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WOMEN ONLY CAIRNGORM BIKEPACKING ADVENTURE
Soul Trails brings a fresh new twist to our Mountain Lassies adventures, and for 2019, we are combining our favourite bikepacking routes with our favourite adventurer – Anka Martin. What makes this trip even more special – every booking buys a bicycle to empower a young girl or woman living in rural Africa.
Soul Trails is delighted to be teaming up with World Bicycle Relief who provide specially designed bicycles to communities in some of the most deprived areas of Africa. By being part of this trip, you will be making a difference to improving the lives of women through offering the simple solution of providing a bicycle to those who need it most.
What can you expect? Wild landscapes, beautiful mountains criss-crossed by historic byways and ancient drove roads – passing lightly through glens once used by cattle rustlers, warring clans and local shepherds in times gone by. Pristine ribbons of singletrack leading to peaceful wild camping spots. Bliss.
Our bikepacking adventure combines our favourite things – mountain biking and minimalist wild camping. Carrying only essential gear, on this journey through the Cairngorms National Park you’ll be immersed in one of the Scottish Highlands most magnificent mountain regions. Travelling self-supported with long days out in remote backcountry – this trip opens up a new world of possibilities and the opportunity to experience Scotland in the raw as we bivouac under the stars. Read Aneela’s blog for a flavour of where you’ll be riding.
So, what makes Soul Trails with Anka so special? Guaranteed good times. Anka is a true free spirit and loves to be amongst the big mountains. She has many stories to share of of her bikepacking adventures – she’s travelled to many places across the world solo and with other like minded adventurers.
- Learn from Anka’s experience as one of the world’s most seasoned riders, racers and adventurers – on and off the trail.
- Ride in wild settings, enjoy the rugged landscapes while being on the journey taking on new challenges and finding new-found flow.
- Go home with memories of a truly unforgettable experience and make lifelong buddies from around the world.
Based on our favourite traverse of the Cairngorms, this bikepacking journey begins and ends in the small town of Blair Atholl. Over four days, you’ll be riding a 200km feast of mountain biking in the splendour of the Cairngorms and Deeside across some of Scotland’s most beautiful glens and long forgotten tracks we’ve uncovered over the years.
Two nights are spent bivvying under the stars, out in the wild with nothing more than what you’re carrying on your bike. The other two nights you’ll be treated to some real highland hospitality in handpicked guest houses or inns. This way you get to experience the best of both worlds and have a bit of luxury (like hot showers!) along the way.
Completely self supported, all you need for this adventure is your bike and the right kit to make your journey through the Highlands! Our professional guides will be there to help and fill in any missing blanks for you, whether that’s loading up your bike, getting your bivvy set up for a good night’s sleep or what food to cook!
Don’t worry if you are a first time adventurer and have lots of questions about kit. We will guide you on what to bring with you or we can help organise you with kit if you don’t have your own such as bikepacking bags to load on to your bike, sleeping bag, camping mat, stove, tarp or bivvy bag.
- Type of Trip
- Technical Grading
- Endurance Grading
- How Long? This is a four day guided self-supported bikepacking adventure starting in Blair Atholl on Wednesday 4th September. We end our journey back in Blair Atholl on Saturday 7th September, having a night to chill after our big backcountry adventure before we head back to Edinburgh on Sunday morning.
Here’s what you can expect
- A four day journey self supported by bike exploring the lesser known trail gems of the Cairngorms and Deeside
- Professional Guides – expertly trained, hugely experienced but most of all great fun and with a wealth of local knowledge to share!
- Bed & Breakfast Accommodation for two nights at the beginning and end of the tour
- Two nights wild camping
- Food – Breakfasts and snacks included (for other meals, you’ll stock up in small towns as we pass through them)
- Logistics and comprehensive support including complementary transportation at either end of the trip, First Aid and mechanical assistance throughout your trip
- Detailed pre-departure information including Bikepacking kit list (Bikepacking kit can be rented directly from us – please contact us for more details)
- Trip photos
- Join the trip in Innerleithen, Edinburgh or Perth (alternative arrangements may be possible – please contact us to discuss)
- Wednesday 4th to Sunday 8th September
- Price £840 (includes price of a bicycle for World Bicycle Relief)
Did somebody say coffee?
Trips typically begin with a fresh coffee (of course!) and a rendezvous around 8am in the Tweed Valley with pick-ups in Edinburgh and Perth (full details are sent out beforehand).
