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Top 10 cyclist-friendly cafes/bars in the Cairngorms

COVID and retirement plans have created complete havoc in the cafe market here. Our list of cafes is now seriously outdated and we’ve been forced to revise it completely as when re-reading the list in October 2021, we noticed that at least half of the recommended cafes have now closed. Watch this space over the next week or so and we’ll give you the new improved list.

Graeme McLean of Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland recently described Aviemore to me as having a “cycle culture”. At the time this meant nothing to me, until they went on to explain that when you visit Aviemore you become seduced into cycling just because it seems to be the thing to do. When everyone else seems to be cycling around this must mean that it is the thing to do. Hence in our area it is not difficult to come up with a list of cyclist friendly cafes.

Certainly here at Fraoch Lodge we have noticed a definite increase in the number of people driving around the area with bikes mounted on the car and also a definite increase of bike use on the tracks.

These are the cafes we are most familiar with and are therefore almost all on the north side of the Cairngorms, in and around Aviemore. However, we will be in Deeside for a week in July and will be very happy to update our list after 16th July with some additions from Braemar, Ballater etc – if we find anything which meets our criteria: superb food (especially cakes), somewhere to safely leave your bike locked, somewhere to work on your bike, bike/cycling route advice, bike/cycling related reading materials, maps for sale.

After consultation with my fellow members of Petal Power (the Cairngorms area female mountain biking group), I’ve come up with the following list.

Listed in order of their proximity to Fraoch Lodge:

1. Osprey Coffee House (Boat of Garten)

The Osprey Coffee House has come on in leaps and bounds since it re-opened after Covid. It is now owned and managed by Andreas and Tanya Perch. The Perches have plenty of Coffee Shop experience having previously run their own enterprise in Val d’Isere (French Alps). They offer soup as well as “Fika” (coffee and cake, Swedish style).

Routes close by: Speyside Way, Burma Road, Ryvoan Pass plus numerous local routes through the woods, Woodland Wheels (Boat of Garten pump track)

Cycle friendly cafe in Boat of Garten. Outdoor stables and bike stand available.

Cycle friendly cafe in Boat of Garten. Outdoor stables and bike stand available.

2. Nethy House

Unfortunately Nethy House is currently up for sale but it is a highlight of any route in the area. They get any meat they  need for their lunch options from Balliefurth Farm Shop next door (the highest quality of meat). Cairngorms Connect venison is also available through the butchers at the farm shop. If you eat meat, certainly make the time to fit in a visit.

Routes nearby: Speyside Way, Abernethy Forest, Forest Lodge, Ryvoan Pass, plenty of forest routes and Rynettin also a highlight

3. Carrbridge Kitchen

Delicious smells were emanating from the door when I went by to take a peek at the menu. Great selection of hot food. The Cullen Skink is exceptional and the cakes are very hard to resist, especially the cheesecake.

Recommended by Petal Power

Routes nearby: Burma Road, Tomatin on Route 7, off road route to Boat of Garten via Route 7

 

Carrbridge has 2 options to choose between depending on if you would rather have cake or a light meal.

 

4. Ryvoan Cafe, Aviemore

Despite it’s proxmity to Mike’s Bikes, I have yet to sample the delights of Ryvoan Cafe personally, but I have had universally good reports from friends who have been there.

Under the personal supervision of owners, Nina and Daniel, Ryvoan Cafe isn’t just Aviemore’s latest neighbourhood deli-cafe – they’re passionate about creating a warm and inviting space where you can unwind and indulge.

“Our menus are carefully crafted to delight your palate with simplicity and finesse. We embrace the ever-changing seasons, incorporating locally sourced ingredients for an authentic and memorable dining experience. From sophisticated snacks and charcuterie to be shared, perfectly complemented by our selection of organic wines, to drinks and dining that draw visitors from far and wide.”

Routes close by: Rothiemurchus estate, Lairig Ghru, Glen Feshie and Glenmore to Inshriach

Cake & a cafe stop - Is it a reason for cycling?

Cake & a cafe stop – Is it a reason for cycling?

 

(Petal Power comments) Inschriach Nursery Cafe have always been very welcoming, even when wet and muddy.

5. The Barn, Coylumbridge

The Barn does take away cake etc as well as eat in. There is usually plenty of choice and there is the Rothiemurchus shop just across the car park if you’re looking for any treats to take home. Meat from the estate is also sold there.

Routes nearby: Burma Road, Loch an Eilean, Rothiemurchus estate, Speyside Way, Badenoch Way, Glenn Einich

Plenty of imaginative cake options at the Mountain Cafe. This particular cake is one of ours but the Mountain Cafe has spectacular offerings too.

