Name a Scottish coastal town. I imagine you are thinking of somewhere like Oban, Ullapool or Saint Andrew's. Did you think of Cullen? I don't think it is on the radar for many visitors, but it should be and this is why:
Beaches, the sea, the harbour
They are the building blocks of a great coastal town. Cullen has the beautiful beaches, the harbour with the bobbing boats and the sea views.
Seatown is an area of Cullen that once housed a fishing community when the town was a major fishing port. It is characterised by small cottages, many brightly painted with front doors that open directly onto the winding streets.
The dense form of Seatown makes it difficult to drive through, so it is a pleasure to wander here, uninterrupted by traffic. I will always remember the smell of the salty sea mixed with freshly laundered clothes on washing lines.
The Ice Cream Shop
You expect to get a good ice cream in a coastal town. The Ice Cream Shop on Seafield Street does a fine range of flavours. I tried both the rum and raisin, and the coffee. The coffee one, laced with chocolate chips, was particularly delicious. For the perfect spot to eat your cone head to the nearby benches that overlook Seatown and the harbour.
Cullen Skink at the Cullen Bay Hotel
Seafood is the other type of cuisine that a coastal town should do well, and Cullen has a major claim to fame in that department. Cullen Skink, the famous Scottish dish of fish, potatoes and cream, was created here. The Cullen Bay Hotel does one of the best I have tasted and it is also the host venue of the World Cullen Skink Championships. I stayed at the hotel and you can read my review.
Cullen is a bit of a treasure trove for antique lovers with Shops like Cullen Antiques Centre and Bits N' Bobs packed with curiosities, like these vintage bicycles in the photo.
The Moray Coast Railway must have been one of the most scenic lines in the country, until it was closed in the 1960s. One very visible legacy of the railway is the viaducts in Cullen. They provide a spectacular focal point in the town and you can still walk or ride a bike across them to experience the views that train passangers would have enjoyed.
Deskford Church and Garden Galleries
Around 4 miles south of Cullen there is a ruined sixteenth century church with a beautiful carved Sacrament House. Nearby is the Deskford Garden Galleries with antiques, art and a wonderful vintage tea room experience. Read my blog about this place to find out more.
Bow Fiddle Rock
One of Scotland's most spectacular coastal rock formations is just a 15 minute bike ride from Cullen. The rock is located closer to the next town, Portknockie, but is very easy to visit from Cullen. My blog on the Bow Fiddle Rock gives you a good idea of what it is like to experience this place.
How to get to Cullen
Cullen is on National Cycle Network Route One, but if you are not doing that route the best way to reach the town is from Keith. There's a train station here and it is a 14 mile ride using quiet B-roads to get to Cullen. There is a full description of this route in my blog about the Willows Tearoom.
Inspire.Repeat is a Dublin company that produces a range of cycling socks. They have an eye catching design and technical features that make them suited to bike riding. I put them to the test.
The socks come in a selection of bold colours with words that capture the passion that cyclists have for their sport. Current choices include 'inspire, repeat', 'road hero', and 'no pain, no gain.' The design looks great and will appeal to those who want to be noticed. Cycling socks can be pretty bland and functional, but these are interesting. I was excited about receiving them in the post, which is not something you normally say about socks.
A great feeling
When I tried them for the first time I was struck by how rigid they are compared to normal socks and I had to pull them quite a bit to get them on. This is a sign that they are built to last and this tightness is what stopped them from falling down or bunching up inside my show. They felt soft against my feet and really comfortable.
The socks are made of something called PROLEN®YARN which is light, but lasts longer than cotton or wool. It is also a quick drying material.
After a couple of months of using these socks I have been impressed. Best thing about them is that they are built to last as they still feel and look like they did when new out of the box. I have bought similarly priced socks from other manufacturers and been disappointed at how quickly they started to fail. In one case it was a matter of weeks before my toe was poking out! However, the Inspire.Repeat socks have had no such issues.
There was a week of hot weather and I wore the socks everyday on my bicycle commutes. Although my feet felt warm in the socks, they were not uncomfortably hot. There was no build up of sweat, so the material must have been wicking away the moisture. After 5 days I dared to sniff the socks and they smelt fine, certainly not of smelly feet. Don't worry, I did eventually wash the socks, but I just wanted to see how well they would perform. They have been through the washing machine more times than I can remember, but they always come out looking like they are new.
I have used the socks on rainy days and they kept my feet dry. This was normal rain, nothing too heavy and the duration of the ride was 30 minutes. To be honest, I don't expect any cycling sock to keep me dry in the worst of the worst rain. That's what overshoes are for. I am more than happy that these socks kept me dry for typically rainy conditions on a short commute. Considering that these socks come out of the washing machine almost dry they can probably stand up to a good soaking, or at least dry pretty quickly once the storm has passed.
Inspire.Repeat have a strong commitment to lessening their impact on the environment. There is a CO2 offset for every order and the amount of water used to produce the yarn is a lot less than is needed for cotton. They don't use pesticides or toxic dyes.
