Fort George is awe inspiring. It's Scotland's most impressive military structure. With guns covering every approach and surrounded by thick walls it was designed to intimidate and impress. Fort George was built in the eighteenth century as a response to the Jacobite threat. It's about 8 miles from Nairn and you can spend the best part of a day exploring its 42 acres.
Get to Fort George by bike
Nairn is the nearest train station. From the station take the B9092 road to get to the fort. It's about 8 miles and the road is not busy.
I cycled to Fort George from Cawdor Castle. There's a guide to this route on my blog.
Entering the fort
You cross a wooden bridge over a moat.
When you are on the bridge have a good look. From here you get a great sense of the strength and power of the architecture. The walls look indestructible. This moat could be flooded with sea water to prevent an enemy getting inside.
Once you cross that bridge there is a gun battery. It's a first line of defence and there is a formidable array of cannons.
From here there is yet another bridge to take you further into the complex. This even has a little drawbridge as an extra defensive feature.
History of the fort
In 1745 the Jacobites destroyed the original Fort George in Inverness. The government decided to rebuild it on a spit of land at Ardresier. It was the biggest building project in Scotland at that time. Over 1000 soldiers and labourers helped to construct the fort. They built it to intimidate and impress. They wanted to send a clear message about who was in charge. The fort was never attacked.
Inside the walls of the fort there are handsome Georgian buildings that housed the barracks. These were designed by Robert Adam, one of Scotland's most renowned architects.
I was amazed by the scale of these buildings. There is row upon row of them. They are all so elegant, not what I pictured a barracks to look like. In fact, they look more like stately homes.
1600 infanty could be accommodated in the barracks. The rooms with the larger windows were for the officers and offered more light and superior interior features, like window shutters. For the regular soldiers Fort George was relative luxury- most would have been used to living in tents.
A soldier's life
A testimonial from a Private Macmullan in 1846 gives an idea of what life was like at Fort George. He got up at 5am and had to make his bed, which "was rather a troublesome job" and took 15 minutes. The day was filled with drills, with breaks for meals, but the meat and potatoes for dinner was "the most wretched quality". He got a little bit of spare time when he would go for a walk. However, soldiers were not allowed to go more than 1 mile from the garrison.
The defensive structures are fascinating and give a sense of how difficult it would have been for an enemy to attack Fort George.
The large number of canons on display shows the immense fire power that this place had. I was amazed by the canons on turntables, so that their positions could be changed to take aim at approaching ships.
Dog cemetery and chapel
Look out for the dog cemetery. There's a pyramid shaped headstone that was for a dog that was taken to Egypt with the regiment.
The chapel has a squat appearance and the tower looks like it has been cut down. It's not the prettiest church, but I assume the design is to make it more robust. I guess that a taller tower would make it easier for enemy ships to target it.
Inside the chapel the architecture is much more refined. I did not feel like I was in a military fort. It could easily be a church in a village or town.
On the upper galleries there are doors that mark the private seating areas for officers. Bold, white lettering on the doors state who can sit here. There is even an area for 'Officers Ladies".
One of the most distinctive features in the chapel is the stained glass window with a bagpipe playing angel.
Exploring Fort George is one of Scotland's top experiences. It is incredible to think that a historic military structure of this vast scale survives to this day. Pretty much everything is how it was in the eighteenth century. This makes it easy to let your mind drift into the world of a government soldier and imagine what life was like here.
If you enjoyed it as much as I did let me know in the comments.
There are many areas of Edinburgh where the urban design almost guarantees that car ownership will be the number one choice for people living there. I have been noticing this more and more as the planet grapples with the climate crisis. I think it is going to require an enormous change in design, planning and culture to reduce car dependency for such areas. I am going to take Spylaw Bank Road and the adjacent streets as an example of this situation.
This opinion is based on my observations and thoughts when walking these streets. I am assuming that:
Here's a map of the area.
And these are the reasons why I think it will be a challenge to get more people to use sustainable and active travel in this area.
Poor state of pavements does not encourage walking
Spylaw Bank Road has some pavements that are poorly maintained. They are gravel and not easy to walk on, particularly if you have a pram or wheelchair. Pavement parking can be common on these streets and that can force pedestrians to walk on the road.
Just where the gravel pavement finishes, around number 48 Spylaw Bank Road, there is no pavement at all! You have to walk on the road here. And there are always parked cars on this part of the road, so you are forced to walk further out onto the road and constantly be aware of any approaching traffic. Luckily it is a quiet road, so the risk is low, but if we want people to walk places they shouldn't have to share the space with moving vehicles.
The worst part of Splaw Bank Road for walking is the downhill section to Colinton Parish Church. There is no pavement, it is a narrow road and it has a blind corner. It feels unsafe to walk here because you are concerned about a vehicle suddenly approaching and not having enough time or space to get out the way.
The design of these streets does not encourage people to walk. The disregard for the maintenance of some of the pavements feels like someone has thought there was no point because everyone who lives here uses a car.
Limited access to safe cycling routes
Streets like Spylaw Bank Road do make for good cycling because the low traffic volume makes them safe. Most people on a bike could feel quite comfortable exploring these streets, but what if you want to use a bike to go from this area to somewhere else? The area is surrounded by main roads that have much higher volumes of traffic and they don't have much in the way of cycling infrastructure. For example, Colinton Road has no cycling infrastructure. Lanark Road does have some protected cycle lanes, but not the full length of the road.
