13th March, 2015
We've just returned from a reccy trip to Scotland, where we spent the past two weeks scouting out new routes, local boutique hotels and those all important hidden gems that we like to share with our customers. Unfortunately, this usually means trying out lots of different cafes and restaurants, and nattering away to friendly locals... life is tough sometimes! We're very excited to announce that the trip will result in a total of FIVE new Scottish cycling holidays, which will be revealed in full detail soon.
What makes these Scottish cycling tours special?
We're particularly proud of the range and variety in the new tours, from challenging MAMIL (that's "middle-aged men in lycra" for those of you not familiar with the term!) routes, to gentle 'pottering around' tours, and everything in between. Yes, surprising as it is, you can in fact design a 'gentle' cycling holiday in Scotland.. you just have to work a little bit harder to find appropriate routes! The other thing we're really proud about with these new tours is the accommodation. We will be offering 'classic' versions of each tour as we normally do, but the cherry on the cake (and the reward for a day's cycling) are our luxury hotels. Scotland is known for its luxury hotels, and with good reason! It is full of old country houses with sumptuous interiors in magnificent settings. We've been working closely with 'Connoisseurs Scotland', a collection of the finest hotels in Scotland, to put together some of the new holidays. And they are absolutely fantastic, if we do say so ourselves!
As always, we like to share a few of our discoveries with you here on the blog, just as a teaser of the treasures you might encounter. If we've tickled your interest, we hope you'll get in touch and book a tour with us soon.
Mhor 84 Motel in Balquhidder, Lochearnhead
This place is amazing. Like, so amazing we were actually jumping up and down with excitement when we walked through the door. Sadly, a lot of the more budget hotels and B&Bs in Scotland are in desperate need of a new lick of paint and a new lease of life. So we were especially surprised when we found the relatively recently opened Mhor Motel (sister of the luxury Monachyle Mhor Hotel, which is 4 miles down the road). It's unlike anything else in the area... a fresh and fun interior, full of light and quirky, kitsch touches, friendly staff and individual bedrooms that are simple yet utterly charming. The 'Mhor' family began with a bakery in Callander (also well worth a visit if you find yourself there), and has slowly expanded to include a gourmet fish & chip shop, the luxury hotel and now this cool little 'motel'. We even heard they're going to hold a folk festival this summer (an extension of their Thursday night folk nights at the motel). With a heritage like this, you can imagine that food is something they take very seriously. And we weren't disappointed! We had a smoked haddock and beetroot pâté, a fantastically tasty salad and honestly the tastiest soup we have ever eaten in our entire lives. Ever. So, in summary, it's amazing. Stay here!
'Just you and the landscape'
This sounds like a funny highlight to put in, but what really struck us about Scotland was the ragged and wild beauty of its remote landscape. We say remote, because it really is remote. Most of our customers tend to live in big cities or at least close to one. The Carter Company team spends a lot of time in London. But in Scotland, it's just you and the landscape. Especially on some of the routes we've found, where you're unlikely to encounter much traffic, be it cyclists or motorists. You climb aboard your saddle and pedal off into the distance along roads that snake through the countryside, affording some epic views along the way - which are so fantastic that we had to keep stopping every two minutes to take photos. And the colours are just spellbinding: mosses and lichens in every shade of green imaginable, burnt oranges and flashes of bright yellow, bunny-ear browns and slate greys, and then the most unusual hues of purple in the trees and heather bushes. It's an artist's paradise.
Pillars of Hercules
This place was a real find! We had just stopped off at what turned out to be our favourite village of the trip, Falkland. Falkland is completely unspoilt and charming; it almost looks like it's been plucked out of Provence in France... it's all old stone buildings with architectural quirks, narrow lanes and a sweet little square with a shop and a cafe in it. As we continued on our journey, a sign about half a mile out of the village caught our eye. Curious, we turned off the road and soon found ourselves at Pillars of Hercules, which is an organic farm, farmshop and cafe. It even has a campsite attached to it. Situated adjacent to a number of popular cycling and walking routes in the area, it is perfectly positioned to offer healthy and utterly delicious seasonal food to hungry passersby. The place was completely packed when we visited - despite the fact it feels like it's in the middle of nowhere. They have a stunning selection of teas, home-made cakes and lunch plates. We recommend their hot chocolate, made with huge coins of real dark chocolate and hot milk. Out of this world!
The little touches
We all know the beauty is in the details... and some of the places we stayed in really nailed it when it came to little touches. Without giving too much away, we'll mention just a few. The welcome you get at The Old Course Hotel in St. Andrews is second to none, with champagne on arrival and unbelievably delicious macaroons awaiting you in your room. The huge bathroom in the honeymoon suite at Boath House (see pictures on our Facebook page), with its two old bathtubs looking out of the window and directly on to the walled garden, is just to die for... as is the tasting menu at their Michelin-starred restaurant. The bar and lounge at Andy Murray's hotel, Cromlix, manages to tread that incredibly difficult line of 'modern classic' design to a tee, and serves up the best tea we had all week. Try their Smoky China loose-leaf with a finger or two of their home-made shortbread.