Launch of Hebridean Mountain Bike Holidays
The Scaladale team are delighted to announce the launch of our mountain biking holidays. We hope that families and groups from all over will join us to enjoy some coached ‘wild riding’ at its finest and most fun, here in the beautiful Outer Hebrides.
We have ‘edge of the world’ outdoors experience holidays available at the centre from this Spring. There are three available weeks in April – April 8 to 14, 15 to 21 and 22 to 28 – and another four in Autumn (October 20 to 26 and November 3 to 9, 10 to 16 and 17 to 23).
Each holiday will include five days of guided mountain biking and coaching in the Isle of Harris, with sessions tailored to the group’s ability and aimed at improving their riding skills.
All bikes are provided free as part of the holiday as the centre was able to buy a fleet of 12 Whyte hardtail mountain bikes thanks to European LEADER Youth LAG funding. The bikes are in a range of sizes, from children and teen sizes through to small, medium and large for adults. Other equipment, such as helmets and safety glasses, is available as well, at no extra cost.
The holidays are run by fully-qualified Scaladale staff, with accommodation provided in the hostel on a self-catering basis. Transfers can be arranged, with pick-ups from the ferry or airport, and we can also arrange for supplies to be delivered prior to and during the holiday, so there will be no need to visit the supermarket.
Our holidays are aimed at people of any age, from 10 upwards, who want to improve their mountain biking – or just enjoy their mountain biking – in a beautiful location with a sense of remoteness yet close proximity to accommodation and conveniences.
A typical programme would begin with a ride up the Bogha Glas track to the bealach near Tom Ruisg on day one, as an introduction to the activity and to allow our instructors to gauge fitness levels. This would take a few hours.
The rest of the programme could be tailored around whatever the group wanted, with the last day usually consisting of ‘the loop’ route from Bogha Glas through the hills all the way to Miabhag – a distance of 13 miles and around five hours.
Scaladale Centre manager Kate Lewis, who moved to Harris in 2016, said: “The first day is really good because it gives me an idea of where people are at with mountain biking. You can gauge their fitness and ability and then tailor the rest of the week to progress them from that point – and it sets up the challenge of, by day five, doing the whole route through to Miabhag.”
This guided ride from Bogha Glas to Miabhag has been offered by Scaladale in the past as part of the Isle of Harris Mountain Festival.
“It is a challenge,” said Kate. “I’ve done it as a guided route with groups of every ability and experience and everyone loved it.
“I want to encourage people, whatever level they are at, to get as much fun and enjoyment out of mountain biking as possible.
“There’s lots of riding you can do on Harris that’s not too challenging but very remote, so you get that wonderful feeling of wilderness and being in the middle of nowhere.
“For people who come on holiday, that’s what they want. It’s certainly what I wanted, when I came here.”
The mountain biking holidays include several short days so that groups can also enjoy some sightseeing, whether to the Callanish Stones, Luskentyre beach or anywhere else – and our staff are more than happy to act as guides and drive holidaymakers to the sights in the centre minibus.
The holidays are only available in the Spring and Autumn as our centre is too busy with other activities and residentials for young people during the warmer months.
We have a total of eight spaces available each week and they are aimed at families or groups – typically two groups of four – who want to improve their ‘wild riding’ skills.
Kate said: “Mountain biking is so beneficial for mental and physical wellbeing and just stacks of fun! There is some amazing riding in Harris but it can be hard to know where to go.
“These holidays would be perfect for those who have not, as yet, done much ‘wild’ riding – those who are enjoying blues and reds at tail centres, for example, but would not yet be confident in setting out into the relative wilderness of the Outer Hebrides unguided. It is also sustainable tourism directly benefitting the local community.”
The riding will be in coastal, mountain and woodland locations with qualified mountain bike leaders. The five days will be progressive and tailor to each group’s abilities and fitness – which will definitely improve during the week.
The informal atmosphere at the centre, which is unsupervised at night-time, is another plus and there are indoor games and stunning views to be enjoyed from the communal area when not riding.
Also, additional activities such as archery and abseiling can be arranged and those booking the November holidays will be able to make use of our indoor ice rink, which is dismantled in April to make room for more activities during the warmer months.
Kate said: “The holidays will be very family friendly and aimed at people of any age who want to improve their mountain biking in an incredible wild environment.
“The holidays will be quite affordable compared to other guided riding holidays as they will be using our self-catering hostel.
“We are ready to take bookings for our first holidays which will be during three weeks in April. We will only take eight on each week and tailor the holiday to their needs.
“We thought it was important to provide great bikes for our visitors, so that people who only have a week for their holiday don’t have to waste days and nights doing the long haul with a car or van full of bikes. We can give advice on good ways to get here via planes, trains and buses.
“We are very grateful to Whyte Bikes for their support for this project, which is also LEADER funded for the first two years. All we need now is support from holidaymakers to make this into a win-win adventure for all of us.”
The new holiday packages are sustainable tourism at its finest, as the money from the holidays is to go to supporting the outreach mountain biking run by Scaladale in Lewis and Harris.
This is a programme of free mountain bike sessions in the Lews Castle Grounds in Stornoway, run during the school holidays for children from families from the most remote corners of the islands.
The outreach programme has been funded by LEADER for two years but we hope to be able to sustain the free biking sessions ourselves in the longer term with income from the holidays.
Two of these outreach sessions, for which children can be picked up by minibus and taken home again, are being run every school holiday. They began in Autumn 2018, with sessions also over Christmas, and are usually full.
Scaladale is an outdoor centre and hostel owned by The Lewis and Harris Youth Club Association, a charity supporting a network of youth clubs in the Outer Hebrides.
By booking a holiday with Scaladale, guests are supporting the Lewis and Harris Youth Club Association’s valuable work with young people, engaging them with outdoor activities and equipping them with life skills.
In fact, the two instructors who work alongside manager Kate – year-round instructor Calum Blane and seasonal instructor Finlay Emmott – gained experience and qualifications in outdoor activities through a Scaladale Young Leader programme run from 2016 to 2018 and funded mainly by the Lewis and Harris Youth Club Association with support from Youth Scotland.
The holidays can be booked directly through our website or by contacting us by telephone or email.