You can get from here to the Water of Leith cycle path that leads to the Union Canal, but I've written previously about the inadequacies of the Union Canal as a cycle route for everyday journeys. You've also got to cycle that blind corner on Spylaw Bank Road to get to this route. It's also not realistic for many people to cycle back up that very steep hill to get home.
Distance to everyday amenities
If you want to get some basic groceries, like a pint of milk you could head to the Co-op on Bridge Road. Depending on where you live and how fast you can walk this can take no more than 15 minutes walking. However, it means you have the gravel pavements, no pavements and blind corners to contend with. You could go via the B701 to avoid walking this way, but this is a really unpleasant walk. Although there is a pavement you are walking alongside fast moving traffic. If you have children you probably wouldn't want to walk here.
If you need a supermarket then walking to a supermarket from here is unlikely as it will take around 30 minutes versus 5 to 10 minutes by car. Cycling to these supermarkets is possible, but the lack of cycling infrastructure to these stores will put off many people even contemplating this.
Inconvenient access to bus and rail services
A long time ago there used to be more stations in this area. Now the closest station to Spylaw Bank Road and the surrounding streets is Kingsknowe. Depending on where you live in this area and your walking speed it could take you up to 18 minutes to get to this station. The train can get you to Edinburgh Waverley in about 13 minutes, but its an inconvenient hourly service.
The 44 bus can get you to Princess Street in about 25 minutes. Depending on where you stay on Spylaw Bank Road or the surrounding streets it's probably a maximum of a 10 minute walk to get to the bus stop. That's a much more realistic prospect than relying on the train service, but if a resident of this area needs transport for an everyday journey like getting to the supermarket will the bus be their choice? If they own a car it means they can drive it straight into a parking space at the supermarket and not have to carry shopping bags for any great distance. The bus offers no such convenience.
Home ownership goes hand in hand with car ownership
On Spylaw Bank the average selling price of a house is around £1.2 million. The houses all appear to have driveways and space for cars. I assume that for most residents there is no financial barrier to car ownership. I don't think that people buy houses in areas like this and choose not to own a car. I might be wrong in these assumptions, but I walk this street and there are a lot of cars here. People who live in areas like this are perhaps more likely to be able to afford an electric vehicle. However, electric vehicles are not a sustainable solution.
Homes are often marketed for their convenient location to major roads and a place to store a vehicle for free (driveway, garage or free on-street parking). In this area, the closeness of the city bypass is used as a selling point for homes. It is assumed that the potential buyer of these homes owns a car. How many people buy a home in areas like this based on convenient access to sustainable and active travel options?
Civic leaders assuming electric vehicles are the answer
At COP26 in Glasgow it was clear that electric vehicles are seen as the solution to reducing transport's contribution to the climate crisis. That's why I assume that areas like this in Edinburgh will not see any changes. I think that civic leaders believe that the residents will eventually switch to electric vehicles. The pavements will not be fixed, there will be no new cycling infrastructure, there will be no new shops and other amenities that can be more easily reached by walking. There will not be any schemes to encourage less car ownership.
This is not the only part of Edinburgh like this
Travel down any residential street in Edinburgh and there are parked cars. Even on streets that have good pavements it is clear that car is the number one choice for everyday journeys. Oxgangs Farm Avenue, is an example of a residential street with good pavements. I use this street frequently and rarely see people walking on these pavements and it is rammed with parked cars. There's a supermarket at 2 minute walk from this street, but I wonder how many people will still use a car for that trip? A colleague told me that they lived a 2 minute walk away from a supermarket, but often used their car because they would have too much shopping to carry.
This blog illustrates the challenges of enabling active and sustainable travel in Edinburgh. If we want people to walk, cycle or take public transport for everyday journeys, like getting food shopping, there will need to be massive changes. Not only to infrastructure, but a total redesign of residential areas so that shops and services can easily be reached by short, safe, walking and cycling journeys. There also needs to be a massive shift away from a culture of car ownership and belief that electric vehicles are the answer to the climate crisis.
Summer is the perfect time to get your bike out of the shed and explore the beautiful cycling paths and routes across the UK. But as the days get brighter and hotter, you must make sure you stay cool and safe on your ride, which is why we’ve compiled a list of 7 essential cycling items you need this summer.
1.Helmet and cap
Ensuring you have a strong helmet is without a doubt the most important item, and during the summer months, you want to choose a helmet that is lightweight, aero and well ventilated. This is because keeping a cool head is vital during hot days, where there is a risk of overheating.
The B'Twin Aerofit 900 road cycling helmet is a great choice, constructed using In-Mold moulding technology to ensure that it's both lightweight, durable and structurally secure for the rider.
You will also need a cycling cap which sits under your helmet to keep the sun out of your eyes. They also give good UV protection for those not blessed with a full head of hair. Opt for a thin, mesh cap in the summer months, such as the RoadR 520 Ultralight cycling cap - made from an extremely light synthetic fabric that dries quickly, making it comfortable to wear even in hot weather.
2. Water bottle
Another essential item for your summer ride is of course, a water bottle. It can be surprising just how much you’ll need to drink to stay hydrated on a summer ride – especially when you’re working hard in the heat.
There’s nothing worse than running out of water mid-ride when you desperately need it, so it’s worth fitting an extra bottle cage – most frames have room for at least two bottle cages
The Hydro-Pro Water Bottles are a good choice, with a fast-flow super-soft silicone nozzle designed to offer athletes & adventurers the very best.
