Did you know that for every single booking made with Handpicked Lodges we donate £1 to Disability Snowsport UK (DSUK)? This fantastic charity carry out amazing work both at UK ski centres and abroad. Here is a taste of what they have planned for the winter and beyond, and some ideas of how you could get involved...
DSUK Fundraising Officer Kirsty Bruce told us: “The physical, mental and emotional benefits of taking part in snowsports go way beyond the hour-long lesson. Skiing and snowboarding are just vehicles for what we do; promote social inclusion, build confidence, provide mental stimulation and life-enriching experiences. The valuable donations made by Handpicked Lodges and your clients help the charity breakdown the physical, social and financial barriers to adaptive snowsports.”
DSUK Activity Weeks in 2019
The 2019 Activity Weeks have almost sold out with only a few spaces remaining. DSUK Activity Weeks provide week-long fully supported adaptive snowsport instruction within an alpine setting that allows disabled skiers and boarders to access the mountains and all their benefits
Take a look at their brochure here to see more detail on how these are organised: https://tinyurl.com/ybw5nphq
DSUK partner with Crystal Ski to provide packages that have everything that disabled skiers and boarders require. They ensure that every individual’s needs are met regardless of their disability
The trips are about so much more than skiing or boarding alone. For many of the DSUK members this is the first time they have travelled alone and the activity weeks provide a real sense of independence and the opportunity to build self-confidence and real life skills. All this in a healthy and natural environment!
Activity Week Volunteers Wanted - can you help?
DSUK are always looking for competent skiers who would like to volunteer for their Activity Weeks. Suzanne Higham works as an in-house solicitor for TUI and volunteered as an Activity Week Helper in Andorra. “The Activity week went beyond my expectations, it was quite simply one of the best and most inspiring weeks I’ve ever had in my life and I loved every single second of it. Although I’ve been around individuals who have disabilities before, this was certainly something different because these individuals have a goal, they’re all working on developing a special skill and what these skiers achieved during this activity week was absolutely
If you would be interested in volunteering on a DSUK Activity Week, please get in touch with Rachel for more information on firstname.lastname@example.org
Aviemore Santa Run – Saturday 15th December
DSUK are looking for as many sensational Santas and energetic little Elves to join them for their annual festive fun run through Aviemore. Choose from a 1-mile fun run or a winter warming 5k. The HPL team and their families always take part in this Aviemore annual event - why not join us? Yule love it!
For more information contact email@example.com
Virgin London Marathon – 28 April 2019
DSUK have managed to secure five much sought-after places for the 2019 London Marathon. If you would like to be in with a chance of running for DSUK please email firstname.lastname@example.org for an application form. By accepting one of DSUK places, you will pledge to raise a minimum of £1,600 (excluding Gift Aid) for Disability Snowsport UK and pay the £100 Virgin London Marathon registration fee.
Outlander Blog 1 – Culloden
In celebration of the return to our screens of Outlander in its 4thseries, we’re going back in time throughout October, to the 18thcentury! Whether or not you’re already an ardent fan of Diana Gabaldon and her time-travelling heroine and her Highland beau Jamie, you’ll be fully immersed in all things Highland and Jacobite by the time the new series starts on November 4th. Or as Clan Fraser of Lovat might say – Je Suis Prest!
As we’ve mentioned before, much of the action of the books and series is set in this part of the Highlands, with places like Inverness, Ruthven Barracks and of course Culloden all having played a part in the real Jacobite rising. But many of the scenes in the TV series were also filmed nearby, with the Highland Folk Museum doubling as a Highland village for much of one of the episodes.
Come with us throughout October as we explore more of the history and real life stories behind the hit series, and discover how a real-life Jamie Fraser has a part to play in the history of Handpicked Lodges itself!
If you enjoy standing in the footsteps of history, there is possibly no more stirring place to be in the whole of Scotland than the field of Culloden, now run by the National Trust for Scotland. The site is around half an hour’s drive from Aviemore, but make sure you give over an entire morning or afternoon to your visit, as there’s so much to see inside the museum as well as walking the battlefield itself.
