If you’re planning a holiday in the Highlands why not explore the beautiful Black Isle – by bike? The lovely team at Black Isle Bicycles shared some of their favourite cycling routes in the area as well as lesser-known attractions and their top tips for holidaying in the Black Isle.
What is special about a holiday on the Black Isle?
The diversity. There is such a lot to see and do, and it’s all concentrated in a small area which makes it really accessible. There are beaches, forests, museums, award-winning eateries, local crafts, and of course, some of the best dolphin watching in Europe! It’s a great place for families, and older travellers, but everyone can come here and have an experience.
Why is the Black Isle ideal for cycling enthusiasts?
It’s the compactness that makes it ideal. All the communities are close together, so you’ve never got too far to go to get to the next attraction. The roads are generally quiet, and if being on the road is not your thing then there are literally miles of off-road tracks and trails to ride on, including the trails at Learnie Red Rock.
You offer bike hire as well as guided tours – can you share some of your favourite routes in the area?
This is really tough because there are so many! One of our favourite easy routes starts in North Kessock and follows the coast road out to Redcastle. Along the way you should keep your eyes peeled for some of the local wildlife (we’ve seen dolphins, seals, ospreys, and bats!), fascinating local heritage, including evidence of crannogs and fish traps in the firth, and of course the castle itself. The road is flat all the way, and you can get food and refreshments in North Kessock when you get back.
For a more challenging route, start out in Rosemarkie then head northwest towards Cromarty. For the best views, turn off the main road and take the National Cycle Network route over the hill at Eathie. Refuel in Cromarty, as well as taking some time to explore the village itself. When you’re ready, head out along the north coast of the Black Isle. After a quick stop at the RSPB reserve at Udale Bay to see local birdlife, climb up and over Mount High and drop back into Rosemarkie for a well-deserved cuppa at the Beach Café.
What can people expect from one of your guided bike tours?
We try to offer bespoke tours based on our clients’ enthusiasms. We’ve got great wildlife, award-winning food and drink, heritage and history, and natural beauty by the bucket load, so there really is something for everyone and we can help you explore it all. You’ll be guided by a qualified cycle leader who can also take care of any unexpected problems you may have with the bike, and they’ve spent ages getting to know all the best watering holes!
We like to share hidden gem tips with our readers – can you suggest some lesser-known attractions on the Black Isle?
One that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves is Groam House Museum. Located on the High Street in Rosemarkie, it is an outstanding centre for Pictish and Celtic art. The George Bain Collection is recognised as nationally significant and is just amazing.
Another hidden gem is the Cromarty Brewing Company. Tucked away in Davidston, on the road between Rosemarkie and Cromarty, this microbrewery is produces high-quality handcrafted “beer worth believing in” using the finest of local and worldwide ingredients – try their Happy Chappy!
One last one is well-known to the locals and it’s the Rosemarkie Beach Café. Sitting right on the beachfront, this modern café is fully accessible and run by the local community association. Hot drinks, home baking, ice cream, and a children’s play area make this a great spot.
What would you recommend for visitors to the area over the winter months?
Well, we would say it but winter is the best time to go mountain biking! Winter is also a good time to go bird watching – the Black Isle is a stronghold for red kites, and there are plenty of migrant birds that come calling here as well. Definitely bring your camera – this far north the light is just amazing in the winter, and it changes the scenery from summer months. After all that, we recommend you cosy up next to the woodburner in a local bar and enjoy a dram.