3. Bike lock
If you’re planning on stopping for a cake and coffee, make sure you have a bike lock with you, even if you’re stopping for just a few minutes. The last thing you want is to be stuck miles from home with no bike.
For maximum security, take a look at the Oxford Alarm-D Pro Duo Bike Lock, featuring a chunky 1.2 metre looped cable, to help extend its reach and to secure both wheels and frame. It also has a 120db weatherproof movement and shock activated alarm which will scare off any would-be bike thief.
Cycling in bright sunny weather is not only seriously uncomfortable, but it is also dangerous as it can hinder your eyesight. Sunglasses also help to keep bugs, debris and dirt from getting into your eyes.
Any sport specific or running sunglasses will do, as long as they are protective and will stay on your face.
The dhb UltraLite Sunglasses are a top (affordable) choice, providing 100% UVA and UVB protection and are made from a hydrophobic coating which helps repel sweat and water. Their venting feature also prevents the lenses from steaming up and rubber grippers on the arms keep the frames firmly in place, no matter how bumpy the terrain is.
5. Bike tyre repair kit
It is crucial to have a bike tyre repair kit on you, so that in the unfortunate event of a puncture, you can fix it mid ride.
The LifeLine Puncture Repair Kit will do the job nicely, containing six repair patches, a small piece of abrasive paper and vulcanising fluid - everything you need to repair a punctured inner tube.
6. Summer cycling jersey
As well as your head, it’s important you keep your body cool too. Lightweight, short-sleeve jerseys are the best option for summer cycling, and you should be opting for jerseys with mesh panels for ventilation. A mesh construction allows for a much more effective moisture wicking than regular jerseys making it perfect for when things get hot under the collar.
The Rapha Pro Team Aero jersey is a great fitting highly technical, very comfortable piece of kit for those warm summer rides. It features a smooth front panel and textured rear with dimpled arms and shoulders. It's a close fit too, without being constructive or riding up.
7. Lightweight waterproof jacket
Summer doesn’t always mean dry rides, especially here in the UK, so it’s wise to get yourself a lightweight, waterproof jacket for when the weather isn’t guaranteed.
The smart-looking Decathlon Triban RC500 jacket has a waterproof, breathable, stretchy membrane for maximum comfort when riding in the rain. The roll-up saddle flap also protects from splashes, letting you ride comfortably in wet or windy weather.
With a waterproof rating of 8,000mm, it isn’t the best option for truly horrendous conditions, but for summer showers and commutes it’s perfectly substantial.
Written by Kate, on behalf of Mackadams.
The story of the Land's End to John O'Groats cycling record is epic. Paul Jones has created a beautiful and gripping account about the people who have undertaken this record. The End to End is 842 miles and the current men's record holder did it in 43 hours, but people have been doing it since the 1880s. They are a fascinating collection of individuals that make the pages of this book so engrossing.
Although I ended up loving this book, my first impression was not great. This is because it opens with a grim account of the author starting his own End to End Journey. He doesn't hold back on his negative experience of Land's End. There's also a lot of introspection from the author because he is going through a challenging time in his life. I think I had this romantic vision of what riding Land's End to John O'Groats is like and these opening pages somewhat ruined that vision.
However, I read on and soon realised that this honest and realistic account is what makes this book so brilliant. It doesn't try to sugar coat a journey that can actually be hell, especially for those trying to break the record. It's a journey that involves unbelievable physical and mental challenges.
The author is going through challenges of his own and shares this with refreshing honesty and openness. Although I wasn't initially keen on the parts of the book where the author tells us about their personal challenges I soon felt that it was absolutely appropriate to the theme of this book. It's about men and women who have endured the torture of the End to End.
It is no exaggeration to describe this as torture. In trying to break the record attempt it was very common for riders to experience hallucinations and suffer extreme physical toil. Jones sets up interviews with some of the greats in the history of the End to End. He visits them in their homes and they tell him what it was like to undertake the record. It is a fascinating insight into what drives people to do extraordinary things, like the End to End.
I enjoyed this book a lot. It is very well written and the author has a talent for making you feel like you are alongside these End to Enders, on the road. Suffering with them and feeling the elation at completing the journey.
You can buy the book on Amazon:
The first bicycle was invented back in 1817, so humans managed to go the best part of 200 years using them before smart phones and their fancy apps came along. That doesn’t mean there isn’t value in using a smartphone to enhance your riding experience, in fact, it has become incredibly popular among cyclists over the last few years.
This is especially true if you’re planning a long-distance ride that is likely to span several days and require you to stop off in multiple places along the way.
So if you’re planning a big trip on two wheels, consider loading up your phone with some of these apps.
Navigation is one of the top uses for smartphones, not even just among cyclists. Pretty much everyone will have used Google Maps and for good reason as it is a great all-rounder navigation app. It even offers cycling-specific directions which can come in handy when getting around in towns and cities.
However, it may not always be the best option for when you’re planning a long-distance route. Instead, you might want to consider Komoot, Bikemap, and Bike Citizens. They all offer more bike-focused information and can better prioritise routes that are cycle-friendly. Komoot even includes information like the surface of the route you’ve planned so you know whether it is going to be suitable for your bike before you even get there.
Of course, if you really love using old-fashioned paper maps, a digital backup may still come in handy in case you get lost.