These socks preform well on the bike and they are going to last a very long time because of the high quality of the material and construction. The design with the colours and motivational words is unique and adds to the appeal of this product. Take a closer look at the Inspire.Repeat website for great images of the socks. Let me know if you get a pair and what you think of them.
Cullen Skink is one of Scotland's most famous dishes. It is a fish soup made with potatoes, onions, milk and/or cream. It is delicious and one of my favourite Scottish foods.
I have to confess that, until recently, I had no idea there was an actual place in Scotland called Cullen, and that the soup originated here. I also discovered that Cullen is a coastal town famed for its beaches, harbour and relaxed atmosphere. That was it, I had to go! And where better to try the soup than the Cullen Bay Hotel, the host venue and previous winner of the Cullen Skink World Championships?
Overlooking Cullen Bay this hotel has probably the best location in town for views.
A short walk from the front door and you are on the beach, via the golf course. A main road, the A98, is right in front of the hotel and you must cross this to begin the walk down to the beach. The hotel is not in the centre of the town, but you can walk there in about 15 minutes.
This area of Scotland, the Moray coast is spectacular, but does not seem to get talked about as much as some other parts of the country. How many people would say Cullen when asked to think of a Scottish coastal town or village? I felt like I had come across an undiscovered part of the country, but that's just me. If you are looking for places in Scotland that might be less busy with visitors then Cullen could be a good choice.
There are 14 rooms and some have sea views, but they are more expensive. My room, without a sea view, was cosy with very comfortable beds.
Coming to the restaurant was like one of those TV ads for the perfect holiday. Someone shows you to your table and it has the most gorgeous view of the sea. The sky has no clouds and the water is a tranquil dark blue.
It was time to try Cullen Skink, in Cullen. I was was surprised to see not one, but two types of Cullen Skink on the menu. There was the traditional option and there was 'Cullen Skink With a Twist.' The 'twist' version had sherry, port jam and smoked haddock marinated in dark molasses.
I wanted to try the original version and it more than lived up to my expectations. It was thick and creamy, with succulent fish and the satisfying potato chunks that make this such a filling meal. I have tasted a lot of Skinks and this was definitely one of the best. Actually, it was the best because it was delicious and I was eating it in Cullen with this magnificent view.
For my main course I had the Fisherman's Pie, with salmon, haddock and prawns. It looked small, but it was packed with chunky bits of fish and a thick, creamy sauce.
Stroll on the beach after dinner
Take advantage of the hotel's location and head down to the beach after dinner, particularly in the summer when it is still light at 9pm.
From the hotel's front door it is a short walk across the golf course to the beach. The sand is soft and there might be a gentle wind sweeping across it. Let your mind relax and focus on the waves rolling in. Turn around and look back towards the hotel where you had just enjoyed Cullen Skink and you will feel very fortunate to have experienced this place.
Look out for the wildflowers growing here.
The sunsets are spectacular and during my stay I noticed that someone had written in the sand "last night here. Maggie is sad." I know exactly how she felt, it is a place that you don't want to leave.
The breakfast menu here is excellent with items like smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, grilled haddock with a poached egg and haggis with poached eggs. I tried the French toast and it was perfect.
How to get here
Cullen is on National Cycle Network Route One, but if you are not doing that route the best way to reach the town is from Keith. There's a train station there and it is a 14 mile ride using quiet B-roads. There is a full description of this route in my blog about the Willows Tearoom.
If you’re planning your next big day out on your bike, you’ll need to be just as sure about the kit that you are taking along with you as you are of the route that you’ve spent time working on and mapping out. Making sure that you have wisely chosen your touring kit is one of the most important parts of preparing for your big cycling adventure, so everything goes smoothly. Since you’re going to be carrying whatever you choose to pack, picking lightweight and easily portable items is one of the most important parts of making sure that you are prepared. Here are some of our must-haves to consider packing when you’re preparing for a cycling adventure.
Water and Food
You can’t assume that shops are going to be open everywhere that you go, or even that you are going to be near one when you need to eat or drink, so making sure that water and food are high up on your packing list is a priority. It’s a good idea to invest in bottle cages that can be mounted on your bike’s seat tube or downtube, so that you can take plenty of water. If you’re planning to cycle on a hot day, consider chilled water bottles to keep your water cool. When it comes to food, snacks that are high in protein and energy are a good idea since they are typically easy to carry around.
Puncture Repair Kit and Spare Inner Tubes
You never know when a puncture might hit when you’re cycling. Make sure that you are prepared with everything that you need to deal with this problem, including a puncture repair kit and some spare inner tubes. It’s never fun to have to push a bike with a puncture home or to somewhere you are staying, so make sure that you take at least a pump, puncture patches, tyre levers, and a multi-tool with a chainbreaker. A couple of spare inner tubes are also useful. That way, if you get a bad puncture, you don’t have to rely on simply patching it up and can completely swap it out.
