clean water required to make some of the world’s most sought-after whiskies.

With your morning spent exploring the delights of the local trails, followed by a dram or two in the afternoon, this Highland holiday is a winning combination.

If this tickles your taste buds, then contact us for further information.  Slàinte!