After high-fives and handshakes, a last-minute supply run may be the order of the day, then we safely secure our precious cargo onto our custom bike trailer, load the minibus, turn on the tunes and kick off the adventure! As we truck north to the start of our adventure, we’ll get our bikepacking bags loaded onto the bikes and make sure everything is hanging together on the bike before we begin our journey.
From the small town of Blair Atholl we will make our way through the southern Cairngorms and ease ourselves into the ride through the Gaick on a mix of gravel and singletrack. It won’t be too long until you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, in wide open landscapes and not a soul in sight.
The final part of the day, we will wind our way through Glen Tromie to our accommodation. By the time we reach there, we’ll be ready to crack open the beers and fill ourselves up with a well deserved hearty dinner at our accommodation. You’ll be guaranteed to get a good night’s rest after our first day’s ride!
After a good breakfast (and coffee of course!) our ride takes us over towards the beautiful village of Tomintoul. After passing the emerald green glow of An Lochan Uaine, our route takes us through the Ryvoan pass, up and over towards Tomintoul, the most northerly point in the loop.
Here’s we’ll stock up before finding a magnificent spot to set up camp and rest our weary heads under the stars. We might even have a dram or two from Anka’s hip flask!
Kicking off the day with fresh coffee at camp we’ll get ourselves packed up and ready to head over towards Braemar. Today it’s big mountains and big flow. Epic panoramas are just one reward for the big climbs – the real dessert comes when we descend all the way down towards Braemar where we’ll stock up again before finding the perfect bivvy spot on route.
Braemar is a lovely Scottish village based in the heart of the highlands and we might even stop off for a beer in the local pub!
The tiny mountain town of Braemar is the gateway to the most rewarding backcountry mountain biking in Scotland – today’s going to be quite an ‘out there’ experience. We’ll experience big open landscapes making our way back toward Blair Atholl, with some of the sweetest singletrack that we’ll we’ll experience on our adventure.
Blair Atholl is where it all began and we’ll take stock of what we’ve just achieved when we get there. High fives and group hugs will be the order of the day.
The truck will be there to meet us, we’ll load up the bikes and head over to our accommodation to get showered up and ready to head out for dinner.
After four big days of riding, we’ll enjoy a hearty breakfast before we make our way back south and say our goodbyes.
Our final stop in Innerleithen will be around 1pm.
We want you to pick the right mountain bike trip in Scotland for your fitness and technical ability – it helps ensure you’ll be riding with people of a similar skill level and can ride at the pace you want to ride at.
We’ve developed a trip grading based on our experience riding the terrain that features on our trips, as well as meeting and learning from riders from all over the world and understanding their expectations.
Please read the following guidelines carefully to ensure you pick a mountain bike holiday in Scotland suited to your skill and fitness. If you are unsure if a trip is right for you, please contact us.
This trip can be enjoyed by riders with technical level 3 skills. The goal of the Technical Rating is to understand the ability of the rider as it pertains to obstacles, conditions and trail design. This means it has nothing to do with your physical endurance, but is instead strictly a measure of your technical ability. Making sure you accurately rate your technical ability will ensure you have an exciting ride, while remaining within your ability level to keep you safe.
You are a confident mountain biker and have been riding technical terrain for at least 2 years including exposed singletrack and rough landrover track, on uneven, loose and frequent steep gradients, with frequent variation in trail surfaces from rocks to roots. You are comfortable riding on trails approximately 12 inches wide that vary greatly in their stability and may be unpredictable including loose rock. You are comfortable regularly traversing unavoidable obstacles such as roots, rocks, logs and drop offs up to 15 inches tall, and some obstacles encountered may exceed that.
This trip will be enjoyed by riders who rate themselves 3 or above for endurance.
The goal of the Endurance Rating is to understand the ability of the rider as it pertains to overall physical endurance. Riding on the road or in “Spin Class” is great and all, but mountain biking is a completely different animal (ask anyone who has made the switch). The reason being is that the terrain is changing every second, which forces your entire body and your mind to be involved in the exercise process. This exertion will cause exhaustion to set in a lot quicker than you think. Be sure you read the descriptions carefully because we want you to have fun out there, not think this is a form of cruel and unusual punishment.