The visitor centre cleverly takes you along the timeline of events fatefully leading up to the final battle, which incredibly only lasted an hour and took the lives of 1600 men, 1500 of them Jacobites. One side of the walkway is devoted to what was happening on the side of the crown, and the opposite side details what unfolded at exactly the same time on the Jacobite side. Artefacts and dress are on display throughout the centre, and a really impressive array of weaponry too in the final battle room.
One of the highlights of the visit is the immersion experience, where you are surrounded on all four sides by a projection of a re-enactment of the battle – a surprisingly emotive experience which stays with you as you walk the windswept field later on.
On leaving the visitor centre you walk straight out onto the battlefield itself, on the Crown side of the battle. You can see the spots where the different regiments formed up and on the other side, stones mark the places where the different Highland clans stood in battle formation. There are also stones to make the places where the majority of each clan fell in battle. Many visitors place flowers or heather as a mark of respect for their ancestors or just as a general tribute to those Highlanders who fell fighting for a doomed cause that they passionately believed in, during the last pitched battle ever to take place on British soil.
The guide available to buy when you arrive is a great companion to your visit, and there is a bookshop on site with a good selection of reading material on the Jacobite rising and general Scottish history. But it’s definitely well worth doing some background research before coming. A great little guide is “Culloden 1746: Fight for the Throne” by Lomond books, £3.99 on Amazon. For more serious historical readers, “Culloden” by John Prebble is generally considered the masterpiece on telling the story of the common men who fought on both sides. (£10.99, Amazon.)
Note: Dogs are welcome on the battlefield as long as they are kept under close control and any mess is picked up. However you can't take them inside the visitor centre.
If you’re looking for the perfect warming activity for a rainy day in Strathspey, and particularly if you appreciate a good award-winning single malt and some colourful and romantic history, nothing could really be better than a morning spent at Speyside Distillery near Insh, as Tanja, Judith and Kyla discovered last week…
One of the most beautiful distilleries you’re ever likely to visit, this is where local labels Beinn Dubh, Spey, and also Byron’s Gin are distilled. So picturesque and quintessentially Highland is this lovely little gem, that it was chosen to double as fictional “Lagganmore Distillery” for the popular BBC series Monarch of the Glen, based on the novel by Compton Mackenzie (more of whom later…).
The building into which we were initially welcomed and given our introductory talk was actually a barley mill 200 years ago, and sits on top of a little burn (the River Tromie in fact) which used to power its water wheel. The burn now supplies the wonderfully clear water which is one of only three ingredients which go into the Spey uisge beatha - or water of life, as whisky is known in Gaelic. We even got to taste a glass of this delicious fresh water straight from the burn. The original little water wheel and its workings are still in place to view, just one of many fascinating original features that make you feel as if you really are stepping back into the history of this very special place.
Speyside is a particularly fascinating distillery to visit thanks to its boutique size and the fact that traditional methods are still used to this day. There are no official “tour guides” here; rather the tours are given by the distillery manager Sandie Jamieson or by business development manager Susan Libeks. Susan was our almost encylopaedic guide the day we visited, her knowledge of the history of the distillery and the technical aspects of the production process seemingly inexhaustible!
We were guided through the life of each drop of Spey single malt, from the breaking of the malted barley grains to release the starch, to the addition of that lovely soft Highland water into the giant mash tuns to create the “beer”. We then moved through the distillery to see the two wonderful copper stills, where the distillation process happens.
There was then another charming link to that man Compton Mackenzie in the history and heritage building, which was our next stop. It turns out that bottles of Spey whisky were part of the cargo of the SS Politician, the ship which ran aground on the Island of Eriskay in 1941 and formed the real inspiration for Mackenzie’s novel Whisky Galore! Fact, fiction and local legends seem to repeatedly merge and combine in the history of this place and its whisky, as you hear stories encompassing prohibition, politics, kings and queens, the Far East, a stately home reminiscent of Downton Abbey, and even Lord Byron. His part in the Speyside Distillery story is of course celebrated in the branding of their small batch Byron’s Gin which is also distilled here, in a separate building on site.
