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.
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. 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.
What better way to explore Scotland's best locations than cycling? Cycling is one of the best things you can do to truly experience the locations you visit and immerse yourself in the beauty of every stop you make. It can be challenging to choose where to go as there are so many great locations to take your bike out for a spin. Luckily, VisitScotland can give you a hand with that. They have teamed up with UNESCO to create the first-ever digital trail.
UNESCO aims to recognise, preserve and educate people about the world's most extraordinary places. These locations are truly unique. Not only do they have the power to help us travel through time, but they enhance the world's cultural and environmental diversity as well.
Scotland is the first country in the world to combine 13 locations recognised by UNESCO as 'Designations' in one interactive digital map. You can explore the trail online first to learn more about the history of each spot, or you can visit all of them physically and truly see everything they have to offer. Keep on reading for our list of some of the best destinations for cycling lovers.
Whether you fancy some city cycling or something a little bit more challenging, there's something for everyone. But why not immerse yourself in the natural beauty of a Biosphere Reserve or Global Geopark?
The South West of Scotland is a cyclists paradise, and the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere is no exception. A place of natural beauty and heart-stopping views, cyclists can easily explore the region.
The area, which covers 5,268 square kilometres in southwest Scotland, offers some of the best beaches you'll ever see, along with deep woodlands and forests, all providing habitats for a rich diversity of plants and wildlife. If you head further north, you will find the Wester Ross Biosphere. Pristine beaches, gleaming lochs and enchanting forests, this spot offers unique biodiversity, where communities live in harmony with the land and sea, preserving a time-honoured way of life. It's also home to one of the oldest geologies in the world.
Shetland Global Geopark offers many quiet roads in excellent condition for cycling. If you want to take a break from the bike, there’s plenty to do. From walking on an ancient ocean floor to exploring an extinct volcano or even just strolling across shifting sands. This giant geological jigsaw can help you travel through time with rocks that range from 3 billion to just over 300 million years old.
The North West Highlands Global Geopark makes for an ideal day with its white sandy beaches, rocky mountain ridges, atmospheric rock caves, grass, peatland, moors, and forest. The earliest evidence of life anywhere in Europe was found in this area.
Ready to explore the UNESCO Trail? Head over to the VisitScotland site.
This is a very handy cycling wallet for essentials and valuables, like your phone, keys and money. It's from Craft Cadence, a London company that specialises in gear for cycling commuters. They asked me to review their essentials case, so I've been trying it out on my bike rides.
My honest first impression of this cycling wallet is that I didn't immediately see the need for it. When I go out on my bike I carry my phone in a pocket, keys in another pocket, wallet in another pocket. I already had a place to put these things, so why do I need a case? But when I thought about it, the essentials case made perfect sense.
This case keeps all those things together instead of stashed all over the place where they are more likely to go missing. At the very least it removes that frustration of trying to locate your stuff every time you step off the bike. From day one of using this I became much more organised and didn't have to fumble around pockets or panniers for my essential belongings. I became a convert. The essentials case is genius!
I loved that my prep for a bike ride was simply putting all my valuables in the case and slipping the case in the back pocket of my cycling jersey. Job done! When I got off the bike to visit a shop or cafe I only had to look in the case to get what I needed instead of searching through multiple pockets and bags.
The case is also surprisingly large so that there is plenty of room to fit in pretty much everything that you can think of. Even a pen, as you can see from my photo. In fact, you can fit a multi-tool and spare inner tube in here if you wanted to dispense with any sort of bags on your bike and still be able to do repairs on the road. The size of the case is also designed to accommodate larger models of smart phones.
Fits in a pocket
It is important to say that the large size of the case does not mean that it is unwieldy. It still feels compact and will easily fit in the back pockets of a cycling jersey. I would say that the size is the perfect balance between having enough space for your essentials, but not being too big as to be a pain to carry around.
Taking a closer look inside, you get lots of pockets, including one with a zip. There is space for cards and straps to keep a phone in place. In short, there is a great variety of storage compartments to keep all your things nicely organised.