You are an avid mountain biker or off-roader riding twice a week or more, and the weather isn’t a big factor for you. You are at an above-average fitness level, and regularly do other activities that qualify as exercise. You usually find yourself riding for 3 hours on the trails, you’ll ride on consecutive days, and you ride at a moderate pace.
Where we stay during our mountain bike tours of Scotland plays almost as big a part in the overall experience as the trails we ride.
We use a wide variety of accommodation, from wild camping in remote wilderness settings to rustic hostels through to comfortable and friendly inns and guest houses, luxury self catering lodges, castles and everything in between.
On this trip, we spend two night bivouacking under the stars and two nights in comfortable lodgings on the first and last day of our bikepacking adventure. This gives you the flexibility of being able to experience the glorious feeling of sleeping outside while having a warm bed and an opportunity to dry out your gear!
Food & Drink
Mountain biking in Scotland means you will be hungry (very hungry!) and despite the remoteness of this particular trip, there are opportunities to enjoy great fresh Scottish fayre and of course a dram or two and a fine ale!
Breakfasts are included and are provided either at the accommodation or we’ll have some yummy breakfast options for camp (dietary requirements are taken into account from your booking).
There will be opportunities for you to buy packed lunch provisions to carry on the rides, or, depending on timings and routes, we may enjoy a great cafe stop at a traditional Inn (your guides will let you know the plan each day).
Some meals are enjoyed in locally selected inns and bistros, and for camp dinners, provisions will be purchased on a day to day basis at local shops to enjoy preparing our camp meals (your guides will let you know the plan each day).
We estimate a budget of £20 to £35 per person per day is adequate for lunches and evening meals with refreshments.
A four day bikepacking adventure exploring the beautiful Cairngorm mountains – the vast majority off road over a huge variety of gravel and forest tracks, singletrack and bouldery paths.
An ever changing landscape taking you to some truly special places across the Scottish Highlands.
Professional Guides (two minimum) – expertly trained, hugely experienced but most of all great fun and with a wealth of local knowledge to share!
Two nights accommodation in a Highland lodge and 2 night wild camping and bivvying under the stars
Hearty breakfasts to set you up for the day
Free transport (start/finish of the trip)
Professional mountain bike guides
Qualified first aid assistance
Mechanical assistance throughout your trip
Apres-bike swimming in the river!
Secure bike storage at accommodation
Bike wash facilities at accommodation
Detailed pre-departure information
Trip photo album
Meals and drinks except breakfasts and those stated above
Additional transportation or accommodation not mentioned above
Bikepacking luggage and equipment — this can be rented if you don’t have your own. Please contact us for more information.
Additional accommodation before, during or after the trip
Baggage / bike box collection & storage
Single room supplement (if applicable)
Initial departure point: 07:45, Co-op Supermarket, Innerleithen (free parking available)
Pick-up point two: 08:30/45, Edinburgh Park train station
Rendezvous point: Lochside Avenue entrance / Premier Inn (Gyle) side of the track (Edinburgh Airport Tram connection is available, 12 min journey)
Pick-up point three: 9:30/45, Perth Services Travelodge Hotel, Perth
Journey time to the the start point is approximately ninety minutes excluding stops
On our way north, we’ll pick up supplies in Perth.
When we get dropped off at the start point, we’ll get our bikes loaded onto bikes and have a quick lunch before we start on the first leg of our journey.
At the end of the trip, we will be arriving back in the Edinburgh (Park) area around 12:00 and Innerleithen by 14:00.
Luggage & Bike Transportation
For this trip, it is important to keep your items compact and lightweight. You should have the right kit to fit into a handlebar bag, saddle bag and a bike backpack. We will send you a bikepacking kit list in advance of your trip so you can plan what you need to bring. You can keep any other items you are not taking on the trip in the Go Where truck and you pick them up again on Saturday when we get picked up in Blair Atholl.