Then comes the last and perhaps most anticipated part of the tour, when you are properly introduced to the stable of single malts, some of whose creation you have just witnessed first hand. From Chairman’s Choice to Fumaré and Tenné, and the unique ruby black single malt that is Beinn Dubh, this must be one of the only distillery visits where after tasting a few whiskies, you can then choose which others you would like to sample. So between three of us, I think we can proudly say that we managed to taste everything that Speyside Distillery produces!
Book your tour: If you would like to book your own tour of Speyside Distillery (which only take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays) pop into The Snug in Aviemore or contact the distillery on 01479 810126 or email@example.com
With the launch of both Outlander Series 4 and the Robert the Bruce film “Outlaw King” in November, and “Mary Queen of Scots” in December, our beautiful country and its historic houses and castles will soon be all over the big screen. If these sweeping epics get you in the mood for some history, here is our list of top ten castles and palaces to visit from your Handpicked Lodge this year!
Many of these castles are set in truly stunning locations, with beautiful and peaceful gardens and grounds. The first seven are all under an hour from Aviemore, but for real Scottish history buffs, there are a couple of others a little further afield that are something really special. See how many of them you can spot at the movies!
1. Loch an Eilein castle is the smallest of all these castles, but no less special and romantic! And given that it’s our “local” castle, the Handpicked team are especially fond of this little gem. It started out as a hall house, probably built early in the 13th century by the Bishop of Moray, and during the second half of the 14th century a tower was added by the Earl of Buchan – better known as the fearsome Wolf of Badenoch. The island is said to have been connected to the shore by a zigzag causeway, which was later submerged when the loch level was raised. Of course if you want a closer look, you could always swim across to the island! 5 minutes drive from Aviemore.
2. Ballindalloch Castle is a real treat, with three beautiful gardens to explore as well as the 16th century fairytale castle itself with its turrets and towers. The estate also houses a single malt whisky distillery which can be visited by appointment Mon-Fri, so why not combine the two visits in one trip? 40 minutes drive from Aviemore.
3. Urquhart Castle has stood on the banks of Loch Ness for over a thousand years. Past isitors are said to include St Columba who apparently worked miracles here in the sixth century, and various rival clans raided it in the 15th and 16th centuries. A five star visitor attraction with lots to do and see, the castle is about an hour from Aviemore.
4. Cawdor Castle is still home to the Cawdor family today, as it has been since the late 14th century. As well as fascinating interiors (including a secret dungeon with its own trapdoor!), there are three different and exquisite gardens to explore - the Flower Garden, the Wild Garden and the Walled Garden. The latter dates from the Renaissance and contains a maze - with its own minotaur at the centre! 55 minutes from Aviemore.
8. Balmoral and Braemar Castle together are well worth a summer trip along the snow roads to the other side of the national park, for a combined day visit to both castles, as well as the lovely towns of Braemar and Ballater. From April-July you can visit Balmoral’s grounds, gardens, exhibitions, ballroom, gift shop and cafe. There are also land Rover safaris available to book during these months and also in October, November and early December. 1 hour 20 minutes from Aviemore.
9 . Braemar Castle is open April-October, and is the only castle in only Scotland to be run by the community - all the staff are local volunteers. There are 12 furnished rooms to visit showing the life of the castle over four centuries. Another 15 minutes from Balmoral.
10. A little further afield, but well worth the journey, is the utterly enchanting Dunrobin Castle. Its 189 rooms make it one of the biggest homes in the country and it looks more like a French chateau than anything else in northern Scotland. It dates back to the 14th century and like all the best castles, it even has its own ghost. Your entrance fee includes a brilliant falconry display and talk. There is a lovely croquet lawn where you can play to your heart’s content too. An hour and 40 minutes from Aviemore.
