Cycling the Scottish Highlands

Cycle the Scottish Highlands Trip Notes

Ways to Travel:
Guided Group
Destinations:
Programmes:
Cycling
Trip Code:
MUS
Activity Rating - Moderate/Challenging
Moderate / Challenging

You are moderately fit and have an interest in remote or challenging environments. Some previous experience is required for activity based trips.

8 Days Land only
Ages: 16+

Trip Overview

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.

At a Glance

  • 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

Trip 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 

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 

Adult min age:
16
Min group size:
7
Max group size:
16

Itinerary

MUS map

Land Only

Start City:
Inverness
End City:
Inverness

Land Only Itinerary

  • 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
    Distance covered: 54 km / 35 miles
    Total ascent (m):
    676
    Total descent (m):
    473
  • 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
    Distance covered: 31 km / 19 miles
    Total ascent (m):
    214
    Total descent (m):
    203
  • 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
    Distance covered: 53 km / 33 miles
    Total ascent (m):
    653
    Total descent (m):
    684
  • 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
    Distance covered: 52 km / 33 miles
    Total ascent (m):
    461
  • 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
    Distance covered: 61 km / 37 miles
    Total ascent (m):
    288
    Total descent (m):
    303
  • 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
    Distance covered: 59 km / 36 miles
    Total ascent (m):
    439
    Total descent (m):
    431
  • Day 8

    End Inverness

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

    Meals included:
    Breakfast

Accommodation

Hotels & Guesthouses

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.

Where a single supplement is available, paying for a single will only guarantee a room for single use. It does not necessarily mean a twin or double room will be provided for sole occupancy.

Please note that a member of the group may be allocated a single room by default if the make-up of the group means there isn’t anyone for them to share with. Paying the supplement in advance is the only way to guarantee a single room.

Single supplements cannot be refunded retrospectively.

Food & Transport

Eating & 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 & Seasonality

Weather Information

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.

Joining Instructions

Travelling land only: 7 days starting and ending at the hotel in Inverness.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

Location start:
Inverness
Location end:
Inverness

What to Take

Essential Equipment

    • Bike suitable for the type of cycling and terrain on the trip
    • Spares for your bike, e.g inner tubes
    • Bike hire is not included in this trip. For information on hiring your own bike see the relevant sections below.
  • Cycling outfit, padded shorts and trousers
  • Cycling gloves
  • Waterproof/windproof jacket and over trousers- drying facilities are available for overnight drying out as required
  • A warm jacket & sweater/fleece 
  • Refillable water bottle (1-2 litre capacity at least)- Please note that tap water is safe to drink in the area which means all you need to do is bring a bottle to re-fill along the way. Please add this to your packing list as this will save on wasteful plastic bottles.
  • Daypack
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun hat, sun screen and lip salve
  • Small first aid kit including Compeed/blister kit

Equipment Hire

Please advise us at the time of booking if you are not bringing your own bike but prefer to hire it with us instead. Please note, you will be responsible for assembling and disassembling your bike as well as bringing along spare parts and any tools specific to it. Our cycling team only carry the relevant spares for the hire fleet. Any clients bringing their own bike should ensure they have adequate cover for loss, damage or theft under their travel, home contents or a specialist insurance policy. If Exodus is confident that we have taken all reasonable care to ensure the safety of your bike, in the rare event of loss, damage or theft you will need to claim under your own insurance policy.

The standard bike we recommend for hire for this trip is a TREK hybrid bike with 24 gears, aluminium frame and 35mm tyres. Hybrid bikes have flat handlebars and a more upright riding position than the road bikes but not fully upright like a continental city style bike. They have a wide range of gears, full mudguards, prop stand and rear luggage rucks. Each bike has two bottle holders. The tyres are touring style and best on tarmac but suitable for decent quality dirt paths too.

Extra Bike Bits

You may like to bring your own pedals and saddle (excluding the seat post) or gel saddle cover to fit to the hire bikes. We encourage this, if it is your preference. However, please note that you are responsible for your own equipment, and removing your saddle/pedals at the end of the trip. We cannot guarantee the return of any bike parts left behind.

Exodus Policy on Cycling Helmets

Wearing a helmet is mandatory for anyone taking part in any guided Exodus cycling holiday. Group members must bring their own helmets, as they are not available for hire, even if they are hiring a bike from Exodus.

For self-guided cycling holidays wearing a helmet is highly recommended. Customers who choose to ignore our advice do so entirely at their own risk and on the understanding that it may affect the validity of their travel insurance. It should also be noted that in some countries we travel to wearing a helmet is already a legal requirement.

Cycling of all kinds has its dangers and accidents can happen from time to time. Please ensure that you are properly prepared for the riding you are going to undertake.

River Spey

Practical Information

Visa

Scotland

Visa regulations can change without notice: please check the current regulations in good time to obtain a visa if one is required.

Vaccination

Scotland

No vaccinations are obligatory.

Travel health can often be something people forget about before going away, but a little preparation and knowledge can go a long way to help you stay fit and healthy while abroad.

As we are not qualified to answer all your questions about travel health we strongly recommend you contact your Medical Professional or a Travel Health Clinic at least 8 weeks prior to departure for up-to-date information. Please note: vaccinations that are routinely recommended to residents of the UK, North America or Australasia are not considered to form part of the travel health advice, and you should ensure these are kept up to date where necessary.

