Cycling the Scottish Highlands

Cycle the Scottish Highlands

8 days
from
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Cycling
Activity level:
Moderate / Challenging
Activity Rating - Moderate/Challenging
Trip code: 
MUS
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Cycling
Group size:
7–16
Ages:
16+

Discover the culture and history of the Scottish Highlands on two wheels

The Scottish Highlands offer some of the most evocative, dramatic scenery in the world. This sparsely populated, mountainous region has a history,  culture and climate all of its own. On this tour we focus on what’s known as the Speyside region, defined by the river of the same name.

Our adventure starts and finishes in Inverness, passing through what is perhaps better known as Scotch whisky country, as it is home to over half of Scotland’s distilleries, including some of the most famous. As we wind our way through the farmlands, over moors and along the fierce coastal scenery we take the opportunity to visit one or two.

It is hard to fully convey the wild beauty of the Highlands, with its birds of prey overhead and a coastline home to seals and dolphins, all the stuff of legend and folklore. Exploring by bike gives us that vital connection, allowing us to see and feel everything first hand. 

This is a journey not easily forgotten.

Highlights

  • Cliff-top views & white sandy beaches with the opportunity to see dolphins
  • Cycle through picturesque forest villages, via ancient routes and whisky trails
  • Visit Dufftown, home to the world-famous  Glenfiddich Distillery, one of the oldest family-owned Scotch whisky distilleries
  • Visit the prehistoric burial cairns of Bulnuaran of Clava 

Key information

  • 7 nights in 3-4 star hotels and guest houses
  • 6 days cycling
  • Group normally 4-16, plus leader. Min age. 16 yrs
  • Low altitude throughout
  • Travel by private minibus
  • Countries visited:

What's included

  • All breakfasts and 1 dinner included
  • All accommodation
  • Transport as listed in itinerary & luggage transfer throughout

What's not included

  • Bike hire
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas & Vaccinations
  • Single supplement (available on request and subject to availability)
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for private group trips:
020 8772 3936
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

6

Days of Cycling
Day by day breakdown
Day 254.0km/35.0miles
Day 331.0km/19.0miles
Day 453.0km/33.0miles
Day 552.0km/33.0miles
Day 661.0km/37.0miles
Day 759.0km/36.0miles

Itinerary

Inverness
to
Inverness
  • Day 1

    Arrive at your hotel in Inverness

    Arrive at your hotel in Inverness. The group briegfing will take place at 4pm. The rest of the day is at leisure to relax and enjoy exploring Inverness.

    Check in to your accommodation, and the afternoon is free to explore Inverness. 

    Glen Mhor Hotel or similar

  • Day 2

    Cycle from Inverness to Aviemore through the River Nairn valley

    Cycle from Inverness at the mouth of the River Ness and head south. This route climbs steadily as we leave the city and cross the River Nairn valley with views of the 29 span railway viaduct at Clava which is the longest masonry viaduct in Scotland at 1800 ft (549 m).

    As the road emerges from the forest onto more open moorland the route tracks and then crosses the River Findhorn just south of Tomatin. Tomatin is the last chance for refreshments before Carrbridge and also provides the first distillery visiting opportunity of the tour. The Findhorn is one of Scotland’s longest rivers, popular with kayakers and anglers.

    The mountain pass at Slochd marks the highest point in the route today. This pass is an ancient route and was formerly a “drove road” used to move cattle on the hoof from Highland crofts to markets in southern Scotland. Passing through Carrbridge, which is home to the “Carve Carrbridge” the Scottish Chainsaw Carving Competition each September and “The Golden Spurtle” World Porridge Making Championship in October. The Carrbridge from which the village gets its name dates from 1717 and is the oldest in the highlands.

    The day ends in Aviemore, once a railway junction, then ski resort and now a bustling village, popular all-year-round with visitors to the Cairngorms National Park.

    MacDonald Highlands Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 3

    Ride through Abernethy Forest and enjoy a short break in Nethy Bridge on the way to Grantown on Spey

    Today we cycle to Grantown on Spey. You might even an old steam engine on The Strathspey Steam Railway which travels along the 10-mile section of the old Highland line from Aviemore to Grantown.

    The cycle route winds northeast through the native pines and juniper of the Abernethy Forest, home to red squirrels, wildcats, deer, grouse and birds of prey. You can find out more about the natural heritage of the area and Ospreys in particular at the RSPB nature reserve at Loch Garten.

    Stopping at the pretty forest village of Nethy Bridge for a convenient refreshment stop on the way to today’s destination, the traditional Highland town of Grantown on Spey. 

    The Speyside Hotel Grantown or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 4

    Discover the moorland landscape on the way to Tomintoul on two wheels

    This is definitely the “lumpiest” day of the cycling holiday as we traverse the moorland landscape at the northern edge of the Cairngorm Mountains over towards Tomintoul

    Tomintoul is the highest village in the highlands and provides a good opportunity to refuel after the biggest climb of the day. It has a great art gallery and the range of Whiskies for sale at The Whisky Castle will amaze anyone.

    It's not all downhill after lunch but there are a couple of long descents along Glenlivet then Glen Rinnes to the “Malt Whisky Capital of the World” - Dufftown. Dufftown is also home to the world-famous Glenfiddich Distillery.