You can’t spend a day in our part of the Cairngorms without seeing a kayak, canoe or two. If you’ve never given paddling a try, the Strathspey area is a great place to dip a first toe (or paddle) in the water, with so many providers and gentle places to begin your paddling experience. For this blog, guest blogger, keen paddler and Aviemore local Colin Cadden gives us his top tips for a day on the water. Watch out though - it’s supposed to be very addictive!
What are the best places for a beginner to try paddling in the Cairngorms?
If you want to explore using a kayak or canoe for the first time then either Loch Insh or Loch Morlich should be your first port of call. Both have a range of boats you can try and both have all the correct safety gear. Loch Morlich is my favourite as the loch itself is relatively sheltered and there’s a lovely little creek to paddle up not far from the hire centre.
What sort of wildlife are you likely to see on a paddling trip?
The calmer lochs are home to various types of wildfowl. The local ospreys use many of the lochs for fishing and other eagles, buzzards and falcons can also be seen patrolling the air. Herons can often be seen standing around waiting for fish to pass. Dragonflies and damselflies can be found in some sheltered spots, often with fantastic colours. My favourite damselflies are a shiny, metallic blue. Otters are harder to spot but they’re around...
Is it possible to organise private trips and who are the providers you would recommend?
There are number of activity providers in the area. G2 Outdoor are one of the largest and have a wide range of activities. You can do some easy rafting from Aviemore to Boat of Garten or do some white water further down the Spey. They provide the equipment, transport and qualified guides.
Alternatively, you can hire a packraft (a very lightweight inflatable dinghy) and safety gear from backcountry.scot in Aviemore and plan your own journey. These packrafts make some of the logistics much simpler than hauling a large canoe or kayak and give you the freedom to explore many of the other lochs and river courses in the area. They’re particularly ideal for folk with some experience who can’t bring their own boats with them on holiday.
Is it possible for most people to take part? Is it a kid-friendly activity?
If you can get into and out of the boat then paddling is for you. If you’re not experienced, the hire centres at Loch Insh and Loch Morlich are ideal They can point you to the easiest, most stable boats and advise on safety gear and technique. One tip; take care not to venture too far without checking the wind direction. It’s easy to paddle when the wind is behind you - a lot harder when you’re facing into it. Both centres have life jackets for children and some folk even take their dogs with them.
What are your own personal favourite places to paddle in the Cairngorms?
Of all the lochs, I prefer Loch Pityoulish. It’s quieter than most of the others, especially as folk need to bring their own boats, it has a fantastic view of the mountains, and there’s a feeling of some remoteness about it. Loch Vaa is very sheltered so works well on windier days. There’s a natural island and a crannog (a man made island) to look at if you venture there. Of course, with a packraft, paddling down from Aviemore to Boat of Garten, having a beer at the hotel then getting the bus back is just sheer indulgence!
As always, let us know how you get on and please do share any of your paddling pics - we always love to see what you get up to on your Handpicked Lodges holiday!
The Cairngorms is chock-full of Highland Games over the summer and early autumn, particularly in our little Strathspey corner of the national park. They vary in size and scale, from a chance to see the Royal Family at the grand and historical Braemar Gathering, to the smaller and less formal (but no less fiercely contested!) village events. Here are some of our favourites with a run down of what to expect at each.
Abernethy Highland Games, Nethy Bridge, Saturday 11th August
The highlight of these games, locally known as “The Friendly Games” is the massed pipe bands, where usually at least 5 or 6 march together onto the field. This year apparently 9 bands are preparing to march so that should be a wonderful spectacle to enjoy. These games have lots of children’s events which are grouped into ages, are free to enter and don’t need an application form. Just turn up, take part and enjoy! There are usually tattie and spoon, three legged, wheelbarrow and obstacle races - some of which are for an adult and child to compete in together. All children who compete will receive a badge and there are prizes for coming 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
For the fast and competitive there is a range of athletics competitions such as sprints, middle distance races and high jump. There are dancing and music competitions such as solo piping and drumming. And then of course the Heavy Events which are so exciting to watch - the hammer, the putt, the caber and the weights.