Plenty of imaginative cake options at the Mountain Cafe. This particular cake is one of ours but the Mountain Cafe has spectacular offerings too.

6. Pine Marten Bar (Glenmore)

Another popular spot right next to Glenmore campsite and very convenient if you’re looping around Loch Morlich or more widely through Rothiemurchus estate or the Ryvoan pass. They have a bar but also do a roaring trade in coffee, hot chocolate and hot food plus they have a wee shop attached if you just want a snack. If you’re lucky enough to be out for a late ride you might even catch some of the live entertainment.

Routes nearby: Ryvoan pass, Glenmore Forest Park, Loch Morlich

7. The Old Post Office Kincraig

One of my favourite places to stop if I’m ever over this way. I just love the atmosphere and Tony himself (owner and front of house) is a keen cyclist too. They go the extra mile for cyclists for sure. There isn’t a massively extensive menu but everything they offer is top quality and reflects their Italian heritage. Ann Vastano (co-owner of the cafe) is a renowned local artist who sells prints and cards of her work, alongside the orginals displayed in the cafe.

8. Coffee Still (Glenlivet) – SEASONAL

Being a purpose built MTB centre, the Coffee Still at Glenlivet ticks all the best practice boxes. Currently run by the owners of Nethy House. There are bike racks, wee track to keep the kids happy, trail maps for sale, bike hire available, range of food – not only cakes but hot food like pizza and burgers too. The trails are great too and very family friendly.

Routes nearby: Glenlivet MTB trails, Glenlivet Distillery routes, Kinkardine Hills, Ladder Hills

Cyclist friendly cafes

The Coffee Still at Glenlivet MTB trails – right next to a wee practice track which keeps the kids occupied while waiting for your order to arrive.

Humps and Bumps to keep the kids keen while the food is being cooked in true Slow Food tradition from the best of local ingredients. (Glenlivet MTB Trails)

Humps and Bumps to keep the kids keen while the food is being cooked in true Slow Food tradition from the best of local ingredients. (Glenlivet MTB Trails)

 

Not forgetting the south side of the park (nominated by Petal Power, an all-female mountain biking club in the Cairngorms, centred around Aviemore and Nethybridge)

9. The Bothy at Braemar

The Bothy is an excellent relaxing spot attached to Braemar Mountain Sports. Bikes can be hired here and the back of the cafe looks out over the river. The cakes and hot chocolate also deserve some praise. Plenty of choice at the cake bar.

cyclist friendly cafes

The Bothy at Braemar

10. The Milk House at Cambus O’May

The Milk Hoose at Cambus O’May cheese celebrates everything cheesy! Toasties with a twist, using all our cheeses with different fillings creating flavours that will amaze the palate. Cambus O’May cheese with haggis was a particular favourite on St. Andrews day but all year round, menu includes homemade soup, toasties, cheese platters & croque monsieur.
 
The Milk Hoose cook has won awards as a pastry chef and her traybake and scones, accompanied by fine Italian coffee are a must for any visitor. In the style of an auld milk hoose there is old dairy equipment on the walls and their cheese heritage on the menu.

 

Honorary mentions nearby the Cairngorms

  1. Pottery Cafe (Laggan) – around the corner from Laggan Wolftrax

Linda, who runs the Pottery cafe and bunkhouse, has been baking bread and cake for more years than she cares to count. Her cakes are always light and the soup is delicious. The cafe is a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Laggan Wolftrax and though I haven’t eaten at Laggan so I can’t compare the two – Linda’s opening hours were longer and she’s open all year round. When I was at Laggan (before the main season opened) the cafe was closed.

Routes nearby: Laggan Wolftrax

2. Olive Tree Cafe (Logie Steading) – on the Dava Way, just outside Forres

Logie Steading is a collection of up-market operators selling all kinds of things from second-hand books to plants to pictures and not forgetting food. You can also catch up with

Across Scotland:

From the Daily Record: Top cycle friendly cafes in Scotland

http://www.skinnytyres.com/2010/10/14/great-cycling-cafes-is-scotland/

Why go walking in winter

1. Why go walking in winter – Keep fit

It’s all in vogue these days. As our normal lives become more and more sedentary, there’s an increasing emphasis on keeping fit. As we get older too, it becomes increasing difficult to maintain our fitness levels. We can’t afford to hibernate over the winter. Instead of heading abroad, we can take on a new experience and continue getting out in the countryside throughout the winter months. If you find the winter weather a challenge or too scary, take a course to give you the confidence to get out walking the hills in winter.