    Tannochbrae B&B or similar 

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Ride on the Speyside Malt Whisky Trail towards the coast to Elgin; visit the Scottish Dolphin Centre

    Today we cycle the famous Speyside Malt Whisky Trail. Much of the whisky's flavour comes from the barrels in which it matures, and a visit to the cooperage at Craigellachie, just four miles out of Dufftown, will be our first stop. We'll also spot one of the most famous whisky names, The Macallan along the way. This route sticks pretty close to the River Spey as we descend steadily towards the coast.

    The next village we pass through is Fochabers, which lies at the halfway mark. Here we will have a refreshment stop at the Baxters Highland Village, either at the Baxters food company's home or the restaurant in the Walled Garden of Gordon Castle. We then continue towards Spey Bay where the river meets the sea. We also stop at the Scottish Dolphin Centre, a haven for seals, ospreys, coastal birds, and dolphins.

    We then retrace our tracks to cross the Spey via the old railway bridge and on to Elgin. Should time allow, we can visit Elgin Cathedral. The cathedral is largely ruined but it is still an impressive medieval building. Alternative there's a spot of shopping on offer at Johnstons of Elgin, a well-known textile mill where you can see how raw cashmere is transformed into fine knitwear.

    Laichmoray Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    Cycle to Nairn via Hopeman, pass the former air force base at Kinloss

    Today we will leave Elgin and cycle along quiet country lanes to the coastal village of Hopeman. Keep an eye out for dolphins again as we follow the coastal path to the nearby village of Burghead, where the visitors centre tells the story of the area from its time as a Pictish fort through to the herring boom, which peaked in the early 1900s.

    A few miles further on, we pass the former air force base at Kinloss. This was once home to the RAF Nimrod anti-submarine squadron and mountain rescue operations. If time allows we can stop at a small aviation museum named “Morayvia”, which has ex-airmen on hand to explain all about the interactive exhibits' story.

    We carry on to the eco-village of Findhorn, which has a beautiful beach, harbour and small heritage centre. Findhorn is also home to the spiritual community of The Findhorn Foundation.

    We return back by Kinloss, passing by the attractive town of Forres, which is also home to the Benromach distillery, which we will stop for a quick tour before cycling onto Nairn for our overnight stay.

    Newton Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Visit Bulnuaran of Clava on the way to Culloden Battlefield; ride back to Inverness

    Nairn is known for its two championship golf courses and its sandy beaches, a popular spot on sunny days. There’s a lot to pack in today and if time allows, we will visit the historical (and current) army base at Fort George, Clava Cairns and Culloden Battlefield.

    Along the route, we follow the south side of the Nairn Valley passing under the impressive masonry arches of the Culloden Viaduct that we glimpsed on day one.

    We also make a visit to the prehistoric burial cairns of Bulnuaran of Clava, which have long been a source of huge interest and have gained international fame recently, having featured in Outlander.

    Culloden Battlefield is up next, the site of the last battle fought on British soil in 1746. The excellent visitor centre shows the timeline of events before, during and after the battle in great detail. We carry onto Fort George (if time allows) and then back to the finish in Inverness.

    Glen Mhor Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 8

    End Inverness

    We say our goodbyes. Our trip ends at our hotel in Inverness.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Vaccinations

United Kingdom

No vaccinations are obligatory.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts and 1 dinner included.

Lunches can be purchased from local bakeries, shops and mini-markets which will offer you the opportunity to try lots of local produce and delicacies. Packed lunches may also be possible to organise with accommodations stayed at during the trip.

Dinners will be taken at accommodations we stay at or traditional local pubs along the way.

Weather

The North of Scotland provides an opportunity to experience vast landscapes and open skies rarely found in any other part of the UK.  The climate is generally mild between April – October with changeable days when it is entirely possible to have rain, wind and brilliant sunshine in a short period. 

Waterproof clothing is therefore essential and should be carried at all times as should a light thermal vest / jacket as the wind that blows west to east off the Atlantic can be fresh. Temperatures rarely fall below 12 degrees but can reach the mid 20’s during the height of the summer when daylight dims for only 4 hours at the Summer Equinox period in June.

Is this trip for you?

Distances range from 30 to 60km a day, with varying levels of climbing. The most being on day 4 which features a climb averaging 6% for approximately 1km, though there are other short, sharp climbs on other days. 

As such a good level of cycling fitness is required and you must be comfortable climbing.  

The roads are fair though small stones or other debris does find its way onto the surface.

The weather is changeable, with winds not uncommon, so you must be prepared for this. Gloriously sunny spells can be followed by short sharp showers. 

Luggage is transferred 

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for private group trips:
020 8772 3936
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels & Guesthouses

Speyside twin
Speyside twin

Throughout the week, you will spend 7 nights in 3-4 star hotels and guesthouses. The accommodations have been selected for their charm, character and offer a comfortable stay. All accommodations offer rooms with en-suite.

Speyside double
Speyside double
Spey twin
Spey twin
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for private group trips:
020 8772 3936
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for private group trips:
020 8772 3936
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

Have you been on this adventure? Tell others what it’s like by writing a review.

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]