The essentials case is waterproof and this is the key feature that makes this ideal for cycling. When I carry a wallet on a bike ride and it rains heavily it always gets wet. Even if I stash the wallet deep into a pocket it still manages to get wet. Pulling out soggy banknotes or slippy bank cards to pay for coffee is never fun. The essentials case kept my bank cards and bank notes completely dry whenever I used it on rainy days. That included some days with very heavy downpours.
The essentials case also gave water protection to my phone. In heavy downpours I previously had to pull over my bike and stash my phone deep into a panier to be sure it would not get damaged. With my phone cosy inside the essentials case I had no worries- the case always kept it dry.
Take a close look at the zip and seam. This is what is helping to keep the water out. You can tell that this is a very high quality construction.
The essentials case is currently £29.99. When you consider the amount of space that you get and the waterproof qualities this is good value for money.
Initially I was not convinced that I needed a case, but I have loved being able to keep all my valuables in one place when I go on a bike ride. Not only that, but keep them safe from the rain. The case has made my bicycle journeys much more organised and it has now become one of my essential pieces of kit.
It's like a dream. Travelling through tree tunnels, where the branches have joined together to arch over the road. This is what I enjoyed the most about this 26 mile section of National Cycle Route One. Miles of quiet, country roads with sections of woodland that turn the road into a vibrant green corridor.
Highlights of this route:
This route begins at the Spey viaduct. This is a magnificent structure and riding a bike across it is not to be missed.
It's 10 miles from the viaduct to Elgin. The path heads away from the coast, but not so far because some of these roads can get a dusting of sand.
The previous coastal sections of Route One, such as Cullen to Findochty, are spectacular. The inland sections don't have the harbours, rock formations and beaches, but there is still plenty to love.
One thing you must do is pull over and walk into the forests that border some of the roads. These woods reveal a world just as magical as the cliffs and coast.
Within minutes of walking into the forest I was struck by the stillness. I had this feeling that this place has been like this for hundreds of years and not much has changed. The forest floor was covered in moss that was decorated with tiny wildflowers.
It is tempting to put your head down and pedal fast on these roads, but that would mean missing out on experiencing the beauty of these forests.
It is also worth taking notice of the farmlands. I stopped at a pig farm and loved watching these creatures rooting about in the mud, sniffing and grunting.
The sudden appearance of a busy town with traffic and lots of visitors is a shock to the system after the forest roads.
The Cathedral is a good place to break the journey. It dates from 1224 and is one of the finest medieval buildings in Scotland. Although much of it is a ruin, plenty survives to make it easy to imagine the former grandeur of this place.
My favourite part of the building is getting to climb the spiral staircase of the towers. This gives a brilliant view over the ruins and the town.
There is some very fine architecture to discover. The octagonal chapter house is one of the best preserved parts of the site. Inside there is a stunning carved ceiling where you might just make out the remains of gold paint. There is a statue of a Bishop that tells of the quality of stone carving.
If you have time for a diversion you can follow my 24 mile cycle route to a nearby whisky distillery and Duffus Castle.
Elgin to Forres
This 16 mile section of the route has more of those quiet roads with vibrant green tree tunnels.
At Coltfield I found a group of friendly horses that were keen to investigate my bike.
Then I came across overgrown railway tracks from the closed Burghead branch line. Usually the tracks are lifted from disused railways, so it was unusual to find this. It is possible that the tracks have been lifted since my visit, but let me know in the comments.
Around 3 miles from Forres is the ruined Kinloss Abbey. It was founded in 1150 by King David 1 and run by a group of Cistercian monks from Melrose Abbey. The abbey declined in importance after 1560 when Protestantism became the religion of Scotland and Catholic abbeys were no longer needed. It explains the state of the buildings today and why there is very little to see.
However, the information boards provide a fascinating insight into the life of this abbey. What I did not appreciate was the large array of job titles and responsibilities that the monks had. For example, the Guest Master was responsible for travellers as abbeys provided accommodation to anyone who needed it.
The Guest Master must have been particularly busy in 1303 when Edward 1 and his army stayed for 2 weeks. They got through a year's worth of food and drink!
There was also a Master of Novices who was in charge of training and coaching.
There is a handy floor plan that shows you the layout of the rooms in the abbey. Most I was familiar with, but this was the first time I had come across a Warming Room. There was no heating in the abbey so in the winter months this room helped the monks to stay warm after hours spent in the cold church and cloister.