Regrettably, we do not have provision to store/carry bike bags and boxes during trips – please ask your accommodation e.g. in Edinburgh if they can store it for you; most will be happy to. Please request this service in advance
Bikes are securely carried (fully-assembled) and attached to our custom Burtech trailer and should be ready fully assembled for the trip start
We always recommend guest bikes are fully insured
A fully serviced 3 – 6 inch travel full suspension bike with dropper seatpost and hydraulic disc brakes is recommended
It’s entirely possible to take part in our trips on more modest setups or hardtails but we find that over the course of several consecutive days riding, the added comfort and confidence of a full suspension trail bike is a real asset, and enhances the overall experience
If you prefer not to travel with your bike, or you’d like to try something new, we have access to some of the best full suspension mountain bikes available from brands including Santa Cruz, Juliana, Trek, Orange and Whyte to name just a few
If you’re interested in hiring a great bike, we have fantastic deals from our retail partners– available from £50 per day – so please just ask or add this option to your trip on the booking page
If you’re hiring a bike, for your safety and comfort we always recommend bringing your
own helmet and pedals
Groups & Individuals
We welcome solo travellers (in fact most of our guests travel solo) but did you know that if you’re making a group booking (2+ riders) you’ll automatically save money at the checkout (up to 18%) whether you’re booking for a club, colleagues, friends or family – whoever’s in your tribe.
To secure a booking, we require a 25% deposit when the reservation is made, with the balance payable within 60 days of your booking commencement. For bookings made less than 60 days before booking commencement, full payment is required at the time of booking.
Our guides are fully trained and qualified to the highest standards required to operate in the mountain environments where our trips take place.
“So what, we’re a bunch of friends, we ride lots and we’re pretty good at navigation.”
We hear this all the time, and we don’t want to baby anyone. That’s why we offer self-guided packages too, once we’re confident that our clients will be safe first, and have a great experience second.
Scotland is a beautiful but wild place. When you pay for our services, you’re paying for the reassurance that we know our way around the mountains, how to read people, the local conditions, logistics, fix mechanicals and always have a another ‘plan A’ up our sleeve.
As well as being extraordinarily great human beings (as standard!), all our mountain bike guides hold, as a minimum, the Mountain Bike Leader qualification and emergency outdoor first aid qualifications. We believe these to be the most robust and rigorous qualifications in the business and the minimum standard for running trips like ours in Scotland. They’re not easy to come by but your enjoyment is our business.
An adventure wouldn’t be an ‘adventure’ without a degree of risk. It’s our job to manage those risks so you have the best time possible. As well as substantial field first aid kits, your mountain bike guides will be packing (or distributing among the group) essential group emergency items including mobile telecom’s, VHF long-range radios, emergency survival shelters, and extra emergency clothing and supplies.
Speaking of guides – we operate with the highest ratio of professional guides to clients in the industry. The current regulations permit one guide per group of eight. We don’t agree this is acceptable. We’re a lot more comfortable with at least two staff per eight clients, and a maximum group size of eight in the sensitive mountain environments we run our trips. Sure, we might not be the most profitable outfit in the industry but we strive to be the safest.
We employ robust late back procedures, and every trip is fully risk assessed. While no one can guarantee a 100% safe trip, we do everything possible to minimise risks. And long before we depart we ensure the trip is suitable for you – none of this one size fits all approach – it simply doesn’t work.
Only one thing matches our desire to enjoy Scotland’s amazing outdoors and that’s our commitment to contribute to sustainable adventure tourism in Scotland.
We operate ‘small footprint’ mountain bike adventures to minimise any negative environmental impacts of running our business. We are often asked about running large group trips in remote, sensitive locations but in line with our safety and environmental policy – that’s not really our forté.
As well as being members of the key environmental organisations in Scotland, we encourage our clients to consider their interaction with the environments they are riding wherever possible. We also make use of local hospitality, products and services to ensure our trips contribute economically to the rural environments we enjoy so much. We took another small step in the right direction recently by becoming members of ‘1% for the Planet’. But we must do more.
Consumer Financial Protection
Our Consumer Financial Protection insurance protects your money. This is in fact a legal requirement but not every adventure company even knows this and some choose to ignore it. Why? Because it’s expensive and complicated to become fully insured in this way, and not every application is accepted. Ours was. Your money is safe with us.
Tour Operators Liability
Did you know that in the UK it’s us, the tour operators, who are liable for all aspects of your mountain bike holiday bike package in Scotland? That’s why we have ‘Tour Operators Liability Cover’. Always ask your supplier if they have this insurance. You need it and they should have it.
We work hard to maintain high professional standards but you probably wouldn’t know it because we’re having way too much fun. Ten years on it still puts the biggest smile on our faces when our clients take time out to tell us how much they enjoyed their mountain bike trip in Scotland. See what ‘Our Clan’ have to say about their mountain bike holiday on Google and via our trip reviews.