The very last event of the day is the Tug O’ War, which is often contested by the pipe bands. Will Dufftown win again this year? They have taken the Walter Grant Memorial Trophy home 4 years out of the last 5, so they are hot favourites!
There is even the opportunity to arrive in style, by riding the Strathspey Steam Railway from Aviemore to Broomhill for the games. There will be a complimentary bus ride from the station to the Games and a special train to take you back to Aviemore at the close of the Games, leaving Broomhill at 17.30.
Grantown Highland Games, Sunday 26 August
These games, held at Heathfield Park in the town include running, heavy events, solo piping, light field events, Highland Dance and also, unusually, cycling!
Braemar Gathering, 1st September
Undoubtedly the grandest of them all! Apparently there have been Gatherings of one sort or another at Braemar since the days of King Malcolm Canmore, nine hundred years ago, but the Gathering has been run in its present form since 1832. Queen Victoria first attended in 1848 and Her Majesty The Queen has attended every single year since 1952 and often attends with many other members of the royal family. We are all excited to know if the new Duchess of Sussex will be in attendance in 2018!
If you manage to attend any of these games, we’d love to know how you enjoyed it! And of course we always enjoy seeing your pictures - especially if you find yourself competing in any of the events, and particularly if any trophies or medals are won!
Messing about in boats - guest blogger Hamish (9) tells us why he loves Loch Insh Watersports in the school holidays
Loch Insh Watersports Centre near Kincraig provides instruction and hire for a huge array of sports - both water and land based - from stand up paddle boarding, windsurfing, sailing and kayaking to dry slope skiing, archery and mountain biking. The centre is especially famed for its windsurfing programme, with three of the recent Loch Insh alumni currently competing at youth international level, including recently crowned Youth Sailing World Champion in Girls RSX class, Islay Watson from Aviemore. It truly is an outdoor paradise for any age, but in particular a great place to send your kids for anything from a couple of hours to a whole day - or more!
But don’t take our word for it - read what our guest blogger for this week has to say on the matter! Hamish is 9 years old and lives in Aviemore. He attended watersports non-residential camp at Loch Insh for one exceptionally hot and sunny week in July, and wrote down his thoughts for us at the end of every day.
On Monday we went open water canoeing, then we started learning windsurfing. We learned how to get up onto the board and how to pull the sail up from the water. We played wobble board to help us with our balance. After lunch we did some archery then it was home time!
On Tuesday we went kayaking and I found it quite easy. After kayaking we did face painting and it was really fun. I had camouflage paint like a soldier and my brother had the Scottish flag. We both looked awesome.
On Wednesday we went windsurfing again, it’s really hard. When we stopped we went to a playpark there called Kids Kingdom it was really fun. We played a game called camouflage which is a bit like tig or hide and seek. Then we joined up with the older ones and did orienteering in groups, I really enjoyed it.
On Thursday we went sailing and I loved it! It was favourite thing in the week because I was the skipper for most of it! I would love to go back and do more sailing.
On Friday we built rafts - the girls’ raft broke as soon as it hit the water! I learnt how to do square lashing and I’ve been practicing at home. Then we all went paddleboarding and then had a barbecue on the beach. It was a great week.
Would you tell other children to go to Loch Insh? Yes!
What do they need? If you go you should take a sun hat, dry clothes, a towel, suncream and a bottle of water and a packed lunch if you are staying all day like I did. They have wetsuits and wetsuit shoes there that you can use so don’t worry if you don’t have all the equipment!
Our new lodge Westcott is only 10 minutes drive from the watersports centre, so perfectly placed to take advantage of all this great venue has to offer. Get in touch with us to see if we can help create your perfect Highland holiday.