Sure, you won’t need any entertainment while you’re riding, but you will for when you’re spending your evenings in your hotel or campsite. This is where your smartphone really shines as it’s packed with a plethora of options, including music, movies, books, and podcasts. Provided you can get an internet signal, apps like Netflix and Spotify are great for streaming content that you probably won’t be able to get on your hotel’s television.
The mobile gaming experience has also come on leaps and bounds over the last few years, particularly games that pay you real money. The variety and quality of smartphone games have increased dramatically. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of casual titles like Angry Birds and Farmville, AAA brands like Call of Duty, Forza, and Fortnite have also made it onto iOS and Android.
Online casinos are also a popular option thanks to their extensive selection of options, including multiple variants of classic table games and thousands of video slots. Innovation in slot gaming has led to the creation of the unique Megaways mechanic which varies the number and order of symbols on each reel to increase the number of paylines which adds variety and excitement to these games.
With so many options, entertainment during your time off the bike is covered, no matter what you enjoy.
Cycling is very safe, but it’s always a good idea to take precautions. After all, you don’t intend on falling off your bike, but you still wear a helmet, just in case.
Mobile apps can help improve your safety while you ride in several key ways.
The amusingly-named Fill That Hole is an app that lets you report potholes in roads that could cause a danger to cyclists. It also lets you see where other users have reported them so you can be on the lookout.
Another great app is Flare, a personal safety app designed for people engaging in various outdoor activities, including cycling. It detects if you’ve been involved in a fall or an accident by using your phone’s accelerometer. If you don’t respond or move within 30 seconds of the app detecting an incident, it will automatically send your location to a list of pre-defined emergency contacts. There’s also an SOS feature so you can alert other users and/or your emergency contacts.
The precision location app what3words is also a handy app for cyclists to have as it allows you to find very specific places that most normal navigation tools can’t pinpoint, but it also gives you the ability to give rescuers better information so they can find you in an emergency. Many UK police, ambulance, and fire services are implementing what3words so that you can give your three-world address to call handlers so they can find you.
This route will take you from Cawdor Castle to Ardersier and Fort George. It's a straightforward 7 mile ride.
This hump-backed bridge is a 10 minute ride from Cawdor Castle. The B9090 road used to cross it, but there's a new bridge now. You can make a short diversion off the B9090 to get to the old bridge. It's called White Bridge and was built around 1754.
There are plenty of old bridges like this in Scotland, but I never tire of discovering them. I went down to the river bank and stepped on stones to reach the island of pebbles. From here I had a close up view of the bridge and enjoyed the sound of flowing water.
A 10 minute cycle from the bridge is this small loch. I had never heard of it until I cycled its shores. I was lucky to encounter a swan with cygnets and a rainbow at the same time.
To cycle along the shore you should leave the B9090 as soon as you reach the loch. There's a minor road on the right. This road gives the best views of the loch and the chance to get a closer look at the swans.
Brachlich Gollanfield Cemetery
The views of distant hills from this cemetery are spectacular. Throw in some storm clouds with shafts of sunlight and a rainbow and this place is even more special.
This is a small cemetery, contained within a rectangular stone wall. There is some nice stone carving on display. For example, the pretty flowers on the headstone of a boot and shoemaker who died in 1853.
It is very close to Inverness airport so you'll see planes taking off and landing.
Great roads for cycling
Quiet roads with great views. What more could you ask for?
It's not the most famous area of Scotland. It does not have mountains. It does not get a lot of tourists. That means you will get to enjoy it pretty much by yourself.
To reach Ardersier you must cross the busy A96. I found the easiest way to do this was to get off my bike and wheel it across when there was a gap in the traffic.
Ardersier thatched cottage
There's a very pretty thatched cottage in Ardersier. At one point there had been 365 thatched cottages- one for every day of the year. This is the only one that survives.
Ardersier faces the Moray Firth. It means there is always a view of the water when you are exploring the village. Look out for the sculpture of a pair of jumping dolphins. This area is one of the best places in Scotland to go dolphin watching.
From Ardersier it's 2 more miles to reach Fort George.
Cawdor Castle is about 5 miles from Nairn and 12 miles from Inverness. It's famous for its Macbeth connection. There's turrets, tapestries and a tea room, but the real star is the garden. Of all the castle gardens in Scotland this is one of the best.
How to get there
National Cycle Route One comes close to Cawdor. You can follow the cycle route from Nairn (which has a train station). You have to leave the cycle route when you reach the B9101. Don't worry as this is a quiet road and its only 2.7 miles to the castle.
Through the gates
Crossing a drawbridge is right up there with climbing a spiral staircase when it comes to classic castle experiences. Not all of Scotland's castles have drawbridges, but Cawdor does. It crosses a moat and takes you to the imposing 15th century tower.
In the winter months Cawdor Castle is a family home, so it is only open to visitors in the summer. A visit to Cawdor is by a guided tour that lets you see 12 rooms.
Highlights include the seventeenth century Flemish tapestries. I loved the fireplace in the dinning room. It has carvings of a goat, a dog chassing a rabit, a fox smoking a pipe and a cat playing a fiddle. This fireplace is so heavy that it broke the drawbridge when it was being carried into the castle.
In Shakespeare's play Macbeth is told by the witches that he will become Thane of Cawdor. This is the connection that makes the castle famous. However, the castle was built much later than the period that the play is set in.
There's a great tea room in the castle. My lunch of roasted red pepper soup and a slice of coffee and walnut cake was superb.
It was nice to see inside the castle, but the gardens impressed me the most. If you are short on time then I would recommend seeing the gardens over the interior. You will not be disappointed.