There is a whisky distillery to see on the way into Forres. Benromach produces Speyside single malt whisky. There are tours and tastings.
This is an enjoyable section of National Cycle Route One. The highlight is the miles of quiet roads that are bordered with beautiful forests. Try some of the other sections of Route One in the Moray region of Scotland:
It is one of the greatest railway bridges in Scotland and you can walk or cycle across it. The Spey viaduct was completed in 1886 as part of the Moray Coast Railway. It crosses the third longest river in Scotland, the Spey. The bridge is around 290m long and riding across it is one of the top cycling experiences in the country.
The bridge is part of National Cycle Route One and around 4 miles from Portgordon and 10 miles from Elgin. The approach to the bridge is through a forested section. The trees hide everything and make the sudden appearance of bridge and river even more special.
Once on the bridge everything feels massive. The length of the bridge. The width of the river. The iron work on the bridge. It made me think of American railroads crossing legendary rivers, like the Mississippi.
The most impressive feature of the bridge is the central section where you enter this world of beautiful iron lattice and engineering genius. It is a special place to pause and take it all in. Being on a bike or walking allows you to really admire this, more so than if you were siting on a train. You can't do that anyway as the line closed in 1968.
Crossing this bridge was so special that I turned around and did it again! I have crossed quite a few bridges in Scotland and this one is easily the best.
What about the Glenfinnan Viaduct, I hear you ask? Yes, it is spectacular, but you cannot walk or cycle across it and that slower pace and freedom to stop makes it easier to appreciate the beauty of the Spey Viaduct.
Glenfinnan is also a very busy place in the height of the tourist season. The Spey Viaduct is less famous and I managed to get it all to myself when I cycled across it.
The West Highland Railway that crosses Glenfinnan is renowned for its scenic beauty. I am sure the Moray Coast Railway would receive similar plaudits if it was still open today. Not only does it have this viaduct, but there are magnificent viaducts in Cullen and superb coastal scenery.
It is sad to see these structures no longer carrying trains that would bring visitors to the area, but I am grateful that they survive and can be enjoyed on foot or on two wheels.
Near to the viaduct is Spey Bay station. It is now a private home, but I was lucky enough to be invited inside.
This was a complete chance encounter and one that I am incredibly grateful for. It was a privilege to be invited into a private home that happened to be a disused railway station.
Spey Bay is one of the few remaining stations from the closed Moray Coast Railway. National Cycle Route One travels over much of the old line. When I spotted this beautiful building I was astounded that it had survived when so much of this railway has long since vanished.
The station is now a private home, so the last thing I expected was to be invited inside. It happened when I had stopped to take a photo of some of the surrounding countryside. A woman appeared and asked "would you like to see the station? I saw you looking at it. My husband's over there doing the gardening."
She walked me over to the station and told me that their racing pigeons were starting to arrive home from Alnwick. "Took them three hours," she said, "faster than driving."
I was so taken aback that I was being invited to see this wonderful building that I forgot to ask their names! The husband explained that they lived in the stationmaster's house and that he had converted the station building into a garage, workshop and billiards room.
He told me that the billiard room was originally two rooms-one was the private waiting room for the Duke of Gordon. "He got the fireplace." That fireplace is still in use today.
"We had the stationmaster come to visit. He was in his 90s. He was in charge of several stations in the area and they gave him a scooter to travel between them."
There are some great artifacts from the original station like the benches and signage. However, he showed me some old photos that had a footbridge."They took that away and the beautiful signal box."
Another photo, from the Second World War, showed the platform busy with servicemen. There had been a Royal Air Force base here and it explains the name of the adjacent road- 'Beaufighter Road.' "Ideal weather for flying up here", he said, "no fog."
After my look around the station we shook hands. I felt very lucky to have been invited to see this. It is these kind of encounters that make travel special and rewarding.
Spey Bay station is in Moray, around 5 miles from Buckie. The station opened in 1886 and closed in 1968.
Spey Bay station is near to the Spey viaduct, one of the most spectacular bridges in Scotland. You can cross it by bike or foot.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.