Extra ways of burning calories while walking in winter include:

All of which you can tick when you go hillwalking in winter.

why walk in winter

As far as anyone can tell, the “one pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back” notion originated with Sir Edmund Hillary’s successful ascent of Mount Everest in 1953. Since then, numerous studies by academic researchers and even the U.S. Army have concluded one thing on the matter: Weight on the feet is disproportionately more exhausting than weight carried on the torso.* To find out more read the links in our further reading section. Therefore walking in winter boots requires more effort and will burn more calories!

2. Why go walking in winter – Spectacular views

Guided winter walking in Scotland

Glorious wintry views in the Cairngorms

The air in winter is so much more crisp and clear than in the spring/summer months. In spring the large estates who own huge swathes of the Scottish hillside, often start to burn the heather to maintain the grouse moors. Obviously this produces a haze from the smoke which can affect visibility. In the summer the air is generally more hazy due to the humidity which then affects how far you are able to see clearly.

In the middle of winter it is possible to see 100km or more from the high hills. For example, Ben Nevis can clearly be seen from the summit of Cairngorm.

3. Why go walking in winter – It’s a challenge

Challenge is the big buzz word these days. Have you run your first marathon? Have you participated in your first triathlon/ironman? Tough Mudder anyone? Compared with challenges like these, winter hill walking is much more accessible and something you could do every day (in season). The biggest challenge for winter hillwalking is building up your stamina when you’re also trying to hold down a full time job. Many of us have deskbound jobs these days and the closer we get to “middle-age” (our 40s and 50s) the more difficult it is to maintain fitness and stamina levels. However, in the course of a week, many people find that their fitness and stamina levels noticeably improve on a guided winter hill walking trip.

why go hiking in winter

Statistics gathered on an autumn walking weekend in the Cairngorms guided by Andy Bateman

On a typical winter walking day out with Andy, the guests record steps in excess of 30,000 per day! You’d be well on your way to your #Walk1000miles at that rate.

4. Why go walking in winter – Camaraderie

Sharing is a major part of walking. People tend to chat as they walk in a group and often end up discussing all manner of topics; setting the world to rights. When you share an interest (i.e. walking) already with the people you’re with, chances are you have topics in common you can discuss without coming to blows. Of course, camaraderie is not something which is confined to winter, but there is something about pitting your skills against the environment which pulls your group together and gives you something to share.

5. Why do walking in winter – Gear

It doesn’t matter what sport you’re enthusiastic about, people love to talk about their gear and share their experiences of using it. When it comes to winter walking, if you’re a novice, you will need to make some investments to upgrade from your summer/autumn walking equipment in order to be safe in the winter hills. If you’re not sure it’s going to be your thing (though if you already enjoy walking, you might get hooked quite easily), you can always hire the technical stuff – winter grade boots, ice axe and crampons, before making the leap yourself into buying the kit.

Using an ice axe on a winter skills course

Ice axe arrest on a winter skills course

6. Why go walking in winter – Legitimate adult play in the snow

Sliding around in the snow with a sharp tool – sliding down a hill on your bum – digging in the snow – kicking into ice with crampons – all become legitimate “skills” when you’re on a winter course learning the “personal safety skills” of safe movement on the winter hills.

 7. Why go walking in winter – Cheap alternative to skiing

To go out walking you don’t need to pay for a lift pass for every day you want to go up the hills.

You don’t need to buy the skis and generally you’re further away from the ski lodges, so you don’t have access to the cafes and restaurants, which means you have far fewer opportunities to spend your hard earned pennies.

8. Why go walking in winter – Builds confidence

Gaining new skills and becoming proficient in using them builds confidence not only in the activity you are doing, but also in other areas of your life. It is always a good idea to keep your brain active and to learn new things, particularly if you are also learning new physical skills which will help your body remain fit as well as your brain.

If you’re a novice or if you’re lacking time to gain the skills yourself, remember that winter is harsh environment and not everyone has the experience to head up into the mountains but there are plenty of local, highly-qualified guides who are very happy to take you out.

9. Why go walking in winter – Something to share

It’s much more fun to share unusual experiences with your friends. Most people like to see images and videos of adventurous activities, spectacular views, mountains, nature – you can tick all these boxes when you record your experiences out and about in the winter hills, then share then on your favourite social media channel. You’re virtually guaranteed some interaction with your friends/followers.

