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North cyclists Lee Craigie, Alice Lemkes and Phillipa Battye hungry for adventure on wild bike trip through north-west Highlands

By John Davidson

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The Adventure Syndicate will be staying at Torridon youth hostel during the trip.
The Adventure Syndicate will be staying at Torridon youth hostel during the trip.

A trio of adventurers are setting off for a taste of the good life on Monday as they explore the north-west Highlands – and its larder – by bike.

Lee Craigie, Alice Lemkes and Phillipa Battye aim to complete the 250-mile route this week. It will see them ride from Strathcarron to Durness, following old cross-country routes and off-road trails through some of Scotland's most remote landscapes.

The team from the Adventure Syndicate, a group of female adventurers and storytellers who promote mental and physical wellbeing through their outdoor endeavours, have teamed up with Hostelling Scotland to promote sustainable active travel and food tourism through hostelling.

They will also be picking up some of the finest locally sourced food and drink along the way. Each day the cyclists will visit some of the best local producers, community food hubs, cafés and restaurants on the route. The top quality, locally produced food collected on the go will be the source of their evening meals and will be prepared in the self-catering kitchens at Torridon, Gairloch Sands, Achmelvich Beach and Durness Smoo Youth Hostels, where the team will be staying en route to the far north-west.

The team is particularly looking forward to experiencing the remote Fisherfield traverse from Poolewe to Dundonell and the old drove road that bisects the Kenmore peninsula at Applecross.

Margo Paterson, CEO of Hostelling Scotland, said: “Youth Hostels have long been associated with sustainable budget travel, offering a warm welcome, a sociable and informal atmosphere and a comfortable bed for anyone looking to explore and discover all that Scotland has to offer, but they’re also an integral part of the local communities in which they operate.

“This adventure will bring together sustainable travel and adventure with locally sourced food and drink, and the unique and informal hospitality that hostelling offers its guests. During the pandemic the ability to self-cater was one of the core aspects of hostelling that was really missed by our guests so it’s fantastic to be able to showcase this key element of the hostelling experience.”

Hostelling Scotland and the Adventure Syndicate have also joined forces with Scotland-based writer, broadcaster and food anthropologist Ghillie Basan. Dubbed the 'Original Spice Girl,’ Ghillie has written 40 books on different culinary cultures.

With an extensive knowledge of leading food and drink producers in some of the remotest parts of Scotland, Ghillie has compiled a list for the Adventure Syndicate to visit each day. As an occasional cyclist Ghillie is joining the trio on part of their journey and tackling the miles on an e-bike.

Ghillie will stay with the team at Gairloch Sands, Achmelvich Beach and Durness Smoo Youth Hostels. In the hostel kitchens she will bring her love of food to life, demonstrating her cooking skills with some original and accessible recipes conjured up from the fresh produce the team have sourced each day.

Ghillie Basan will join the trio for part of the ride.
Ghillie Basan will join the trio for part of the ride.

She said: “I feel honoured to be invited by this elite group of cyclists to join them on this trip and help to showcase some of the fabulous food producers and comfortable youth hostels along the way.

"I am also looking forward to the camaraderie that comes with travelling together, dipping into local communities and sharing food, experiences and stunning views. The trip will also give me the opportunity as one of Scotland’s food tourism ambassadors to promote the importance of shopping local and learning about the local food and drink landscape.”

The ride will be documented in a new film as part of VisitScotland’s Year of Stories by accomplished cycle filmmaker Maciek Tomiciek, together with Ghillie Basan’s son Zeki.

This collaborative film project will not only be used to share the Adventure Syndicate’s travel and food experiences, it will also promote positive mental health through outdoor adventure, activity and cycling, and aims to inspire sustainable active travel and food tourism through the use of Hostelling Scotland's accommodation network.

Lee Craigie said: "We're so excited about this trip! We often choose to travel by mountain bike in the wonderful north-west of Scotland so we can spend more time in wild places and stay off busy roads. However, we don’t always extend our adventuring mindset to the food and drink we experience along the way.

"Having Ghillie Basan to guide us and educate us on the excellence of local produce and the importance of buying local will add a very welcome dimension."

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