TRAVEL GUIDE SCOTLAND
SECRET PLACES, ESSENTIAL TIPS AND TRAVEL INSIGHTS BY TOBI WOGGON
What and when to travel in Scotland? What is the best way to get from A to B and what are the bike spots in Scotland? Tobi Woggon, bikepacker and Scotland fan, tells you in this blog.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO TRAVEL?
Does the winter offer itself?
It all starts with good planning. To clarify the most important right at the beginning: When is the best time to travel for a Scottish adventure?
Since the best trails in Scotland are not on the highest mountains, but in the low mountain range, there is hardly any interference from snow. Therefore, you don't have to be afraid of snow even in winter, but you should be prepared for cold temperatures. The winter time is therefore not impossible, but I would recommend only to the fewest of my friends.
WITH THE BIKE IN SCOTLAND: WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO TRAVEL?
I usually go there around the Easter vacations. At the end of March and in April the weather is already a bit warmer, but not too hot for biking.
But even here it is worth listening to the weather forecast if you want to get over the trails dry.
For the campers among you I recommend to wait a little bit for summer. Since it can still freeze in the spring sporadically.
A little hint:
Usually it is not only warmer in the summer, but also much more humid. This usually does not result in rain, but in very high humidity.
Sweating is therefore pre-programmed. Personally, I do not get along with the humid heat, which is why I limit myself to the spring.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO TRAVEL TO SCOTLAND?
Viele Wege führen nach Schottland. Wer sein eigenes Auto mitnehmen möchte muss entweder den langen Weg über die Fähre Dover - Calais und dann komplett durch England nehmen oder man macht es sich deutlich bequemer und nimmt die Nacht Fähre von Amsterdam nach Newcastle.
So spart man sich nicht nur die ganze Fahrerei, sondern kann sich auch auf der Fähre beim Buffet den Bauch vollschlagen relativ gut erholt kommt man dann am nächsten Morgen an der schottischen Grenze an.
Von dort hat man noch 1,5 Stunden bis zu den ersten Trails in Innerleithen. Perfekt also, um keine Zeit zu vergeuden und das Beste aus dem Urlaub herauszuholen.
BY CAR AND FERRY TO SCOTLAND
The best way to book the ferry is via directferrys or directly on the dfds site.
The earlier you book the ferry, the cheaper you get away.
Basically, the ferry in the spring is always cheaper than in the summer and if you keep a little away from holidays you are depending on the car with 300-500 € For round trip including cabin.
If you don't travel by car, but by plane, it's best to fly to Edinburgh and rent a car there. The flights are for example from Munich quite cheap and very short. On site then simply book a rental car at your car rental portal.
TIP, best not to take a company that is right at the airport, but one where you have to go with the shuttle 5-10 min. Since the prices fluctuate and if you want to save something, it is certainly useful to invest the extra time. My last car I booked through billiger-mietwagen.de.
CAMPING OR STOPPING: WHAT OFFERS ITSELF IN SCOTLAND MORE?
Scotland has been overrun by tourism just in the last two years. Since Covid made it difficult for the British to leave the country, they headed north and discovered Scotland for themselves. Nevertheless, it is not yet completely overrun. Overrun in Scottish means something like: "There is a car coming every 10 minutes" and not every 30 minutes as it used to be.
In the country, the rush goes very well. You will only really notice it in the shortage of accommodation.
Fortunately, you can still camp almost everywhere and that is really an experience. If you do a little searching, you will find places where you can stand all alone by a river or lake and have the vast nature all to yourself.
Here, the usual rules must be observed. We all want to stand on these spots for many years to come, so it is important not to make a big fuss or cause any trouble. Even if a fire is part of a good night out in the Highlands.
The fact that you take your garbage back with you probably doesn't need any extra explanation.
THE SCOTTISH CUISINE
From black pudding for breakfast to fried fish and haggis.
But the cuisine is not as bad as everyone says. Everywhere are small cafes, where you can get very good and fresh things and also most of the modern restaurants have understood that you should have at least one vegetarian dish on the menu.
Here it is worthwhile in any case times to look at Tripadviser and keep a little lookout. From inexpensive to star cuisine, there is everything here. Across the country, there is a generation of chefs who conjure up great things with fantastic, local products and reinterpret old dishes.
TRAIL CENTER AND LOCAL TRAILS
Scotland is a pioneer in Europe when it comes to legal trails.
The largest and very well maintained center is Greltress in the Tweed Valley. It is located about an hour southeast of Edinburgh. Here you can ride everything from short loops, where even children can have fun, to long laps, which are challenging even for fit riders. Difficulty here is not measured in terms of danger, but rather in terms of fitness.
