A group of three female adventurers have tackled an epic cycling adventure – first done in 1936.
As part of their 90th anniversary celebrations and in support of Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022, Hostelling Scotland have teamed up with the Adventure Syndicate, a group of female adventurers and storytellers who promote mental and physical wellbeing through their outdoor endeavours, to recreate an epic 500-mile cycle and youth hostelling adventure from the 1930s.
The original two-week, two wheeled holiday was carried out by 17-year-old hosteller Mary Harvie, from Shotts in North Lanarkshire, with her two older sisters, Ella and Jean, in 1936. This epic journey, that began in Glasgow and saw the women explore the North West Highlands, Skye, Highland Perthshire, and Stirlingshire, was documented in Mary’s diary.
The diary extracts, that capture the true spirit of hostelling, are a very poignant and insightful account of this epic journey, both on and off the bike, featuring some of Scotland’s most iconic sites, stunning countryside, environment and natural heritage. The extracts were recently published in Hostelling Scotland’s 2021 Members’ Handbook in celebration of the charity’s 90 Anniversary. You can read these HERE.
Last month, Lee Craigie, Alice Lemkes, and Phillipa Battye from the Adventure Syndicate set out from Glasgow Youth Hostel on their own seven-day, 500-mile, on and off-road cycle adventure, an appreciation of the Harvie sisters’ incredible cycling trip.
In order to avoid some busy traffic on their planned route, they headed off road making use of old drove roads and forgotten singletrack, while also facing sections of mountainous ‘hike a bike’ and bog trotting.
Lee Craigie, founder of the Adventure Syndicate, said: ‘We’re so excited to take the inspiration for our next challenge from a journey between Hostelling Scotland’s Youth Hostels, first made in the 1930’s, and add our own modern day twist!
‘Bike technology has evolved since the 1930s but the mentality of exploration and adventure has always been present [see https://www.rsf.org.uk/]. People have been using bikes to explore remote places for generations so now, with the increased traffic on our roads since this journal was first written, we’re keen to explore the off-road alternatives where possible.’
The Adventure Syndicate’s chosen route, inspired by Mary Harvie’s diaries, departed from Glasgow Youth Hostel and incorporated overnight stays at Crianlarich, Glencoe, Ratagan, Portree, Torridon, Gairloch and Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostels.
In recognition of VisitScotland’s Year of Stories (2022) the Adventure Syndicate documented their adventures through daily social media posts, mobile phone photography, and a travel journal, their own 20th Century diary. A short video of their cycle challenge will be launched in 2022.
Mary Harvie was born in Shotts, Lanarkshire, in 1918. In the summer of 1936, when Mary was just 17-years-old, she joined her two older sisters, Ella and Jean, on an epic 500-mile cycling adventure touring Scotland’s Youth Hostels, on a route that took her from Glasgow to the North West Highlands and Skye, Highland Perthshire, Stirlingshire and back home to Shotts.
Mary kept a diary of her two-week holiday. The diary extracts make fascinating reading and are a real gem of a reminder of days gone by and the true spirit of Hostelling that is still alive and thriving today.
The Hostelling Scotland led cycling project to recreate Mary’s cycling trip in 2021 was born from a chance conversation between Mary’s son, Harvie Paterson, and Karl and Lorna, who manage Hostelling Scotland’s Port Charlotte Youth Hostel on the Isle of Islay.
Like his mother, Harvie has been a Hosteller for many years. He has made regular trips to Islay on his bike over the last 12 years. In 2020 he told Lorna that as a Covid-19 Lockdown project he had transcribed the diaries of his Mother’s cycling tour of Scottish Youth Hostels in 1936.
He has also provided the Northern Irish Hostelling Association with diary extracts from a trip his mother made to Ireland which now has pride of place in their archives.
With the kind permission of Harvie, Hostelling Scotland published the diary entries of his mother’s trip in their 90th Anniversary issue of their annual Members’ Handbook. Harvie, who is in his 70s, was delighted to see his mother’s story being brought to life in print.
However, the management team at Hostelling Scotland always felt that there was more that could be done to bring this fantastic story to life, not only to celebrate Hostelling Scotland’s 90 Anniversary in 2021 but also in recognition of VisitScotland’s Year of Stories in 2022.
The route chosen by the Adventure Syndicate is a close representation of the original journey.
The route was:
Day one – Glasgow to Crianlarich – 55 miles
Day two – Crianlarich to Glencoe – 43 miles
Day three – Glencoe to Rattigan – 100 miles
Day four – Rattigan to Portree – 66 miles
Day five – Portree to Torridon – 80 miles
Day six – Torridon to Gairloch – 30 miles
Day seven – Gairloch to Aviemore – 116 miles
This collaborative project between the Adventure Syndicate and Hostelling Scotland will be used to promote positive mental health through outdoor adventure, activity and cycling; as well as cycling as an accessible form of sustainable tourism. It will also highlight Youth Hostels as comfortable and affordable bases for on and off road cycling adventures throughout Scotland.
Hostelling Scotland is a self-funding charity operating a network of nearly 60 exceptional youth and affiliate hostels for the benefit of all those wishing to learn and experience what Scotland has to offer. Their unique sites provide affordable, comfortable, safe and quality-assured accommodation with a warm friendly welcome, local knowledge, activities and services for guests travelling around Scotland.
Find out more about Hostelling Scotland HERE.
The Adventure Syndicate are a not-for-profit organisation made up of female adventurers and storytellers whose ambitious endurance endeavours inspire, encourage and enable others (especially women and girls) to adventure sustainably for the good of their health and happiness and that of the environment.
The Adventure Syndicate is led by Lee Craigie, the former British Mountain Bike champion, child therapist and the Active Nation Commissioner for Scotland.
Find out more about The Adventure Syndicate HERE.