Three holidays for cycling enthusiasts
Stuart Watkins looks at three of the best cycling holidays in the Scottish Highlands and Europe.
The stunning landscape around the summit of Beinn Eighe, a peak near the village of Torridon in the Scottish Highlands, has "well and truly arrived on the mountain-biking map", says Roo Fowler in Mountain Bike Rider. Fowler went "old school", arriving with just a big map and a hostel booked for the night, and if you're figuring it all out for yourself, you'll be spoilt for choice: there are "so many amazing trails threading their way through the landscape it's barely believable".
If you're on a tight schedule, however, you'll be better off speaking to a tour guide. Either way, if you can "outrun the midges and dodge the rain, you'll enjoy one of the best mountain-bike experiences in the world".
A slow trip through Romania
If you want to get away from the bustle of modern life, try a "slow-cycling" holiday in Transylvania, Romania, "where the emphasis is on experiencing local food and culture, not madly dashing from A to B", says Will Hide in The Daily Telegraph. You pedal sedately along country roads shared only with a horse and cart, past pastures filled with an "amazing array of wild flowers", and amble along shaded woodland tracks. At each stop, you rest in hamlets unchanged for hundreds of years bar the comfortable 21st-century guest houses.
The Slow Cyclist has five-night trips to Transylvania from £1,175 per person, including meals.
A challenging ride in Italy
Deep in the heart of Italy lie wild mountains, isolated roads and a 31km climb of the Gran Sasso, made famous by the Giro d'Italia, one of cycling's grand tour races, says Mark Bailey in Cyclist magazine. It makes for an unforgettable trip, but not one for the faint-hearted. The rewards for the brave, however, are considerable. The Gran Sasso national park is a "2,014 square kilometre arena of brooding limestone and dolomite peaks, slithering glaciers and seductively silent roads" in the Apennines of central Italy. The "spiritual silence and aristocratic grandeur is enough to make any cyclist stop pedalling and stare".
The rides takes you from the city of L'Aquila to chilly and primeval peaks, through the eerie emptiness and raw beauty of the mountain landscape, to atmospheric hilltop villages and historic cities, alongside gurgling rivers and rocky plateaux. It is a 38km cycling odyssey that is well worth making.