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Haggis, Neeps and Chatty - Scotland, the home of…cycling?!

Blog post   •   Jul 20, 2015 10:13 BST

Now, bear with me on this one.

As anyone in the tourism industry or, in fact, the whole of Scotland who hasn’t been living under a rock for the last 500 years will be able to tell you, Scotland is the home of Golf.

The past weekend saw The 144th Open Championship played at St Andrews – by all accounts an extraordinary event and one that will bring £100 million into the Scottish economy I’m not a golf enthusiast but I do recognise the significant economic benefit that it brings to Scotland and the passion many people have for the sport - the same kind of passion that I have for cycling.

And I’m going to try and prove to you in a 700 word blog post that Scotland is ALSO the Home of Cycling.

The Scots have invented many things in our long history – the telephone, the television, penicillin - all of which we will be celebrating in The Year of Innovation Architecture & Design 2016 - but none more important to me than the bicycle.

The possible invention and one of the first recorded uses of the bicycle by a blacksmith named Kirkpatrick MacMillan, in 1839 is one of my favourite little anecdotes from the annals of Scottish innovation history.

It was reported by a Glasgow newspaper that MacMillan was involved in an accident in which a "gentleman from Dumfries-shire... bestride a velocipede... of ingenious design" knocked over a pedestrian in the Gorbals and was fined five shillings.

We have a similarly eccentric history with competitive cycling. Graeme Obree is arguably the greatest individual to have been a World Hour Record holder due to his amateur status at the time of completing his records, his unusual riding style and handmade bikes.

Mark Beaumont, the bicycle explorer, has completed every long distance, pan-continental, record-breaking ride you could think of.

Danny Macaskill, the young man from Skye who can do mind-boggling things with his bike. The video of Danny riding the Cuillin Ridge last year went viral and astonished even the most seasoned of mountain bikers.

And of course, let’s not forget Edinburgh-boy, Chris Hoy, the powerhouse of British Cycling who will forever be remembered for his record six gold Olympic medals.

Furthermore, Scotland hosts an incredible selection of world-class cycling events every year. From the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup at Fort William, a round of the World Enduro Series at the Tweedlove Festival in the Borders and, this year, two stages of the Tour of Britain - we have an enviable selection of events across all disciplines.

Haggis Neeps and Chatty - The home of... Me and a friend mountain biking at Glentress, part of the venue for Round 7 of the World Enduro Series at Tweedlove Bike Festival.

Let’s not forget the amateur racers who travel all over the country to various ‘sportives’ and events such as the Etape Royale, a closed road event in Aberdeenshire; the Bealach Mor, a ride over the highest road climb in Britain and the Strathpuffer 24-hour mountain bike event held in January with 18 hours of darkness (which I’m on the waiting list for…gulp).

All of these events and many more bring with them high-spend visitors, all of whom will be looking for quality accommodation and food and drink. Especially cakes; we cyclists like cakes.

Cycle-based tourism is estimated to be worth up to £362 million to the Scottish economy. It’s a third of what golf is worth (predicted to be over £1 billion) but it is growing and growing and recent figures suggest golfers are dropping their clubs and jumping on new bikes in large numbers.

Now none of this is to take away from our world-leading golf product. Years-gone-by even saw me as a youngster cycling to the driving range with a set of clubs on my back.

This year sees an unprecedented nine tournaments across the country and with the Ryder Cup last year, never has there been a better time to capitalise on one of our greatest assets. VisitScotland Events directorate plays a pivotal role in securing and investing in these events.

Haggis Neeps and Chatty - The home of...2 I don’t play golf, although I’m tempted by this picture of a friend playing in Aberdeenshire in November.

Now whether its golf or cycling – I think we can agree both activities are highly in demand in Scotland. Why not capitalise on both of these lucrative markets through our Golfers Welcome and Cyclists Welcome schemes?

Next time you’re passing a cyclist on the road, they could be the next Chris Hoy or Katie Archibald or they could even be a lost visitor looking for somewhere to warm up and take the weight off their legs! But either way, remember what they’re worth to our economy and perhaps we can get more people asking whether Scotland could well be the Home of Cycling in the future.


P.S. If any other countries would like to get in touch to dispute my claim feel free to contact me below or get me on Twitter @leoanthelion. I’m hoping our French counterparts are suitably distracted by the Tour de France to not be reading this…