Off-road bike alternative to North Coast 500 in new Appetite for Adventure food tourism film

A food tourism-themed off-road alternative to part of the North Coast 500 has been captured on film to promote cycling and walking and Scotland’s network of rural youth hostels.

The short film Appetite for Adventure charts a 250-mile mountain bike trek by The Adventure Syndicate – led by Scottish Government’s active travel ambassador Lee Craigie – across the north west from Strathcarron to Durness.

It shows the trio teaming up with Scottish food tourism ambassador and author of A Taste of the Highlands Ghillie Basan to forage wild food, visit croft gardens and other local producers before cooking together in the self-catering kitchens of the Hostelling Scotland hostels they stayed at along the way. Some dishes were prepared on outdoor fires.

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Those featured over the five-day journey include Highland Charcuterie & Smokehouse in Oldshoremore, Ingrid Ritchie's Garden in Achmelvich, Lochview Croft in Drumbeg and Cape Wrath Oysters, and youth hostels at Torridon, Gairloch Sands, Achmelvich Beach and Durness Smoo.

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Craigie explains in the ten-minute film, to be launched at Hostelling Scotland’s annual general meeting in Glasgow today, their alternative to the NC500 was “an effort to do things more simply and slowly”.

It shows Craigie and fellow syndicateers Alice Lemkes and Phillipa Battye – “a group of female adventurers whose endurance endeavours and storytelling inspire others to adventure sustainably” – pushing and carrying their bikes on some unrideable sections.

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Contrasting their route to the ease of travelling the NC500 by car, Craigie said: “When people ask us why we choose to make life hard for ourselves by finding off-road alternatives to perfectly good tarmac, we do have to think for a second. But then we remember that an easy and convenient adventure does not always mean a joyful and satisfying one. We find that ‘joyful and satisfying’ usually tastes better when it’s been earned.”

Basan, whose son Zeki assisted filmmaker Maciek Tomiczek, said: "I used to stay in youth hostels back in the ‘70s and by God, they have changed. We had to perform duties back then like cleaning the toilet and we lived off boil-in-the-bag Vesta curries as there were no utensils to cook in. What a transformation.

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Parts of the route were unrideable. Picture: Maciek Tomiczek

"For the Appetite for Adventure trip, we dined on crab and langoustines, local vegetables and artisan produce with ease. The hostel kitchens were better kitted out than my own and I am supposed to be some sort of cookery expert."

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Hostelling Scotland chief executive Margo Paterson said: “We pride ourselves on being able to offer our guests expert local knowledge on where to go and what to see and local food and drink is a key part of that. This campaign is a celebration of the world-class produce that can be found on the doorsteps of our youth hostels.

"Restrictions on social distancing during the pandemic prevented us from opening our self-catering kitchens and we know this was one of the facilities that hostellers missed the most. Being able to cook up a storm in the company of family, friends and fellow adventurers is a key part of the hostelling experience and we are very pleased they’ve made a welcome return.”

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Much of the 250-mile route was off road. Picture: Maciek Tomiczek
The five-day trip included al fresco dining. Picture: Maciek Tomiczek

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