There's a blue door in the gardens. It has a stone carving of a swan with a crown above it. On the other side of the door there' a blue bridge. This is your gateway to woodland walks by the Cawdor burn.
The castle's walled garden is total sensory delight. There's the smell of flowers, the vibrant colours of the flowers, the birdsong and trickling water. I felt really happy walking around here. I noticed that the other visitors all had smiles. It's just a lovely place to be.
I've been to many of Scotland's gardens and this is one of the best.
See Brodie Castle and Cawdor Castle in one day
These 2 castles are about 12 miles apart. You can use National Cycle Route One to travel between them.
You can also use the train to get near to the castles:
Nala's World is about a bike ride around the world with a unique twist. The cyclist, Dean, does his bike ride with a cat. Dean is from Dunbar in Scotland and his choice of travel companion is by accident. He rescues the cat from the side of the road in the Bosnian mountains. He names her Nala and they embark on an incredible adventure together. This book is about the bond between Dean and Nala during their bike ride and all of the things that they experience together.
The first 3 chapters of the book cram in a whole lot of adventure. Dean recounts when he first meets Nala and the tension of smuggling the kitten across the border into Montenegro. There's the back story about why he decided to cycle around the world and how he hurt himself diving off the Mostar Bridge. You are immediately drawn into the story by this action packed tale. When you reach the part where the kitten falls asleep in the nape of Dean's neck it will melt your heart.
The focus of this book is about the relationship between Dean and Nala, more so than the bike ride. Dean has to quickly adjust to life on the road with a cat with plenty of trips to the vet, a pet passport and border crossings.
Dean soon realises that Nala is giving him a much more intimate experience of the world. He finds that people approach him and strike up conversations because of the cat. In particular, at a refuge camp in Greece he shares conversations with people there. He relects that this would probably not have happened if it was not for the cat.
People approached him, sometimes in the middle of nowhere, because they recognised him from social media. The book is an interesting example of the impact of social media on our lives.
A large section of the book is about Dean's time as a kayak guide in Santorini, to earn more money. His descriptions of this place really make it sound idyllic. This is when the social media craze for Nala errupted. People started to turn up from all over the place to see Nala. At first Dean doesn't know what to do with this new found fame. He soon decides he could use his influence to do some good in the world and highlights the work of animal charities and the widespread issue of dogs being abandoned in many parts of the world.
He raises an incredible amount of money and is able to help many animal charities. A calendar with photos of Nala raised £90,000.
It's not all about Nala and there is plenty of cycling and world travel action to enjoy. On the road to Turkey Dean had to cycle in a dry heat that could reach 100 Fahrenheit, whilst hauling 50kgs of belongings, including Nala's pet carrier. At one point he lost his passport and belongings. In Azerbaijan Dean partakes in the tea drinking ritual with strangers. Dean also experiences the world at the start of the Covid pandemic.
This book might not be the classic tale of a solo round the world cycle trip, but travel with a cat brings an interesting dimension to the genre. It is an engrossing book for the combination of adventure and highlighting an issue that doesn't get as much attention as it should. This is the problem of how cruel people can be to animals and that there are charities struggling for funds to help these animals. The book also teaches us that the power of social media can be used to make a positive difference in the world.
Brodie Castle is in Moray, around 4 miles from Forres. It has:
Getting there from Forres
The castle is on National Cycle Route 1. This means you can get to the castle avoiding busy roads. The highlight of the route is crossing the bridge over the River Findhorn.
This location feels like somewhere else to me. I think of a massive country like America or Russia where rivers are enormous and sometimes dry up. There is an epic quality to the bridge, like one of those railway bridges across the Mississippi or the Volga. But you don't need to travel that far to experience such adventure. You can find it right here, in Scotland.
The route then heads into farming country. The roads are quiet and the fields are lush.
A castle or a home?
Brodie is a mixture of architectural styles from the sixteenth, seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Like many castles in Scotland it began as a fortress, a place to keep the occupants safe from attack. As time went on and Scotland became less dangerous the later additions to the building were about comfort. Brodie became more of a home and less of a castle.
I think Brodie has a lived-in feel. There's a bit of wear and tear on show and this makes it feel quite homely. It is not as ostentatious as some of Scotland's other castles.
As you walk through the rooms of Brodie you will notice this mixture of castle and home. There is a spiral staircase that has steps of different sizes and depths. It was deliberately designed this way, to trip up any invaders who managed to make it inside.
And then you have the many elegant rooms hung with Dutch paintings. The 22nd Laird of Brodie did the grand tour of Europe and came back with an impressive art collection. One of the paintings is called 'The Dentist'. It features a dentist holding a recently pulled tooth with tweezers. In the background there is a man holding the side of his face in pain.
A visit inside the castle is by guided tour. The friendly and enthusiastic guides will tell you everything there is to know about the Brodie family. They will point out many of the fascinating objects in this home.
The plaster ceiling in the dining room is incredible. It features thistles, flowers, a unicorn and more.
The library is my favourite room. There are over 6000 volumes in here, stored in beautiful bookcases. I spotted a chair that coverts into a step ladder so that readers can get to the books on the high shelves. Gardening books feature quite heavily in the collection and that brings us to the subject of daffodils.
