Athlete, broadcaster & ambassador
Celebrating a decade of world firsts, pushing ultra endurance, sharing inspiring journeys and helping businesses to perform. Mark Beaumont’s documentaries, events and books about ultra endurance and adventure have taken audiences to over 100 countries.
Outside of sport and broadcasting, Mark is a business ambassador and speaker, as well as working with a number of charities and educational organisations.
How did your Scottish childhood contribute to your extraordinary passion for cycling?
Being homeschooled in rural Perthshire gave me an immense freedom and sense of self. I was always happy spending long periods on my own adventuring. There was always a huge amount of work to do as well, with around 60 goats to milk before breakfast each day, 200 hens to collect eggs from, 13 horses to put out, muck out and ride, it was always busy. Between all of that, I spent an hour or two around the kitchen table doing some school work. So you can imagine by the time I graduated to the playground at the age of 12, I was a pretty ferrel child, far more comfortable skiing up Glenshee, taking a horse for a long hack or cycling my bike across Scotland (from Dundee to Oban) than sitting in a classroom all day. I wanted to wear overalls, not a blazer and tie. Having said all that, I did well at my exams, and ended up enjoying high school despite some gentle bullying for a few years whilst I learnt to fit in a bit better. But the freedom, the athleticism and the wanderlust was already firmly there from life on the farm. I was never part of a cycling club, never entered a race, my passion for the bike always came from where it could take me, the want to explore.
You’ve cycled the North Coast 500, a route which is on many a travel bucket list. What would you say are the advantages of doing it by bike rather than by car?
If you can cycle any route anywhere, let alone the NC500, one of the best touring routes on the planet, you will appreciate it better from the speed of a bicycle. Going slow fast enough to experience a lot, slow enough to appreciate it all, your senses are completely switched on to everything, unlike by car or motorbike. Walking might be fun for all it’s detail, but unlike the Proclaimers, not many of us have time to walk 500 miles! From a bike you experience the world like a wonderful slideshow of places, people and landscapes. What also heightens this experience is your physical and mental struggle, your need to fuel yourself, work out logistics. Your sheer effort is rewarded by the glory of the route, unlike being a passenger by any other means of travel. However, when I first rode the route I 1 a passenger by any other means of travel. However, when I first rode the route I did so in 37 hours, non-stop. And more recently I filmed it for Global Cycling Network in 3 days unsupported, which is still a tough feat of endurance. I have also done the route as part of a 3000 mile training ride before racing around the planet, London to London via the British coast, at the pace of 225 miles a day. My point is that none of these are the optimal pace to enjoy the north of Scotland by bicycle… take a week!
Cycling burns off some pretty serious calories, when you’re doing a challenge in Scotland what national snacks do you reach for, and meals do you enjoy at the end of the day?
When I am bike packing I always have oatcakes in my bags, they are such a great staple food, for breakfast lunch or dinner, you can laden on heather honey for a sweet treat, or Strathdon Blue or Black Crowdie cheese, for something savoury. I’m also a big fan of the Tunnock Caramel, but perhaps I shouldn’t admit to that. The only downside is that milk chocolate melts very easily, even in Scotland, so best eaten as soon it is bought! I’ll often cook up a porridge ahead of a big ride, chopping in sliced banana and cinnamon with sugar to give it a tropical twist, rather than the salt and goats milk combination that I was brought up on!
When people ask you, what part of Scotland do you recommend to visitors as ‘must see’ and why?
Perthshire. We are all bias to home. I love the West coast and the islands, they are obviously brilliant, varied and rugged – but Perthshire has always been where I feel most at home. From skiing at Glenshee, to adventure races around Loch Tay, learning to fish with my grandfather on the Tay, to cycling the longest Glen in Scotland, it is such a beautiful and welcoming area. Anywhere on the Highland boundary fault-line is worth an explore, that natural divide between the Highlands and the Lowlands of Scotland, from Arran to Aberdeen, a route that I once ran and swam, including an 8 mile swim to Bute, is stunning, and this cross section of Scotland cuts right through Perthshire, following the Rob Roy trail.
You’ve cycled around the world twice, done some pretty serious challenges both on land and water. Are there any more in Scotland that you would like to do or parts of Scotland you’d like to visit?
Absolutely, whilst my expeditions and films have taken me to 130 nations and territories, I always return home with a new appreciated of how varied a tapestry we have in such a small country. One of the silver linings from Covid has been making more films in Scotland, rather far flung lands. Recently I made a film from Loch Ness, heading over the gravel roads of Loch Sheill to the Ardnamurchan peninsular, stopping for a dram of the yet-to-be bottled whisky, wild camping in the beach, cooking lobsters on the barbecue before ocean rowing to Tobermoray on Mull. I knew these places and yet these activities allowed me to experience them in a whole new way, to get better connected with the communities, the history and the providence. In terms of where I would like to go next, I am planning a documentary around Knoydart, and would like to get back to Orkney and Shetland, a place I visited on my last talk tour, but only for an day to each – not 2 Shetland, a place I visited on my last talk tour, but only for an day to each – not nearly long enough to immerse, investigate and imbibe! 6. We greatly appreciate you speaking to us, where should we be watching to see you next? I have a whole series of documentaries that are about to launch on the new Global Cycling Network documentary channel, which you can find online. I will also have a new book out on November 1st, called Endurance and a podcast by the same name. I post all of my adventures on social media, in particular Instagram @MrMarkBeaumont