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A pair of naked skiers were caught on camera up a 4,000ft mountain on a -2C winter morning.

George Robertson, 64, was rambling a remote mountaintop on Cairn Gorm, a peak in the Grampian Mountains in the Highlands of Scotland, hoping to snap wild hares when he captured more than he’d bargained for.

The retired father-of-three spotted a nude man and woman through his camera lens on Saturday as they clutched skis atop the snow-capped peak.

Mr Robertson verified his find through a pair of bird watching binoculars.

He said it was unusually warm that day, melting the snow and attracting lots of walkers.

Mr Robertson was with four other nature photographers and believes they were clearly visible to the nudist pair, but he claims the couple seemed unperturbed about being observed.

George Robertson, 64, was rambling a remote mountaintop on Cairn Gorm, a peak in the Grampian Mountains in the Highlands of Scotland, hoping to snap wild hares when he captured more than he'd bargained for

George Robertson, 64, was rambling a remote mountaintop on Cairn Gorm, a peak in the Grampian Mountains in the Highlands of Scotland, hoping to snap wild hares when he captured more than he’d bargained for

The retired father-of-three spotted a nude man and woman through his camera lens on Saturday as they clutched skis atop the snow-capped peak

The retired father-of-three spotted a nude man and woman through his camera lens on Saturday as they clutched skis atop the snow-capped peak

It is not an offence to be naked in public in England and Wales but it does become a crime if a complainant can prove the nudist's intention was to offend and shock. In Scotland, it is just a common law offence and the test is whether a member of the public has been alarmed or disturbed by the public nakedness

It is not an offence to be naked in public in England and Wales but it does become a crime if a complainant can prove the nudist’s intention was to offend and shock. In Scotland, it is just a common law offence and the test is whether a member of the public has been alarmed or disturbed by the public nakedness

‘There was a group of five of us out taking wildlife photographs and we stumbled across these two naked skiers about 100 meters from the summit,’ he said.

‘It was quite a busy day because the weather was warm. I have walked in the Scottish mountains for close to 50 years and I haven’t come across that before.

‘It was just disbelief at first because I was looking through the camera, scouring the horizon and there was a couple standing there with no clothes on. So it was just shock and disbelief, and then we carried on looking for wildlife.

‘They could obviously see other people were on the mountain because we were clearly in their line of sight but they just carried on doing what they were doing, and then dressed and skied off.

‘I wasn’t offended by it but I just thought it was a bit odd looking like that hundreds of metres up a mountain with snow on the ground. I thought the images were quite amusing at the time: just people running about in the snow with just bobble hats on and a pair of skis in their hands.’

It is not an offence to be naked in public in England and Wales but it does become a crime if a complainant can prove the nudist’s intention was to offend and shock.

In Scotland, it is just a common law offence and the test is whether a member of the public has been alarmed or disturbed by the public nakedness.

Hopes rise for white Christmas (for some): Met Office predicts snow could fall for millions in North of UK on Dec 25… while the south can expect rain

By Emer Scully for MailOnline 

Hopes have risen today for a White Christmas in the north of England as the Met Office predicts snow fall for December 25 – but the south can expect rain.  

Parts of Britain face a ‘whiteout’ Christmas with snow expected to start falling to herald a wintry run-up to Christmas Day and beyond – although which regions will be hit worst is still in doubt.

Scotland, the far North of England and Northern Ireland are the areas most likely to enjoy a white Christmas on December 25, particularly on higher ground, with temperatures expected to drop as low as -6C (21F).

It comes after the UK’s coldest night of the winter for the third night in a row, with -9.3C (15.3F) at Braemar in the Cairngorms Monday night, after -9.1C (15.6F) on Sunday night and -8.9C (16F) on Saturday night in the same village.   

Yesterday, Britons marked the winter solstice with a swim at the beach and yoga sessions outside an 11th century castle to witness the dawn after the longest night of the year as hopes continued to build for a white Christmas. 

The winter solstice for the northern hemisphere marks the start of astronomical winter and the day with the shortest amount of daylight – Shetland being the most extreme example with just five hours and 49 minutes. 

Parts of Britain face a 'whiteout' Christmas with snow expected to start falling to herald a wintry run-up to Christmas Day and beyond - although which regions will be hit worst is still in doubt. Pictured: The sun rises over a frost covered Kirklington village in Nottinghamshire this morning.