The 24th laird was a bit of a daffodil obsessive. In 1899 he grew 49 varieties in the gardens and by 1943 he had produced more than 400 varieties. This is why Brodie is now home to the National Daffodil Collection. When I visited it was not the right time of year to see the yellow blooms, but the gardens are full of labels with the names of the varieties. Some of these names are just wonderful, like 'Drumnabreeze', 'Moonspell' and 'Swansdown'.
Even if the daffodils are not out there is still plenty to enjoy in the gardens. Come for the woodland walks to spot red squirrels. There's also the pond. That's what the Brodie's called it, but I think it is more of a loch. It is quite big and surrounded by woodland.
If you come here with children they will love the Playful Garden. It's got lots of fun stuff to interact with, including Scotland's biggest bunny sculpture- Brodie the Bunny!
The elephant stone
Another large animal that can be seen at Brodie is an elephant. It is carved on a Pictish standing stone, located near the entrance gates to the estate. Perhaps it is not the most accurate depiction of an elephant, but I love it. I like the trunk, the tail and the knot shapes in the body.
All good castles feature a tea room and Brodie is no exception. I recommend the shortbread. It is satisfyingly thick and crunchy.
It is easy to reach Brodie using train and bicycle. It's around 30 minutes by train from Inverness to Forres. The castle is on National Cycle Route One and about 4 miles from Forres. The route from Forres, described at the start of this blog, features a spectacular bridge.
See Brodie Castle and Cawdor Castle in one day
These 2 castles are about 12 miles apart. You can use National Cycle Route One to travel between them.
With spring rapidly approaching and summer just beyond that, cross country cycling is gearing up full steam. Bike enthusiasts are looking to take those long biking trips that will get them out on the open roads to see and do things they wouldn’t get to experience by any other mode of transportation.
Not to be confused with cross-country cycling that is defined by the type of terrain bikes travel on, cross country cycling is just that. It means getting on a bike and peddling as far as you can go, all the way across country if you have it in you!
Cycling enthusiasts may not make it all the way across the USA from coast to coast but they will surely be cycling for days, or weeks on end. Even the most athletic and experienced cyclists can fall prey to muscle cramps and pains on long journeys, so it helps to know a few tips for getting much-needed relief.
Hydration Is Your #1 Preventative
Perhaps the best way to ‘relieve’ muscle cramps and pain would be to try to prevent them in the first place. Always carry sufficient water so that you can stop periodically to down several ounces as you feel perspiration depleting your levels of hydration. You may also wish to use sports drinks that have electrolytes that are proven to keep you hydrated. Even so, in the heat of the summer, you can quickly be struck with muscle cramps due to lack of adequate hydration.
Lightweight, Mobile Therapeutic Devices
Some cross-country cyclists carry super light-weight therapeutic devices like the rechargeable Theragun. With a small solar charger, it is possible to get the benefit of instant relief from a handheld Theragun prime device. These devices work on percussive therapy, which stimulates muscles and works to relax and soothe away the tension built up from hours of cycling. Various models of Theragun can be found on the SSENSE website where you will be able to find a model that will fit nicely into your bike pack. While you are at it, you might also want to check out deals on athletic clothing and accessories to wear on your cross-country trip.
Break as Often as Necessary
Also, since you are on a long bicycle trip, is there really any hurry? If you feel your body wearing down and the muscle cramps begin to set in, just stop to refresh for a while. It’s not like you are late for punching the clock at work so take any and as many breaks as you need to in order to soothe and rest those aching muscles. One thing that is suggested, however, is that you also do a few stretches the moment you get off your bike. This will help to prevent further cramping and will stretch those muscles so that they can get the most out of your percussive therapy when applied.
If this is the first time ever that you are going on a long bike trip, take the time to learn how to pack lightly, prepare for those typical aches and pains and what to do if you can’t get as far as you had intended in a timespan you had laid out. It’s better to be prepared for unexpected delays such as those that pain can cause than to be blindsided by the pain when it sets in.
When it comes to planning for an upcoming trip, there are several items you must check off your travel to-do list. Finding the best travel insurance provider for you, however, should top your list of priorities. By doing so, you can be reassured that the health of yourself and your loved ones is in good hands throughout the duration of your trip. Continue reading to find out everything you need to know.
Do your research
As is the case when organising any type of insurance or just planning a holiday in general, you must do your research beforehand. This includes researching providers in your local area, providers that specialise in a particular type of coverage, and providers that have high customer ratings. By doing so, you should be able to find a travel insurance provider with a sufficient level of coverage to suit you and your family’s individual lifestyle and budget and enjoy a stress-free trip from start to finish.
If you are flying it is important to consider insurance cover for delays, cancellations and technical difficulties. One way to get around these issues is to hire a private jet- the cost to rent a private jet might surprise you.
Choose between single or annual coverage
As well as doing your research, you must also choose between single and annual coverage. Which option you choose depends on a number of factors including how often you travel and how long you intend to stay at your travel destination. If you only plan to travel no more than twice in the next 12 months, for example, single coverage should suffice. If you plan to travel multiple times in the next 12 months or are a frequent flyer, on the other hand, annual coverage is likely to save you a great deal of time and money.
Assess your medical history
Before you begin the process of finding the best travel insurance provider for you, you must assess your medical history. This may sound like an obvious point, but it can have a dramatic impact on the level of coverage you are offered. If you suffer from a medical condition, a top-rated travel insurance provider should be able to explain the process from start to finish and discuss your available options with you. For example, Staysure have a good range of travel insurance options for travellers with pre-existing medical conditions with no upper age limit.