Are you gripped by Wimbledon fever? Has it inspired you to take up your old racket and try a few rallies? After all, there really is nothing that says a British summer quite like the thwack of tennis balls - and perhaps a well-deserved Pimms to follow!
If like the HPL team you’re partial to a game or two of tennis in the summer, you’re not alone. Apparently almost half the country watches the Wimbledon Championships every year and participation in tennis is growing once again year on year in the UK. So you’ll be delighted to hear that you have the option to play tennis during your Handpicked Lodges holiday, with courts available in Rothiemurchus near Aviemore, in Nethy Bridge and at Boat of Garten.
Rothiemurchus and Aviemore Tennis Club has just had its three all-weather courts totally resurfaced and we hear they play like a dream! The courts are open to visitors Monday to Saturday 10am - 5pm and Sunday 1pm - 5pm. It’s £15 per court per hour, for up to 4 people per court. They can be booked online or at Rothiemurchus Visitor Centre across the road from the club or on 01479 812 345. Plus, if you want to take the opportunity to brush up on your skills, or to learn from scratch, the club coach Alan may be able to help - call 07749 762806.
There are of course plenty of other activities to do around Rothiemurchus - from clay pigeon shooting and quad bike tours, to fishing, pony trekking and archery - have a look at their website to see what else takes your fancy.
Boat of Garten Tennis Club have two all-weather courts which are available for hire throughout the year. It’s advisable to book a court, especially at weekends and between June and September. Court hire is £12 per hour.
There are three tennis courts also available to hire at Nethy Bridge, priced at £5 per hour for adults and £4 per hour for children. Call 01479 821400 to book these.
Don’t forget that for playing at any of these tennis clubs you need to provide your own rackets and balls, although at Rothiemurchus you can also purchase used balls for 50p each. You should be able to pick some up rackets and balls cheaply during the summer at Home Bargains in Aviemore.
Westcott is our newest lodge, a gorgeous, spacious Edwardian villa which sleeps 6, and excitingly our first in the village of Kingussie. This great little village is a brilliant base for adventurers, sporty families and lovers of great food and drink. Mix and match from some of the fantastic local activities and attractions below for a Highlands summer holiday where everyone comes home happy!
Laggan Wolftrax (25 minutes drive from Westcott)
This mountain bike trail centre features over 20 miles of purpose-built trails, from easy greens up to extremely tricky blacks. Access roads lead upwards through the forest, and at the top you get the most amazing views, as well as the fun of the descent! For more experienced riders, try the natural trails over the other side of the road. There’s a bike shop for sales and rentals, plus a friendly cafe which sells delicious coffees, hot meals and home baking. Good to know: There are also hot showers available for a small charge in case you get just too muddy to get back into the car!
If your family is happier spending time on four hooves than on two wheels, why not book a pony trek at Highland Horse Fun, just around the corner from Westcott in Kingussie? Treks last from an hour up to a full day and are a great way to see the Cairngorm landscape at a leisurely pace on their lovely Highland ponies. If you are a more experienced rider, hacks are also possible. 01540 760000
Highland Folk Museum (5 minutes drive from Westcott)
Incredibly, this fascinating open air museum is free of charge - and you could easily spend a whole day here. The 18th century township is a real magnet for Outlander fans, as some of the early episodes were actually filmed here! There are reconstructed heritage buildings - some of which are staffed with museum employees in full vintage costume and in character - watch out for the strict Victorian schoolmaster - he doesn’t like latecomers or messy handwriting! The 1930s sweet shop is always top of the list for younger visitors, where they can buy a small paper bag of sweets from the assorted jars of traditional favourites such as Soor Plooms or Liquorice Comfits - and there’s a great play park here too. Open 7 days a week April-October.
Highland Wildlife Park (10 minutes drive from Westcott)
Another favourite with young visitors, the RZSS Highland Wildlife Park is home to a huge selection of animals from sub-arctic climates, including the pair of polar bears and their famous cub Hamish - the first polar bear to be born in the UK in 25 years. You can enjoy a drive around the safari park amongst some of the larger animals like camel and bison, and then walk around all the enclosures for a closer look. Big cat fans in particular will love the Amur Tiger and the two beautiful Snow Leopards.
