Monday, 16 September 2019

Cyclists Wheel Into Strathdon And A Lonach Welcome

Hundreds of people cycling from Land’s End to John o’Groats pedalled into Strathdon last Friday [13 September] after an arduous day in the saddle and received a rousing welcome thanks to the organisers of one of Aberdeenshire’s oldest and most iconic Highland Games.

The Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, which organises the annual Lonach Highland Gathering and Games, lined up a traditional Highland reception for the cyclists after they arrived in Strathdon, completing the seventh day of their 980-mile, nine-day ride.  The group of around 900 cyclists and accompanying support crew were taking part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain and stayed overnight in a pop-up campsite at Bellabeg Park, the venue for the annual Lonach Gathering.

Ensuring the cyclists visit to Strathdon was a memorable one, the society arranged for the Lonach Pipe Band and members of the Lonach Highlanders to greet the group who had covered over 110 miles on that day’s leg from Hopetoun House near Edinburgh.  Further demonstrating the community welcome that was laid on, dancers from the Lonach Society School of Dancing entertained the cyclists with a display of traditional Highland dancing, while members of the Lonach Hall committee ran a pop-up bar.

A sea of camping tents and a number of large marquees were erected in Bellabeg Park, which three weeks earlier had hosted around 7,500 people who were attending the iconic Highland Games.

The overnight halt in Donside came amid two of the most gruelling days in the saddle for the cyclists.  The route from Edinburgh to Aberdeenshire saw them climb a total of 7,000 feet, including ascents of the Cairnwell Pass through Glenshee and tackling the hilly Crathie to Corgarff road.

Eight miles into the following morning’s 118-mile stage to the Kyle of Sutherland, the cyclists encountered a demanding two-and-a-half mile, 20% gradient climb up the Lecht.  Stage nine then saw the group cover a further 100 miles to reach their final destination, John o’Groats.

Organised by Threshold Sports, the Deloitte Ride Across Britain is an annual nine-day cycling event that sees participants complete a 980-mile route from one end of Britain to the other.  A three-day, 330-mile Scotland package is also available.  The event supports a number of charities, including principal charity partner The Prince’s Trust.

Jennifer Stewart, secretary and chief executive of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, said: “Bellabeg Park was a very welcome sight for the cyclists.  The climbs up through Glenshee and over from Crathie to Corgarff are quite something, but the spectacular views they afford will have more than made up for the exertion.  That scenery and those climbs will have been captured in plenty of photographs.  The cyclists appreciated the Lonach Hall’s pop-up bar and enjoyed a beer or two in the evening.  They probably savoured it more knowing the climb that faced them the next morning.

“In recognition of the effort the cyclists made to get to Strathdon, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society wanted to make it a memorable visit for them.  With the Lonach Pipe Band, members of the Lonach Highlanders and also the young dancers from the Lonach Society School of Dancing, they received a unique and fitting Highland welcome after wheeling into Bellabeg Park.  As the pipe band entered the field the cyclists’ reaction was incredible.  People were slightly in awe and clamoured to get pictures and videos.  It was great to see.”

More information on the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, including maps of the entire route, is available at


Established in 1823, by Sir Charles Forbes, 1st Baronet of Newe and Edinglassie, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society is a charitable organisation based in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire.  The society organises the annual Lonach Gathering at Bellabeg Park, Strathdon, which is held on the fourth Saturday of August.  The main attraction at the gathering is the march of the Lonach Highlanders, a unique body of non-military men.  Further information on the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, the Lonach Highlanders and the annual Lonach Highland Gathering can be found at