Ask a broker for help
If you are struggling to navigate the process of finding the best travel insurance provider for you or just need a helping hand, a broker should be able to point you in the right direction and answer any niggling questions or queries you may have. In the UK, for example, you can get in touch with the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) for help and advice or to ask for a suitable recommendation. They can provide you with the contact information of a broker to suit your individual lifestyle and budget and get you on your way to ensuring you and your loved ones are sufficiently protected.
Check if you already have travel insurance
Before you begin the process of finding the best travel insurance provider for you, you must find out if you already have travel insurance. This may sound like a strange point but with a growing number of bank account packages now offering travel insurance as an added extra, you must ensure you are sufficiently covered for the travel destination you intend to visit before making any assumptions.
If you are in the process of planning a trip, you must organise travel insurance at the earliest convenience. But if you are unfamiliar with how to do so, there are several factors you must consider. For example, you should do your research, choose between single or annual coverage, assess your medical history, ask a broker for help, and check if you already have travel insurance.
Forres is know for its floral displays, impressive architecture and the largest Medieval carved standing stone in Scotland. The town is in Moray, around 26 miles from Inverness. Here are the highlights from my visit to the town.
This is one of the most impressive standing stones in Scotland. It's over 6.5m high. The protective glass box makes it stand out and draws you to it. The box seems to enhance the importance of the stone and provides a striking landmark for the town.
The carvings on the stone depict a battle. It's got infantry, horse riders and even decapitated enemies. It was made sometime in the mid 800s to early 900s.
Forres in Bloom
The town has won numerous awards for its floral displays. Grant Park is the place to see them. During my visit the displays were not quite ready, but the park is always a special place to spend some time.
My favourite view from the park looks out on a Tuscan bell tower. St John the Evangelist Scottish Episcopal Church has a tower that wouldn't look out of place in an Italian village. There's a great variety of architecture in Forres and this is one of the highlights.
There's also a cute statue of a piper in Grant Park.
Burn of Mosset
There are nice paths with bridges to explore on a walk down by the Burn of Mosset. On a sunny day this is the place to head with a picnic.
St Laurence Parish Church
This is my favourite building in Forres. It is grand with beautiful stonework and a 120 foot high spire. During my walkabout the bells were ringing and the Minister was outside the door, greeting parishioners.
Mercat Cross and Tolbooth
This structure might look familiar to you. It is modeled on the Scott Monument of Edinburgh's Princess Street. With the Tolbooth nearby this part of Forres is an architectural delight.
My favourite thing about the Tolbooth building? It's the stonework, with the different sizes and colours, and the arched windows.
The large number of impressive buildings in the town makes Forres a delight to explore. Some of my favourites include the Town Hall and the Red Lion Inn.
Maclean's Highland Bakery
You will find this bakery on the High Street and you should try one of their delicious pies. They have won awards and during my visit there was a window display devoted to the haggis and chicken and Scotch pies.
More to discover
I did not have time to see and do everything that Forres has to offer. This was a short visit, but I really enjoyed the town and would love to come back and spend more time here. Check out the Visit Forres website for ideas of more things to do.
It's just a 4 mile cycle from Forres to Brodie castle.
Where to stay
I stayed in the wonderful Knockomie Inn.
It's around 30 minutes by train from Inverness to Forres. I cycled here on National Cycle Route One.
Cycling is a popular outdoor sport in the United Kingdom. It allows us to enjoy the great nature views and to improve our health significantly, and what is more - at a fairly reasonable price. There are many routes all over the country available, no matter where you live. There are many benefits to cycling, including improved physical shape and a significant decrease in stress, as well. If you ever happen to get tired of the trip and want some home-like feeling, you can always get some of the used motorhomes for sale and get in. You can even store your bicycle there.
Cycling with your family will definitely be more enjoyable if you have kids. Family bike rides are an effective and healthy way to bond with your children better, whether you ride together or it is everyone on their own.
This comprehensive guide will help you learn a little bit more about cycling with your family.
It is important that before you start your cycling trip, consider getting additional provisions you might need to use in extraordinary situations.
Cycling with your family is an excellent way to increase your overall health. This type of exercise is just great for family bonding. You can cycle to a park, ride along the river or explore new some new places. Another great way to entertain and simultaneously care for the health of your kids is to cycle together during your family vacation, for example. Get your teenagers on bikes if you want to reduce their screen time, and that way, you will also protect their eyes better.
It has been proven that cycling can reduce stress significantly. It increases children's ability to concentrate at school and allows them to get to know their surroundings. It's a great way to reduce the carbon emissions of your household and teach your children sustainable living habits.
Family cycling vs solo riding
Solo riding is great for improving your skill and speed. Family bike rides are a great way to spend time with your loved ones. It is the best possible choice if you're training for a specific sporting event. You can listen to your music and push yourself a bit more each time. Family biking is an option that is more fun if you want to explore the area. You can have a good time with your kids and share stories. Family cycling is far more rewarding than solo one. You can help your family improve their skills and take them on thrilling adventures.
What equipment do you need to group ride?
It does not matter if you're riding alone or with your family members, the same safety equipment will apply. Every member of your group should have a helmet. For better protection, children who are just getting started with cycling should wear elbow and knee pads. When it comes to cycling wear, long sleeves and trousers are a great option. Leggings, however, can also be a good choice.
