It's not very often that I take a holiday and even less often that I manage to get time off with Dr.Marsden. So when the opportunity for a week off together suddenly sprung upon us we decided to ditch the usual training schedules and busy work life and head off to Scotland for a little week away.
Obviously, given the reputation Scotland has for being wet but beautiful we packed the camera and the waterproofs and headed off on a very long road trip to Scotland. We planned the first stop of our holiday to be an overnight visit to Fort William so we could climb Ben Nevis. After the most stunning road trip we arrived mid-afternoon on Sunday to a typical Scottish weather day; breezy, overcast and not too warm.
Eager to stretch our legs but aware of the next days climbing we headed out for a run and a ride. I was quite surprised that not too far away from Fort William there is a brilliant five mile stretch of road that hadn't a car in sight.
As it turns out the road goes up into the hills to a dead end but it's an immense climb. Not really thinking I decided to just go full gas to the top without really knowing how long the road was and ended up walking away with a cheeky KOM. I wholly recommend stealing my ride and having a go at this climb next time you're in Fort William. The only small flaw to going so hard was I'd forgotten about Ben Nevis the next day.
After an overnight stop in the bunk-house at the foot of Ben Nevis we woke up to a massively different Scotland. Overnight the weather had changed completely and we were greeted with the wall to wall sunshine that would define our entire visit. We set off up the mountain around 9am and it took up nearly six hours to do the full loop. I dare say we might be the first people to ever get sunburnt on Ben Nevis but it was truly worth it for the clearest possible views at the top. I definitely paid for my activities the day before on the way down Ben Nevis and 'bonked' but it was well worth it. A day that's definitely harder many on the bike.
We then made our way across the the east coast of Scotland, near to Keith. We had found an amazing little glamping site in the countryside called Braehead Glamping. A little site with seven camping pods that range from the super basic to the super posh. Obviously, being a holiday we opted for the super posh. In our little pod there was a double bed, leather chairs and all the amenities you would expect in most hotel rooms. The site itself was perfect with the cleanest showers I've ever seen and actual hot water with genuine water-pressure. The pods also had an ace little campfire area with somewhere to sit and eat marshmallows in the evening.
The area around the pods was ace and we were able to take a pootle out to the coast and ride along the sea for quite a few miles, soaking up the unusual amount of sunshine along the way. The views were amazing and the sea breeze was welcomingly cooling but one thing we did find is there are really no cafes or even towns in that part of Scotland. We did around 40 miles before we finally found somewhere open to eat in the town of Keith. Note to self - check for key cafe locations on our next trip to Scotland.
We also took some time off the bike to visit the Glenfiddich distillery and had a little bimble around on one of the tours before doing a whiskey tasting session. It turns out these are great for ride fuel but only if you're still sober. There was a £1.4m cask of whiskey which we could have bought but we decided that it was only fair someone else got to taste such good whiskey. There are literally hundreds of whiskey distilleries in the area and you can do a Tour of them all if you really feel like it, although I'm not sure how as you do need to drive between them all.
The pods were also within touching distance of the Cairngorms. So with that we drove over to Aviemore, about 50 minutes from where we were staying an discovered another amazing part of Scotland. I went chasing the Top 100 climbs "Cairngorm Mountain" in the hope of putting in a good time on the long, snaking road up to the ski station whilst Sarah took up some trail running. Again, the roads were awesome and I came away happy with my time and thoroughly recommend having a go at this climb if you're in the area. You definitely have to take in the scenery on the way back down though as you snake through the purple haze of heather than blankets the moorland for miles around.
We also found somewhere to Loch swim pretty close by so Sarah took the opportunity to swim around a castle - not quite something you can do everyday, whilst I caught up on the Brownlee's smashing that Olympic triathlon thing...
We've never been to Scotland before but thoroughly recommend it for an active and outdoors week away. The weather we had was perfect with wall to wall sunshine all week but I imagine it's just as good even in the wet. The camping pod was simply immense and for £60 a night you really can't go wrong. They're cosy,warm and well looked after. I'd also recommend you pop into Roo's Leap in Aviemore and see if you can finish the Monster Bob Burger.
It's nice to do something different for a week in such an awesome place but now it's back to the commute and the daily grind.