If you’re planning to be cycling all day and after dark, then you’ll need to make sure that you are well-lit. Even if you’re not planning to cycle on the roads, good lighting will make it easier for you to see around you and for you to be found easily if you need assistance at any point. This 1500 lumen front cycling light is designed for outdoor activities and a great choice for cycling tours. You may also want to consider using a headlight and definitely get bike lights.
Phone and Portable Charger
Most of us wouldn’t think about going anywhere without taking our phone these days. When you’re planning a cycling adventure, it’s important to consider where you’re going to safely store your phone. An arm phone band or sleeve can be a useful piece of kit to have, allowing you to keep your phone hands-free but easy to reach at any time. Along with that, if you’re planning to cycle for a long time, the last thing that you want is for your phone to run out of battery, leaving you unable to check the maps or call for help if you need it. This is where a portable charger can come in handy. You can get a charging case for some extra juice or even consider a solar-powered phone charger that will use the sun to keep your phone’s battery filled up.
If you’re cycling anywhere in the UK, you will know just how unpredictable the weather can be. Even on a warm day, it’s a good idea to be prepared for any eventuality. A lightweight rain jacket is a good idea since this can easily be carried around when not needed and will keep you dry if the heavens do open. A jacket that is thin and lightweight enough to be rolled into a pouch that can hang on your bike or bag is a good choice, as it isn’t bulky and won’t take up a lot of room.
Wherever your next cycle adventure takes you, don’t leave without these essentials.
An electric bike, also known as an e-bike, has all of the features of a standard bike plus an electrical drive system.
While e-bikes are slightly heavier and bigger than ordinary bikes due to the added motor, they shouldn’t be confused with electric motorcycles or scooters, which are quite different. Electric bikes still need to be shifted, steered, and pedalled like any other bicycle. The only difference is that they have a small engine, which helps make pedaling a lot easier. As such, having reasonable balance and handling to ensure the bike stays upright is a basic requirement for riders.
What are the benefits of using an electric bike?
1. They’re efficient and eco-friendly. Just like riding a conventional bike, e-bikes offer environmental benefits as they are a more sustainable means of transportation compared to gas-powered vehicles. Since they are powered by rechargeable batteries and do not burn any fuel, e-bikes do not release harmful gases into the environment.
2. Easy to use. Electric bikes, such as the Fiido D2S are quick to master and make bike riding easier without really taking away from the exploratory, fun-filled spirit of a bike touring trip.
3. They are a good equalizer for people with different levels of stamina and strength. With a little bit of exertion, even the weakest of riders can confidently face headwinds and rough terrain, things that would considerably slow them down on a normal bike. Simply put, electric bikes make touring more appealing and a lot easier for more people. While many people would love to be active and enjoy the landscapes and sights that are accessible during a bike tour, not many have the strength or stamina needed to go on a multi-day cycling tour. For those with physical restrictions such as back or joint pain, the boost that pedal-assist motors have to offer can help reduce strain while making the riding experience even more pleasurable.
4. They make bike riding even more fun. Choosing an electric bike could mean a more hassle-free bike ride where you get to spend more of your time enjoying the scenery along the way than huffing and puffing. Ebikes simply add ease and extra comfort on the trails.
5. They serve as an added safety net. Since e-bikes lessen the impact on your joints and reduce much of the strain exerted on your legs than regular bikes, they are the perfect solution for you if you have a physical condition or injury. Ebikes allow cyclists to stay active and have fun regardless of their physical limitations.
6. An e-bike allows users to achieve their goals, and some more! Some cycling routes can be very hard to complete on a normal bike, especially for newbie touring cyclists. However, with an e-bike, conquering such routes shouldn’t be that difficult.
Who would an electric bike benefit the most?
Built with simple operation and comfort in mind, and with designs suited for all types of people, e-bikes make it easy for cycling enthusiasts to enjoy the ride without having to worry about the strain associated with riding a bicycle. These bikes make touring trips a more viable option for everyone, regardless of their fitness level.
If you are new to cycling holidays and road cycling, aren’t yet an avid cyclist, or don’t know if you will be able to endure the cycling trail, then consider getting an electric bike.
Would you like to tackle some of the tough climbs on your cycling route? Then an e-bike is what you need as it offers you the extra boost you need to reach the summit.
If you are recovering from an injury or have joint issues, then the added support and boost e-bikes have to offer help reduce the strain on joints and legs far better than traditional bikes.
Choosing an e-bike is the best option for anyone concerned about their physical capabilities or fitness. These bikes allow people of varying cycling experience, fitness, and health levels to enjoy cycling together without too much of an effort.
Why are electric bikes more expensive than regular bikes?
The inclusion of a motor and the fact that the bike requires more maintenance means that buying an e-bike will cost you more than a normal bike. So, if the added ease and support that an electric bike has to offer appeals to you, then why not invest in it?
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.