Challenge Yourself

27 January 2017

 Hercules

Photo: Herculean Sportive

Holidays are not always about relaxing on a beach and taking it easy, some people like to challenge themselves in order to maximise their hard earned down time. Here is a collection of the most intriguing, appealing and downright crazy physical challenges that you could sign up for this summer and some amazing places to relax afterwards.

The very first St Kilda Challenge takes place this June and will see yachts assemble in Lochmaddy then race round St Kilda before returning. It is hoped to attract sailors from all over this country for a unique opportunity to race in the waters of the Minch, the Sound of Harris and the Atlantic. For sailors without a competitive streak, there will also be a flotilla of boats following behind at a gentler pace allowing sailors the option of stopping and visiting the island. Clachan Sands Cottage on North Uist is a convenient place to stay if you are taking part in the race but it also has stunning views over the Sound of Harris, so you may be able to see the competitors on their way out and back again from the comfort of the hot tub. For a vibrant night out then Lochmaddy Hotel, which has been a favourite of yachties for a number of years due to its proximity to the harbour is likely to have its busiest night of the year after the race.

The Loch Ness Beast Race markets itself as Scotland’s toughest obstacle course with a variety of challenges over its 10km distance. Slide into the icy loch water, drag yourself through thick mud, over vertical wooden walls, scramble over cargo nets, squeeze through tunnels and slide your way to victory. House by the Loch is nearby and makes a great venue for a large group who want to do adventures and activities on holiday. It has a games room, zipwire and is close to spots for fishing and wild swimming.

The story of Hercules the bear and his adventures while on the run in the Western Isles in 1980 has passed into local folklore. He focussed the attention of the world’s media on North Uist and brought panic to the locals, after absconding during the filming of a TV advert on Benbecula and then surviving in the wilds of the islands for 24 days. His odyssey is the inspiration for a new bike race to be held this August. Competitors in The Herculean Sportive will attempt to follow in the footsteps of one of the oddest celebrities the island has produced by riding to five different islands and going past the spot where a life-size statue of him marks the spot where his remains were reinterred in 2015. At 90 miles it will be a tough challenge but what better spot to relax afterwards than in a traditional thatched cottage by the sea. Cuir na Bhoir is close to the half way point of the race so would also make a great stopover if you wanted to do the route over two days at a gentler pace.

The Five Ferry Challenge is not a race that takes part on a certain day, rather it is a personal challenge that can be attempted anytime. Officially it starts with the first ferry of the morning from Ardrossan to Arran and finishes in Wemyss Bay after the ferry from Bute but it can be done in any direction and from any starting point. Logistics is the key here, making sure you time your cycling efforts around the Calmac schedule but the ferry rides are enjoyable in themselves and serve as useful rests for you to refuel before the next leg of your ride. The quiet roads and scenic views make this part of Scotland perfect for cycling, something that has led to an explosion in the number of cycling events here, the most famous being the Cowal Peninsula Sportive and Festival of Cycling on Bute. Kilfinan House is right in the centre of the best areas for riding so makes a great base for your own bike and ferry explorations.

Oban is a paddlers’ paradise, its clear waters, sheltered bays and stunning islands have drawn kayakers here for decades and it is now home to a huge selection of guides and hire shops. The highlight of the year for paddlers is the annual Sea Kayak Race from the harbour around the island of Kerrera and back again. The top racers finish in incredible times but it is an accessible event that is supposed to be fun for those who just want to finish this iconic paddling route. Rhunacairn is just up the coast on the shoreline of Loch Etive and you can kayak from outside the front door!