There are many various options when it comes to selecting bicycles for your family. A bike seat or baby trailer may be a good option if you're cycling with a child under two years old. A training bike is best for 3-4 years olds that are just starting to learn how to ride. A shared bike is an excellent way to bond with your children and to learn together. For little ones still learning, there is always the option of towing with trail bikes or tagalongs. Six-year-olds and older who are confident may choose to ride their own bike for a bit more freedom.
And please always remember to consider all safe driving measures during your travel. Having a first-aid kit with you is recommended. I will be happy if this brief guide made someone's cycling experience more pleasant.
Cycling is one of the best exercises for seniors. It can promote blood circulation, maintain or improve cardiovascular health, and is one of the forms of cardio that will put the least stress on your joints. However, if you’ve been cycling at a high level all your life, you will have to slow down as you get older. You might feel as though you’re still fine but going too hard at this moment could cause injuries that could even lead you to find somewhere like a walk-in clinic in San Francisco in order to get seen and treated for them. You also have to know how to monitor your overall health so you can avoid incidents. Let’s take a look at a few essential health tips for ageing cyclists.
Pay Very Special Attention to Heart Health
As you get older, you will need to pay close attention to your heart rates when you’re doing any form of intense exercise. You also have to look out for symptoms of heart disorders. One of the most common heart issues for cyclists is arrhythmias and there are warning signs that will show you if you might be suffering from it. If you get lightheaded when riding, or you have blacked out once, then this is one of the biggest signs that something is wrong. Other things to watch out for include unexplained fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, or a drop in heart rate while riding.
Paying attention to your diet is vital for heart health too. For instance, the benefits of eating a cherry and other fruits are well known, with fruit-rich diets being associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Cherries in particular are rich in antioxidants and nutrients that are known to promote heart health. They have anti-inflammatory properties and are a good source of minerals, like magnesium too.
If you’re dealing with any of the symptoms, like unexplained fatigue and chest pains, we would suggest that you visit a private cardiologist like Dr. Georgios Karagiannis right away. This private cardiologist has been serving the community for many years and will be able to tell you exactly what the situation is. He will then be able to propose and administer different treatments based on your condition.
Protect Your Knees
Knee health is another thing you'll need to pay very close attention to as an ageing cyclist. While cycling is one of the easiest exercises for the joints, years of riding will take their toll on your body, and you will need to make some adjustments. If you’ve never paid attention to your pedal stroke, you will need to do so right away. If you have access to a stationary bike, put it in front of a mirror and start pedalling. You should see a straight line from your shins to your knees when you pedal. If they’re unaligned, then your stroke could eventually cause discomfort or injuries. If you don’t have a stationary bike, ask one of your friends to record you as you’re riding towards them so you can analyse your stroke after.
Get the Proper Bike
Your bike should be ergonomic and properly fitted. If you’ve been using the same bike for the last 20 years, there’s a good chance that it’s outdated, so we would suggest you pick up a new one.
More recent bikes are much lighter and require less effort than older models. They tend to be more ergonomic as well. Make sure to have the bike fitted by a professional too.
These are all tips you should follow if you’re an older cyclist and want to keep reaping the benefits of the sport. Take care of yourself on and off the road, and always remember to listen to your body.
"Charming, unique and delightful- this sums it up". I wrote this in my journal after staying at the Knockomie Inn in Forres. It has the classic ingredients of a Scottish country house hotel. There's antlers, wood paneling and a bar stocked with over 80 single malts. It's also got a relaxed and homely atmosphere.
Knockomie is around a mile south of Forres town centre. It is set in 4 acres of gardens.
The architecture of the building is Arts and Crafts. It was built in 1812 as a villa for visiting judges. It was later owned by the Fraser family who made their money from tea plantations in India.
There are 15 rooms, all with their own style. Mine had a neutral and calming decor. There are original features like the fireplace with an old servant bell and the large sash and case window.
My favourite thing in the room was the writing desk. I sat here in the evening and kept my travel journal up to date.
The only sound that could be heard inside the room was birdsong from the garden, a delight to wake up to in the morning.
The small restaurant is cosy, the staff welcoming and the atmosphere informal. I felt like I was a guest in the home of a good friend, rather than some anonymous hotel.
The starter of smoked salmon roulade with capers tasted sharp and fresh. For the main course I could not resist trying a fish n' chips with haddock in whisky batter. Although I couldn't detect much in the way of whisky flavour this was still a very good piece of fish and fluffy chips.
The dessert was the highlight. A chocolate ganache that was rich and seriously chocolaty.
Knockamie is in the Speyside whisky region. Benromach distillery is just 2 miles from the hotel, so I tried the 10 year old single malt. It has a golden colour and a wonderful flavour combination of fruit, malt and a hint of smoke.
The lounge with the real fire is the choice spot to relax with your drink.
The owners of Knockomie, Penny and Gavin, have gone to great efforts to make this place feel relaxed and informal. Although there is an air of luxury and grandness in the architecture and decor, you never feel that its stuffy.
Gavin told me that they get a lot of cyclists staying here. This put me at ease as I always feel a bit self-conscious turning up at places like this. Especially after hours on the road and looking a bit dirty and disheveled.
I had poached haddock, served with a few grinds of salt. The fish was delicious and really didn't need anything else to go with it.
Then a warm croissant and coffee. In these surroundings it is impossible to rush breakfast. Enjoy the architecture, the large windows where the morning sun floods in and the birdsong from the garden.
Forres is famous for its floral displays and gardens.
It's around 30 minutes by train from Inverness to Forres. I cycled here on National Cycle Route One.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.