characters of the Cairngorms


Our Biking & Shinty Community: Characters of the Cairngorms

Ed Smith, an internationally published photographer based in Kingussie has been out capturing images of some of the inspiring “Characters of the Cairngorms” you might see out and about or engage with on your adventures here.
We tasked Ed with the challenge of capturing these folk’s spiritual connection to the Cairngorms and the amazing landscape we live in, how it gets into their hearts and makes them proud to call the Cairngorms National Park home.

We want to inspire you to explore on a granular level, look at nature through the eyes of the communities, develop a deeper connection with the land and its people, to respect and protect it and enjoy your time here.

The Cairngorms are unique in that different communities, cultures, characters and wildlife live within its boundaries in harmony, connected by the land. The landscape has influenced culture; the history, heritage, food & the importance of language and dialect.

These Cairngorms Characters bring our culture to life and here we take a look at some of the people who feature in our Biking and Shinty Community. Many of the local Shinty players bike to keep fit too.The Cairngorms are a wonderful place to explore on your bike to take in the landscape and breath the fresh air.

Anna Riddell, Rideout Coaching

Anna has a tangible passion and energy for mountain biking which is impossible to hide. Her joy of sharing this led her to start RideOut mountain bike coaching in 2015, regularly coaching and guiding fellow bikers through the incredible terrain of the Cairngorms National Park. Whilst also a founder of Limitlass, a mountain bike event for women, Anna continues to compete in enduro competitions with a progressive mindset that sees no obstacles for those seeking to advance their skills on the trails.

Cristian Pizarro, Laggan Wolftrax Mountain Bike Trail Centre:

Neither Laggan Wolftrax or Cycle Friendly Kingussie would be the same without the smiling Chilean and passion for mountain biking which Cristian brings to the area. An incredibly active community member he is often spotted out on his mountain bike but this time is matched by the work he puts in pouring over the likes of maps and applications to do his bit in developing the mountain biking infrastructure which thousands of people visiting Strathspey enjoy each year.

John Robertson, Kingussie Camanachd Club:

Shinty is at the beating heart of local culture here in the Cairngorms National Park, driven by characters such as John Robertson, whose passion and love for both the land, and the sport, are contagious.

A fine forward for Kingussie and Tayforth, before injury cut-short his shinty career, John has become one of the longest serving committee members of Kingussie Camanachd Club

Having been pivotal to every project undertaken by the club for over 30 years, he was awarded the British Empire Medal in 2019 for his services to the club and the wider community in Kingussie

Famous for his carrier bag full of paperwork at club meetings, John is regularly seen walking the shinty pitch (usually bare foot), even in the off season, and helping to maintain its new grandstand and facilities. 

For John, and many other Shinty lovers, it’s much more than just a sport and the green turf is much more than just a pitch; it’s a spiritual ground to be revered and respected where players, and spectators alike, can connect with a collective which is more than the sum of its individual parts.

Jamie Edmondson, Glenlivet Mountain Bike Trail Centre:

Growing up in the Cairngorms fostered, not only a love of the land for Jamie Edmondson, but also a passion for mountain biking, like many young boys living in the area. Jamie has managed to realise his dream of making it to the World Cups and Enduro World Series.

Not only that, he’s dedicating his life to sharing this passion and knowledge with the wider world, so others, too, can discover the delights of biking in the majestic mountains, whether they are beginners or experienced riders. 

His family took over the Glenlivet Trail Centre and set about building one of the best trail centres in Scotland – with Jamie taking responsibility for digging and track building, which he did with great enthusiasm and passion. Apparently when the design team thought they were “going big”, Jamie then encouraged them to, always, “go bigger”.

Jamie’s love of the land also comes out in how he designs bike trails – he always pushes to have the minimum number of trees cut down for a trail and Glenlivet has been designed so the trail fits seamlessly into the landscape, rather than changing it.

This is undoubtedly a young man going places. Fast. And downhill. On a mountain bike. We are excited to watch his ascent through the sport as he turns 21 and moves into the Elite categories of his chosen Down Hill and Enduro disciplines.  

Annie Lloyd Evans & Huw Oliver, Glen Feshie:

This is the Cairngorms equivalent of a ‘power’ couple.

A trip to Iceland in 2014 apparently cemented the pair’s belief that life is better from the bike saddle and so they try and live this way as much as possible, on epic rides, often into the unknown.

Huw set a new record of 17hrs 53mins to mountain bike the technical 300km ‘Cairngorm Loops’ circuit within the Cairngorms National Park in 2021. And Annie became the first person ever to complete a winter circuit of the gruelling ‘Highland Trail 550’ – a five hundred and fifty mile remote and technical self supported mountain bike route around the Highlands – which she did in December 2021 in gruelling conditions.

As well as setting themselves personal missions, they also inspire other people to get on their bikes, too, in their roles as instructors. With Glen Feshie on their doorstep, they love taking aspiring mountain bikers out into the fresh air to connect with their inner-adventurer – and always, as they journey, leaving no trace that they were ever there.

Rona & Mairi Stewart, Badenoch Ladies Shinty Club

Known affectionately as “the Stewies”, shinty players Rona and Mairi Stewart are Badenoch’s answer to the sporting sisters Venus and Serena Williams. According to insiders of the competitive Highland sport, Mairi’s sprint prowess rivals Usain Bolt and Rona executes one of the best blocks in Scotland (and that’s including the male players, too!). They can often be spotted out on their bikes trying to beat each other on the strava segments around Kingussie.

Both sisters play for Badenoch Ladies, which fields its team from Laggan to Aviemore, and have represented Scotland at shinty. Full of banter on and off the pitch and like so many shinty characters, they are a spectacle to behold in action but their favourite venue, is their home one, at the Dell, Kingussie. Catch the girls in action on a Sunday at The Dell or away at games all over Scotland. Follow the club for their latest fixtures.

Russell Jones, Kingussie Camanachd Club:

When Russell Jones left the shinty playing world in 2016, where he was much respected and admired, he quickly swapped his boots for wheels. Soon, he discovered a new passion: for long distance cycling, and made the trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats unsupported.

This ignited a desire within him to embrace the growing sport of bikepacking racing. From 2016 – 2021 Russell also completed the 4,200 mile Trans Am Bike Race across the U.S., the 4,500 mile North Cape to Tarifa Bike Race, the 1,500 mile TransAtlantic Way and the 550 mile Highland Trail 550. All this whilst proudly representing Kingussie Camanachd Club, via his shinty team socks, as a long serving committee member and President of the club since 2012. 

The Speyside Way and its surrounding landscape is a regular haunt as Russel trains with an understated and quiet demeanour that grafts towards his impressive feats on a bike and contributions to local Shinty heritage.   

Ed is an internationally published photographer based in Kingussie where he is also the owner of Eleven41 Gallery. @edsmithphoto

Characters of the Cairngorms

Read more about our Characters of the Cairngorms and their stories here……

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