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The Season Begins! Mountain Biking and Gorge Walking with Craggan Outdoors

Filed in Blog by on 1st May 2018 • views: 649

With April just hours away, there is something grimly frustrating about the wintery conditions that continue to hold Scotland in its grasp. While grumbles about transport delays, gigantic heating bills and environmental repercussions have consumed many of us in discussions over the teapot in recent months, there remains one sure-fire way to combat the pessimism. The outdoors. Scotland is a year-round haven for lovers of sports and adventure and, if anything, there is something even more exciting about embracing the outdoors while there’s an off-season chill in the air. I was delighted to head up to Aviemore this week for a mountain biking and gorge walking adventure with Craggan Outdoors and to see how their plans for the 2018 season are taking shape.

Mountain Biking Aviemore and Nearby

The terrain is solid and stiff from the winter chill but forests are places where life exists throughout the year and I can think of no better place to start my day. The Grantown-on-Spey Anagach Woods are thick but navigable and the ideal spot for mountain bikers looking to embrace the rawness of the Cairngorms. Accompanied by Craggan Outdoors’ team of instructors – who are themselves getting into shape and perfecting their routes for the season – I brace my knees for a bit of a rude re-awakening and drink it all in.

mountain biking aviemore area craggan outdoors

It’s incredibly easy to forget just how refreshing it is to get back to nature. In the same way I feel an instant release and surge of positive energy when climbing hills and mountains, the woosh of cycling off-road at speed is a welcome reminder that I should stop letting myself become so city-dependent. The sudden adrenaline surge, ever-so-slight trepidation at something unfamiliar and the comforting silence of nature’s playground present all of the necessary ingredients for the kind of rural unburdening that so many of us crave.

mountain biking aviemore

The routes created by Craggan Outdoors are extremely flexible and a superb induction space for beginners and the out-of-touch, but with the scope to challenge experienced thrill-seekers as well. Although I boldly attempt to keep pace with the more adept team, this can be an activity for families, groups of friends or couples alike. There is no need to be an expert and all ability levels are welcome. Expect a combination of free cycling through the forested trails, the odd tricky stretch that the team will analyse in advance with you and, naturally, the occasional game or two to test your balance, attention and sense of humour.

mountain biking forest

Expect to feel challenged, but never concerningly so. Key to enjoying such an activity is to trust in the judgement of your instructor – the Craggan team have the experience and skills to quickly gauge your competency and will react accordingly. Dan, Katie, Ross, Anna and Jan are a genuinely lovely bunch of incredibly compatible experts and each one has everything necessary to make your day one to remember. Because of course you want to get back to nature. Of course you want to challenge yourself physically and mentally. But, even more so, you want to have fun and the Craggan team have your back on that score.

mountain biking craggan outdoors cairngorms

Mountain biking represents a brilliant half day activity for most – giving you the necessary taster of the outdoors and a physical challenge while also leaving you to come away smiling and ready for other adventures. You can read more about mountain biking near Aviemore with Craggan here and do contact the team if you have any questions about the activity.

mountain biking in the cairngorms

Gorge Walking near Aviemore

Dear God in heaven you must be joking. Up to your neck in icy cold Scottish water when even falling snow is still a distinct possibility? I could certainly appreciate your dubiety.

I remember going gorge walking as a wee boy as part of a school trip. My memory of how much of a positive impact that had on me, plus the reassuring words of the Craggan team, convinced me to park any fears and take on this next challenge. Kitted out in two wet suits, protective headgear and the necessary buoyancy aids, I can’t see Milan calling for a fashion shoot any time soon. But the excitement starts to gather pace nicely and the camaraderie is second to none as we all prepare to submerge into the inky-black waters that run through this beautiful stretch of the Cairngorms.

gorge walking

Now, I’m not going to lie. That first couple of minutes are not exactly pleasant as your body adjusts to the water and its sudden plummet in temperature. However, once you have reached a level of balance you’ll find yourself overcome with an amazing sense of exhilaration. Your inner Rocky Balboa will be screaming in liberated euphoria at just how raw this feels! The gorge itself is a fairly short stretch but the journey is slow and careful as you ascend and descend across the extremely rough terrain. Enclosed and cave-like at times its an amazing way to experience a powerful stretch of landscape and force yourself head-long into the mini waterfalls along the way.

gorge walking

As with the cycling, Craggan Outdoors provide the best equipment for both comfort and safety. All of their activities require safety to be of paramount importance and it is training exercises like these that ensure the standards are flawless for visiting clients. The team can discuss any needs or concerns with you beforehand and you’ll be carefully guided throughout the gorge walk on exactly what to do. Lasting around an hour this is a brilliant activity for groups in particular – one I guarantee you’ll bond over for years to come.

gorge walking activity

A refreshingly exhausted blogger was I as I headed back to Aviemore and the journey home to the bright lights. Full of renewed enthusiasm for Scotland’s natural appeal, I’m looking forward to my repeat visits to Aviemore as Craggan Outdoor’s journey through 2018 unfolds. Certain to be another great year for tourism throughout Scotland, I can’t wait to hear what the spring has to bring for the team. Until next time, happy adventure travels.

gorge walking

Neil Robertson is a travel blogger, broadcaster and marketer who spends his time finding the best bits around his home country of Scotland, in his guise as Travels with a Kilt. Particularly fond of the outdoors and history, he can generally be found up a Munro, poking around ruins or chasing his drone around a loch. This year he will be working closely with Craggan Outdoors as they progress through the various stages of the tourism season – with plenty of sporty participation in their wide range of activities along the way. You can follow his adventures both on this site and over on his blog – which you can find here.

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