Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Strathdon Gearing Up To Welcome Cyclists

Days after welcoming thousands of visitors to the area for the annual Lonach Highland Gathering and Games, the Aberdeenshire community of Strathdon is gearing up to greet  hundreds of cyclists.


Bellabeg Park in Strathdon – the venue for the Lonach Highland Gathering and Games – is set to be transformed into a pop-up campsite for around 900 cyclists and accompanying support crew taking part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain.  The group will wheel into Bellabeg on Friday [13 September] to stay overnight having completed the seventh day of their 980-mile, nine-day ride from Land’s End to John o’Groats.

Marquees and a sea of camping tents will fill Bellabeg Park, which just three weeks ago played host to over 7,500 people enjoying the Lonach Gathering and iconic march of the Lonach Highlanders.  The games field beside the River Don will provide an overnight oasis of calm for the cyclists in between two of the most gruelling days in the saddle along the route. 

Prior to their arrival in Strathdon late on Friday afternoon, the cyclists will have pedalled over 110 miles and ascended over 7,000 feet since setting off from Hopetoun House outside Edinburgh that morning.  The route north will take them over the Forth Road Bridge, through Fife, Perth and Blairgowrie, before downshifting through the gears to take on the gruelling Cairnwell Pass through Glenshee.

After some respite on the flat roads through Braemar and alongside the River Dee, the cyclists will leave Royal Deeside at Crathie.  There they will commence a challenging climb to Gairnshiel Bridge and then onwards up over the A939 to drop down into Donside at Corgarff, before heading east to Bellabeg.

The following morning, after only eight miles on the road the group will face a punishing two-and-a-half-mile, 20% gradient climb up the Lecht.  A further 100-plus miles of pedalling through Grantown-on-Spey, Inverness, Beauly and Dingwall is ahead of them on the Saturday before they reach their overnight halt at the Kyle of Sutherland.  Sunday will see the cyclists cover 100 miles to reach their final destination of John o’Groats.

With the support of the local community, the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society, which organises the annual Lonach Highland gathering and Games, is preparing to give the group a rousing welcome into Bellabeg.  The Lonach Pipe Band and members of the Lonach Highlanders will greet the cyclists, while a display of Highland dancing by pupils from the Lonach Society School of Dancing will entertain them throughout the evening.  A pop-up bar run by members of the Lonach Hall committee will also be available for the participants.

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: “When the cyclists roll into Bellabeg Park on Friday afternoon it will look quite different from what it did a few weeks ago.  After what will be quite a gruelling day for the riders, through spectacular scenery, they can be assured of a warm welcome, for which Lonach is famed.  It is great that the local Strathdon community is coming together to cheer on the participants.”

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