One place further there is another trail center in Innerlithen, which together with Glenrtess makes a region where you can spend several days alone.
Food in and around the Trail Center in Innerlithen
Glen Peel Café
At the start of the routes in Glenntres there is the Glen Peel Café. Here you can get everything from a hearty breakfast (Scottish style) to burgers and stuffed baked potatoes.
If you want to eat here during the day, Glen Peel is the place to be, but in the evening the café closes quite early and does not offer dinner.
Café number 1 - Best Café in Scotland
In the center of the village there is Café NR 1, in my opinion one of the best cafés in Scotland. Here you can get a good Flat White and a Halumi sandwich in the morning and start the day great.
For early risers, however, not suitable, because the cafe opens only around 10 o'clock.
Not only do you always meet well-known riders from the bike scene here, sometimes the operators also organize a ride after closing time with locals from the region.
If you have the chance to get an invitation, you will definitely have a great evening.
Safron Indian Cuisine
The tiny store with three tables is actually a take-away. Here you can eat either the old classics like Tika Masala, but also quite interesting specialties. You should book here in any case, because the store is very small but very popular.
My tips for accommodations and campsites near the trails
Either you book in one of the many B&B in Peebles, which you can find via Google or Air B&B or you choose one of the hotels.
In Glentress there is even a campground where you can either pitch your tent or book one of the small wooden cabins that look like wigwams and offer enough space.
Food in and around the Trail Center in Glenlivit
The Glenlivit Trail Center is a fairly new area. New trails were not added until spring 2022.
Across the Glenlivit Estade on the Spye Side, the very easy trails lead through the partially wooded area. No big skills needed here, which doesn't mean it isn't fun.
Food in Glenlivit
There is also a trail café here, which is waiting for you at the start of the trails with a café and breakfast.
Here you can get simple but delicious food like sandwiches or burgers.
What is especially good here is the panini with cranberries and brie.
About 10 minutes from the Trail Center is the next village Tummintul, where there are several restaurants and pubs.
The best restaurant in the village is the Clockhouse, where you can get classic Scottish cuisine.
Since the village is some kilometers away from the Trail Center, we usually parked our camper in the parking lot of the center. Most of the time there are already some campers there and camping is tolerated.
If you are lucky, the operators of the café even leave the door to the toilets open at night.
Tomintul doesn't offer many options to stop for a bite to eat. But if you want to sleep in the hotel, "The Square" is a good choice. Directly at the village square and next to the restaurant Clockhouse.
TRAIL REGION AROUND ABOYNE AND BALLATER
The region in Abberdeenshire Aboyne and Ballater is relatively new on the map of known trails in Scotland.
There is no trail center in Ballater, but there is the Hardbreak Ridge. A trail that after a long, steep and partly muddy uphill on forest roads turns into a flowy and beautiful path.
The trail meanders all the time on a ridge along and the locals have made a lot of effort in recent years to improve the trail with stones so that it is now relatively easy to ride. only in the lower part there is a passage that you may prefer to push. Who is here in the region and has a bit of adventure, which should plan for the Hardbreak ridge in any case what time.
Aboyne is only a few minutes away by car. This is one of the hot spots in Scotland.
Besides many illegal trails there are now also some official trails.
The new Flow Trail was opened in 2022 and is one of the most flowing trails I have ridden in my life.
The trail meanders perfectly built through sparse forest and has never too much and never too little slope. Simply a huge amount of fun.
Food around Aboyne and Ballater
Eating in Ballater is relatively difficult because everything closes so early. There is a very good grill in Ballater, but you have to be lucky to get a table.
"The Boat Inn in Aboyne is THE address for bikers.
Not far from the trails there are very good burgers and pub food. Since the Boat is also popular with bikers, you have to book well in advance in summer.
Accommodation around Aboyne and Ballater
The Boat In offers rooms that can be booked on site, but also via booking.com. This is the perfect starting point for the trails.
If you want to stay a little more noble, you can also rent a room at the Hilton in Ballater.
There is also a sauna and a wellness area, which invites you to relax after a long day in colder temperatures.
WHAT ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW
Finally, it should be pointed out that although Scotland is not so far away, it is still very different from Germany.
It is much colder
It is more close to nature
The first point is clear. The second is explained by the very rudimentary mobile phone networks. So you can't avoid to put your cell phone away from time to time and enjoy the adventure in the beautiful nature of Scotland.
What sounds so romantic, however, is also important information: Especially in case of accidents it is often difficult to reach rescue quickly. Due to the vastness of Scotland, it can already take a long time until ambulance and Co are on the spot.
Therefore, my tip: Always have first aid material with you and especially a rescue blanket.
Pictures: Scotty Laughland