For additional information please visit: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries

Insurance - are you adequately covered?

It is a condition of joining any of our holidays that you must be fully insured against medical and personal accident risks (to include repatriation costs and air ambulance or helicopter rescue services where appropriate). On arrival in destination for your trip, you will be asked to present details to your leader or local representative of your policy.

If you are resident in the UK we strongly recommend the Exodus travel insurance policy, this is specifically designed to cover all activities on your trip. If arranging your own policy please ensure that you are covered for all activities that are part of the trip, optional activities that you intend to take part in and/or on high altitude itineraries, that you are covered up to the maximum altitude of the trip.

Local Time

Electricity

Money

ATM Availability

ATMs are available in Inverness as well as in most towns & villages visited during the week. Credit & debit cards are widely accepted but in general it is also a good idea to carry some cash.

Extra Expenses & Spending Money

As lunches will usually be purchased from local bakeries and supermarkets or from accommodations we stay at, we recommend budgeting approximately GBP 5-7 per day.

We recommend budgeting approximately GBP 15-25 for dinners.

You will also need to budget for any extra snacks & drinks bought during the week.

Tipping

Although optional, a tip for the leader at the end of the trip is greatly appreciated. As a guideline we recommend a contribution of approx. 20 GBP per client. This is entirely at your discretion if you wish to provide your leader with a tip if you are happy with the services they have provided throughout the trip.

Cycle Scotland

Exodus Community

Join the Exodus online community

Don't forget to visit the Community area on our website. You can view the range of Exodus videos and podcasts, read trip write-ups which have featured in the national media and take advantage of some special deals on travel gear and equipment.

In the Community Travel Forum you'll find the Departure Lounge where you can discuss your trip with fellow travellers before you depart. When you get back from your holiday remember to upload your images to the relevant trip page on our website. This helps other people see what our holidays are really like and you'll be entered automatically into our monthly photo competition.

To make full use of the Community you'll need to join My Exodus. It's free, registration is simple and easy, so what are you waiting for?

Important Information

On all guided trips

Although our leaders are well trained to deal with different capabilities, if they have any concerns about someone’s ability to safely partake in an activity, or their impact on other people’s enjoyment, we authorise them to take necessary action which, in some circumstances, may involve asking someone to miss that activity.

Although rarely enforced, by booking this trip you agree to section 14 of our Booking Conditions which clearly states that our leaders have the authority to do this. In these circumstances we will ensure anyone sitting out is safely provided for and offered alternative options where possible. Refunds will not be provided for activities missed and customers may be liable for additional costs incurred.

On all trips

In booking this trip you should be confident in your ability to participate in all activities described in these Trip Notes. If you have any doubt about your suitability you should call the Exodus office and ask to speak to one of the experts on this itinerary.

 

Every time that you travel abroad you should take the time to read the warnings in the essential information in the brochure.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers, and details of how to reach the start point, will be sent to you approximately 2 to 3 weeks prior to departure. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

The information in these Trip Notes is given in good faith. Where differences exist between the Trip Notes and our current brochure or website, the Trip Notes supersede the brochure and website. All holidays can be subject to unexpected changes; in order to enjoy them you should be prepared to be flexible where necessary. Occasionally, as stated in our brochure, it may not be possible to follow the itinerary as planned. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, political, physical or other. In these circumstances we will make the best possible alternative arrangements that maintain the integrity of the original itinerary.

As fuel prices, airport taxes and exchange rates fluctuate, and airlines manage their rates to match demand, it is proving harder than ever to guarantee our Flight Inclusive prices. Although we endeavour to keep our website as accurate as possible, daily fluctuations mean that our Flight Inclusive price may be out of date. For accurate prices we recommend that you contact one of our Travel Experts, or your Travel Agent.

TRAVEL AWARE – STAY SAFE & HEALTHY ABROAD

 

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and the NHS have up-to-date advice on staying safe and healthy abroad. For more on security, local laws, plus passport and visa information, see https://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk/

Keep informed of current travel health news by visiting https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/

Advice can change so check regularly for updates.

For all latest travel information about your holiday, please visit our Travel Safety Advice page.

How to Book

1. Check availability

Go online to check availability, or contact us by phone or email.

2. Secure your place

You can provisionally hold a place on this trip, usually for between three and seven days.

3. Complete your booking and payment

When you're ready to book, go to our website for online bookings, book over the phone or you can complete a booking form (available online or on request by calling us). We accept all major credit and debit cards, or you can pay be cheque. Book with confidence: Exodus is fully licensed and bonded as a tour operator. We hold Air Traffic Organisers Licence (ATOL) number 2582 issued and bonded with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are also bonded to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and we are members of the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) and ABTA ‐ The Travel Association. This means you can book your Exodus holiday with confidence, as all monies paid to us for your trip are fully protected.

TRIP NOTE VALIDITY

These Trip Notes are valid from the "Current as" date on page one. They will occasionally be updated post booking and pre-departure; if there are any updates that significantly impact the inclusions or itinerary bookers will be written to separately. All customers will also receive a link to the most up-to-date version of the Trip Notes with their Final Joining Instructions pre-travel.