Loch Insh Outdoor Centre (10 minutes drive from Westcott)
There is a huge array of watersports (and some land-based ones too) on offer at Loch Insh. You can try your hand at paddle boarding, sailing, windsurfing, open Canadian canoeing, fishing, river trips, rowing and raft building. For most activities you can choose from group or private lessons, a short course, or hire of boats and equipment if you are already competent. On land you can also have a go at archery, guided mountain biking and skiing or snowboarding on the dry slope. You’re sure to work up a hearty appetite on the water, and luckily their Boathouse restaurant serves breakfast 8-10am, home baking and coffee from 10am, lunch 12-4pm and evening meals 5-8pm. Children as young as 4 can take part in Loch Insh’s private tuition - there are also two great little play parks there.
In fact Loch Insh would make an ideal place for the kids to enjoy a couple of hours of healthy outdoor fun whilst you enjoy treats of a more grown up variety. What about a wonderful three course lunch, or even an artisan baking lesson under the tutelage of a traditionally-trained French chef?
The Cross, Kingussie
This exceptional award-winning restaurant is certainly one of the best and smartest places to eat in the area and offers a three course menu at £30 with three choices at each course. If you prefer to book for dinner you can choose from either a three-course a la carte (£55) or their six-course signature tasting menu (£65, or with 4 matching wines £95). Their menus change regularly and are designed around the best of seasonal and locally sourced produce. Booking is essential on 01540 661166
The Auld Alliance, Kingussie
Gastronomes should definitely try to book a table at this well-kept Kingussie secret! Provencal chef Lydie Bocquillon was trained in Burgundy, the home of French gastronomy, with some of France’s most renowned chefs. Having previously worked in France, England and Switzerland and as a food stylist for British TV, you’ll often see her these days as a guest chef on BBC’s Kitchen Cafe. The set menu at The Auld Alliance changes each day and is matched with an all-French wine list chosen by Lydie. The restaurant is open Wednesday to Saturday from 7pm till late, and on other days by arrangement. Lydie also holds artisan bread making classes from 11-4pm on Thursdays and Sundays out of season; £55 per person including a light lunch. 01540 661506 Note: The Auld Alliance will only be open as a restaurant until the end of 2018, after which it will be offering culinary classes and catering only. So book a table whilst you can!
Hopefully all of that has whetted your appetite for food, drink and some of the best outdoor activities close by our great new lodge Westcott. Get in touch with us today to book your family break and start planning a truly amazing Cairngorms holiday!
As its Bike Week (9th to the 17th of June), we wanted to celebrate by showcasing one of the wonderful young cycling talents in the area. Sally Devlin not only works in her parents’ well-known Aviemore cycle shop Mikes Bikes, but also races in a number of cycling disciplines, and leads the brilliant weekly Wednesday women’s ride which Tanja and Kyla (from Handpicked Lodges) both enjoy joining - when time allows! She was recognised in 2016 with the Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS) ‘Local Hero’ award - in recognition of her involvement in the local cycling community. If anyone has the inside track on cycling around here, it’s Sally, so we sat her down for an in depth chat about everything on two wheels in the Cairngorms!
What are your own favourite bike trails around Aviemore?
Oh that’s a hard one! If you’re looking for a long day out with stunning views one of my favourites has to be a trip to Loch Einich. Although it’s an out and back rather than a loop it’s still a great ride, there’s some fun rocky singletrack along the river side before you climb through the moorland to Loch Einich which is overlooked by stunning clifftops including Sgòr Gaoith. It’s definitely one to do on a warm summers day as the river crossings will keep you cool!
