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Friday, February 23, 2024

An Appetite for Adventure in The North West Highlands

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Exploring the larder of Scotland’s North West Highlands is at the heart of a new bike and hostel adventure from The Adventure Syndicate and Hostelling Scotland

In celebration of Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022 and to promote sustainable active travel and food tourism through hostelling, Hostelling Scotland have again teamed up with The Adventure Syndicate for a bike and hostelling adventure of the North West Highlands, with some of the finest locally sourced food and drink Scotland has to offer at its heart.

This week the 250-mile, two wheeled hostel packing adventure will see Lee Craigie, Alice Lemkes, and Phillipa Battye from The Adventure Syndicate, a group of female adventurers and storytellers who promote mental and physical wellbeing through their outdoor endeavours, ride from Strathcarron in the south to Durness Smoo on Scotland’s north coast. 

This specially chosen route features some of Scotland’s most remote and iconic sites, majestic landscapes, environment and natural heritage. 

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.

Scotland’s world class food and drink will take centre stage on this highland adventure.

The Syndicate will move away from the busier tourist roads to explore the off-road trails of the North West Highlands, experiencing the best of Scotland’s natural larder as they go. 

Each day the cyclists will visit some of the best local producers, community food hubs, cafes 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, their comfortable, affordable and bike friendly accommodation on this journey.  

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’ and ‘World Food Expert’ Ghillie has written 40 books on different culinary cultures, some of which have been nominated for the Glenfiddich Award, Guild of Food Writers Award, and the Cordon Bleu World Food Media Award. 

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 Syndicate 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. 

In recognition of VisitScotland’s Year of Stories (2022) this journey of exploration and adventure, that has been designed, in the most part, for the amateur adventurer and food enthusiast to emulate, will be documented in a film to be released later this year.

Produced by accomplished cycle filmmaker Maciek Tomiciek, together with Ghillie Basan’s son Zeki, the film will capture the true spirit of hostelling that has continued for more than 90 years – affordable and flexible accommodation, shared spaces and shared experiences, discovering the real Scotland through sustainable active travel, and enjoying the benefits of being an integral part of the local community with access to world class local food and drink on the doorstep.

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

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.” 

Lee Craigie from The Adventure Syndicate 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. 

“As usual, having the warm, dry, affordable, welcoming and midge free Youth Hostels in which to cook at the end of the day will bring us all together to share stories and enjoy each other’s company.


Ghillie Basan 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.”

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