Resources/Extra reading

*A pound on the foot – the science

The Great Outdoor Forum (Stack Exchange) – discussion on the science behind extra weight on your feet.

http://www.infographicspedia.com/lose-body-fat-percentage-on-walking-infographic/

A hiking tour in Scotland: To hike or to tour – that is the question?

distillery whisky

Typical pagoda structures which seem so incongruous on a distillery

When you have a very limited amount of holiday time, it’s very difficult to make choices for your time in Scotland without spending a lot of time in a car/bus/train as you’ll no doubt want to do everything the guide book recommends. Every different district in Scotland is busy promoting itself as “THE must-see destination”. No doubt you’ll want to spend some time in Edinburgh. A lot of people put Skye very high up the list. If you’re American, St. Andrew’s will no doubt be up there near the top of the list too and if you’re a first time visitor Loch Ness will probably be somewhere near the top too. How on earth are you going to fit it all in to your schedule?

minibus tours of Scotland

Classic highlights of Scotland will inevitably include a visit to Edinburgh Castle

Option 1: Minibus tours

Your first option of course is to consider one of the many minibus tours of Scotland, which will promise to take you to all the top sites and also deliver “off-the-beaten” track extras. They’ll reserve accommodation for you and suggest places to eat, but watch out. The quoted price is usually just for the bus tour and doesn’t include accommodation, meals or entry fees into the various places of interest. When you’re budgeting for one of these tours, make sure you take into account the extra expenses you will have to incur.

Many of these tours, particularly Rabbies, will also promise you some opportunities to get out of the bus and walk a wee bit. Most of these walks are very short (around 2 hours) and are generally in very scenic but popular places like Loch an Eilean (in the Cairngorms) or the Fairy Pools (on Skye).

Option 2: Self-drive tours

Do you truly want to be part of a crowd? Another option is to hire a car and research an efficient route around the places you want to see. Try not to double back on yourself. See if you can find a suitable circular route. Visit Scotland have developed quite a few suggested itineraries on their site which are free to download and usually follow various themes so you should be able to find one which fits in with your interests.

We can offer self-drive itineraries. Please bear in mind that we are always going to recommend that you spend some time with us here in the Cairngorms National Park. We believe it is by far and away the best area to base yourself when exploring the Highlands.

Self-drive tours are a great way to go as you can be completely independent. You are able to get to all those out of the way places which are inaccessible on public transport. The disadvantage is that they can be very time-consuming to plan and if you don’t know the country you could make mistakes which cost you time-wise. Don’t forget to allow a relatively significant budget for fuel on top of the hire and activities you’ve planned.

loch an eilein

Classic short walk in the Cairngorms visits Loch an Eilean.

 

Option 3: Join a hiking adventure or design an Off-the-Beaten Track tailor made adventure 

Off the beaten track:

A tailor-made itinerary with Scot Mountain Holidays doesn’t have to be too expensive. Don’t forget if you’re making comparisons that we provide a complete service. You won’t have to allow extra in your budget for additional meals or accommodation or activities. We’ll look after everything for you. Usually our prices include everything except alcohol from when we pick you up to when we drop you off. We can make adaptations to suit you and your party but our trips aim to provide you with a unique experience of Scotland not a package off the shelf.

Sometimes we do take our guests to the more popular tourist sights, like Loch Ness. If we didn’t include places like this, we wouldn’t get any enquiries. Usually however, these visits are not the most memorable parts of the visit. Sometimes guests are marginally disappointed by their day out with the rest of the tourists. One couple we worked with spent a week with us: they went hiking with Andy; they went out on mountain bikes exploring the forest and picking mushrooms; they went on the Zip wire in Aviemore and they went to Loch Ness (as on their itinerary). Their visit to Loch Ness was nowhere near as high on their list of memories as their day out with Andy in whisky country where they didn’t see another tourist all day.

 

Why choose a guide to hike in Scotland?

Nature’s bounty: handpicked chanterelles mushrooms

 

Guided and self-guided hiking adventures

Our hiking adventures are also aimed at providing all our guests with unique experiences so we avoid the hotspots other companies list as “off-the-beaten track” or as the French say “hors de sentiers battus” as in our opinion Glen Coe and the Old Man of Storr on Skye are not off the beaten track at all. We’d take you to places you’ve probably not heard of as below.

Hiking will be the focus of the trip and not visiting the popular tourist sights. You’ll certainly go home with a unique experience which will have involved all your senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight. Memories created involving all your senses last longer and create more stories to share with your friends. No queues and no crowds!

hiking in Assynt

Hikers descending from a long day’s hike in the Assynt area (Scotland)

 

walking holiday

Looking out over the vast expanse of the Cairngorms National Park (Highlands of Scotland)

Conclusion

There are lots of ways to explore Scotland from minibus or coach tours to hiking adventures. The method you choose will depend on your own personal priorities and who’s to say that you can’t come back and try another kind of experience the next time. We’ve certainly had some guests whose first experience of Scotland was a minibus tour round the highlights, but they’ve chosen to return and explore in greater depth with us as the bus tour merely whetted their appetite to see more.