For a quick blast I love a little loop around the High Burnside Trails - Aviemore’s best kept mountain bike secret! In High Burnside you will find a range of steep technical climbs and descents, all easily accessible from the Trails End Lodge. My favourite thing about High Burnside is that fact that you can head out for a quick 30 minute blast or spend hours and hours up there on the trails! It’s a great area for fine tuning your mountain bike skills.
If someone hasn't cycled in a while or are just getting back into it, what route(s) would you recommend for a few hours or half a day?
I would recommend the Speyside Way (National Cycle Route 7). This starts at the north end of Aviemore next to the Mikes Bikes Bike Hire Centre and takes you along a well maintained, smooth track to Boat of Garten (approx 9-10km). There are no major hills but there are stunning views and well earned cake at the 1896 cafe in Boat of Garten!
There are also some lovely routes to Loch Morlich and Glenmore which are great for starting out however expect a few hills in that area!
We've heard a lot about electric bikes - how easy are they to use?
Very, and don’t say people are lazy because they use them! There are many reasons why you would use an electric bike, through my work at Mikes Bikes in Aviemore I have met lots of e bikers from many backgrounds. Some people will use them if they have a medical problem that is restricting their cycling, if they have a physical job and not enough hours in the day, or if they do just want to keep up with family and friends.
They are very easy to use and there is a huge choice of e-bikes available now, from city bikes to downhill mountain bikes. Most electric bikes will have 3 or 4 modes that are operated using a handlebar control, these range from Eco - > Turbo mode, Turbo obviously providing the most assistance. If you use these modes correctly and efficiently you will get up to 90 miles per charge on most e bikes, our rental ones are powered by a Shimano Steps motor and will do 90 miles on one charge.
Some of our guests want to give downhill mountain biking a shot - where should they head to to get started on some easier routes? What equipment do they need?
I would definitely recommend fine tuning your skills up around the High Burnside Trails or along at Badaguish, although there is no uplift there the trails offer a great downhill/enduro mountain bike playground.
If you are looking to try uplift then Nevis Range/Fort William is worth the visit, it’s around 1hr 15 from Aviemore and there you can use the Gondola to access two downhill mountain biking tracks.
A full face helmet, knee and elbow pads and a full suspension bike will be mandatory for riding the downhill tracks at Nevis Range however most trails in Aviemore can be tackled on a hardtail bike.
Do you have a kit list of what people should take with them whenever they go out for a cycle?
Here are a few things I recommend for your cycling Adventure in the National Park.
You are probably going to be riding the Cairngorms and the weather can be changeable here, one minute we can have sun and the next sleet or heavy rain, so don’t let bad clothing let you down.
· A 16 – 20 Litre comfortable backpack, this way you will have plenty room for what you need.
· Cycling glasses and gloves
· Padded Cycling Shorts (a must!) and this doesn’t mean being seen in lycra, you can pop them under your baggy shorts, waterproof trousers etc.
· Durable, cycling specific (if possible) shorts or trousers. Nothing too baggy as these will get caught in your chain/chainrings/or any other bike part!
· Protective Gear (knee/elbow pads): I always wear soft knee pads as a precaution (and they keep your knees warm).
· Durable cycling specific shoes or high quality outdoor shoes, no plimsoles/sandals. A well fitted cycling helmet that complies with EN 1078 Safety Standard.
· A cycling specific jersey and thermal top.
· Leggings (not cotton) keep you warm and are great under your baggy shorts.
· Longer socks protect your ankles from sharp pedals, branches or anything else that may jump out on the trails, I recommend these over ankle socks. Ankle socks on a bike are not cool
And obviously bike spares, even if you don’t know how to use them, someone else will. Upon booking of any Mikes Bikes Guided Bike Ride we will provide you with a full kit list and recommended snacks!
We hope that’s whetted your appetite for cycling in the Cairngorms. Don’t forget that if you’re planning on renting from Mike’s Bikes during your stay, they offer a really helpful drop off and pick up service to your Handpicked Lodge. So no need to rush back from your ride to return your bike - and no having to clean it either! See you on the trails!