Further Reading

Walking holidays in Scotland

Walking route options and choices

Planning a hiking holiday in Scotland (but not the West Highland Way)

Where to walk in the Highlands

When to come to Scotland

 

An international reputation: Scottish textiles

With more and more evidence surfacing of the adaptability, quality and craftsmanship of Scottish textiles manufacturers catching on worldwide in fashion luxury goods and film, it is no surprise the industry has also taken on sport technology.

Performance in a fabric is crucial to hikers, walkers and cyclists. In Scotland, weather can change so frequently that when it comes to treks off the beaten track (a speciality of Scot Mountain Holidays), to quote Duracel, “it just has to work”.

But we believe gear should more than work. It should be comfortable and enhance your experience. We also believe in supporting local and regional manufacturers for economic and environmental purposes.

Scottish textiles

Using the edge trimmings from the looms to make rugs. All made from 100% wool as is tweed. Wool is coming back in to fashion in outdoor clothing.

For these reasons, we have tracked down 5 Scottish innovators in the textile sport industry who are completely changing the performance game.

Scotland’s own

1. Findra

Cycling in the Cairngorms

On and off road cycling in the Cairngorms. We know all about valuing good cycling gear!

Dubbed by SCI market research as one of the top sport textile innovations in the last five years, Findra creates mountain biking clothing especially for women. They are recognized for their seamless knitting technology and unique textiles.

2. Nikwax technology

26549761466_48af85e697_o

Andy in a Nikwax Analogy smock jacket by Páramo

While Nikwax was developed in Northern England, innovater Nick Brown accredits his many walking holidays in Scotland as the inspiration for the product – so we feel it fits nicely on our list. This elastic and water-repellent treatment makes performance clothing elastic and breathable, protecting you from inevitable Scotland rain.

3. Harris Tweed Hebrides

From the Commonwealth Games to other professional sporting events, Harris Tweed is a becoming a feature of athletes all over the globe as they are revered for combining style with performance.

4. Diary Doll 

Another product innovation for women. Lightweight with a waterproof panel, these machine washable pants give women the freedom to carry on their explorations stress free.

5. Bonar Yarns

‘Greatness is in the detail’. This Scottish manufacturer has forever changed the notion of turf, enhancing sporting events all over the world.

Fit for a Highlander

Here in the Cairngorms we are part of the Highland way of life and keen nature enthusiasts, meaning we must be ready to adapt to Scotland weather in pursuing our adventures.

With manufacturers like these, nothing can hold us back!

Aviemore events: August highlight

Harley Davidson rally in Aviemore

This summer 2016 from August 26-29th thunder returns to the glens of the Cairngorms and Aviemore with its annual Harley-Davidson rally. Thousands of bikers assemble from all over the world with nearly 3,000 more in attendance. This is a must see for motorcycling enthusiasts. Better yet, the event features activities and demonstrations fit for the whole family:

Thunder in the Glens has become one of the major events in the UK for Harley-Davidson fans. People travel from all over the world to enjoy the 2-day event. It is now officially the largest Harley Davidson rally in the UK with an ever growing number of loyal fans.

Enjoy over 60 trade stands supporting local charities and group.

There are:

  • H-D demo bike rides
  • Jeep demo drives
  • Custom bike show
  • Outside entertainment
  • Scottish Knights battle scenes
  • Off road motorbike riding.

Sunday 2.00pm to 4.00pm – charity rides on the back of a Harley-Davidson in Rally Village.

Price details

Entry to evening entertainment on rally site by registration only.

£40 per person for the weekend pre-registered or £45 on the day.

hidden cairngorms 002

Matching bikes

Festival goers are always enthralled by their days spent at the fest, regardless of whether they own their own bikes. Get caught up in the whirl and excitement and catch the exhibits.

Highlights for our family include:

the ride-out from Aviemore and socializing with our guests part of the fest. (If Gregor is really lucky, some even let him have a seat on their cherished Harleys.)

hidden cairngorms 003

Ride-out showpiece from Aviemore

hidden cairngorms 021

Feel the roar!

hidden cairngorms 006

Hitching a ride

Here at Fraoch Lodge we are a fifteen minute drive from Grantown on Spey, making us an ideal nearby accommodation which can provide full catering and a shuttle service to the event – that is, if you’re not already motorcycling yourself there!

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