Parts of Britain face a ‘whiteout’ Christmas with snow expected to start falling to herald a wintry run-up to Christmas Day and beyond – although which regions will be hit worst is still in doubt. Pictured: The sun rises over a frost covered Kirklington village in Nottinghamshire this morning.

Scotland, the far North of England and Northern Ireland are the areas most likely to enjoy a white Christmas on December 25, particularly on higher ground, with temperatures expected to drop as low as -6C (21F). Pictured: Shere, Surrey this morning

Scotland, the far North of England and Northern Ireland are the areas most likely to enjoy a white Christmas on December 25, particularly on higher ground, with temperatures expected to drop as low as -6C (21F). Pictured: Shere, Surrey this morning

People take part in the winter solstice celebrations during sunrise at the Stonehenge prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire this morning. The moment of the solstice was 10.59am on Tuesday, but the Stonehenge celebrations are going ahead this morning because it marks the point at which days start to lengthen again

People take part in the winter solstice celebrations during sunrise at the Stonehenge prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire this morning. The moment of the solstice was 10.59am on Tuesday, but the Stonehenge celebrations are going ahead this morning because it marks the point at which days start to lengthen again

A reveller blows a horn inside the stone circle as people take part in the winter solstice celebrations during sunrise at the Stonehenge

A reveller blows a horn inside the stone circle as people take part in the winter solstice celebrations during sunrise at the Stonehenge

Parts of Britain face a ‘whiteout’ Christmas with snow expected to start falling to herald a wintry run-up to Christmas Day and beyond – although which regions will be hit worst is still in doubt. Pictured, morning sunrise in Oxfordshire

Will it snow in your area of Britain on Christmas Day?

William Hill has provided these odds for snow on Christmas Day at the airports in the cities below:

Edinburgh: 4-9

Leeds-Bradford: 4-9

Newcastle: 10-11

Birmingham: 10-11

Manchester: 10-11

Glasgow: 6-5

Liverpool: 11-8

Belfast: 2-1

Cardiff: 9-4

Bristol: 11-4

London Gatwick: 11-4

London City: 11-4 

But the Met Office admitted that it was still unclear exactly where the boundary between cold and milder air will be, saying that this was ‘key as to where can expect any snow over Christmas’.

Conditions are forecast to become more unsettled from today, with bands of rain expected across the UK. Sleet, snow and ice are predicted over higher ground in Scotland before more snow is expected on Thursday.

Blizzards could be in store in Scotland on Christmas Eve thanks to strong winds. Edinburgh and Leeds are joint favourites with William Hill for snow at 4-9, with Newcastle, Birmingham and Manchester all at 10-11.

Areas further south are expected to remain mild and cloudy with some rain, and there is also the risk of fog across southern parts of England and Wales on Christmas Eve, which could affect travel.

The Met Office is uncertain about where Britain’s snow ‘boundary’ might be – between snowy and non-snowy parts of the country – but its official Christmas outlook, predicted Scotland is the most likely place to see snow.

The boundary will be driven by strengthening northerly winds during Christmas Eve.

They will make it feel very cold, with the chance of blizzards over high ground. 

In the south, mild air remains in place, with cloud and spells of rain from the west.

The ‘blizzard’ forecast for Scotland could precipitate severe weather warnings for the festive period.

Temperatures will dip through the week, with overnight freezes as cold as -6C (21F). 

Druids and revellers gather to celebrate the winter solstice at Stonehenge, Wiltshire on December 22

Druids and revellers gather to celebrate the winter solstice at Stonehenge, Wiltshire on December 22

Participants enjoy the sunrise at Stonehenge on December 22 in Amesbury. English Heritage, which manages the site, has allowed visitors into the event

Participants enjoy the sunrise at Stonehenge on December 22 in Amesbury. English Heritage, which manages the site, has allowed visitors into the event

The event is claimed to be more important in the pagan calendar than the summer solstice because it marks the 're-birth' of the sun for the New Year

The event is claimed to be more important in the pagan calendar than the summer solstice because it marks the ‘re-birth’ of the sun for the New Year

A frosty sunrise on Wednesday at Godshill in the New Forest National Park in Hampshire this morning

A frosty sunrise on Wednesday at Godshill in the New Forest National Park in Hampshire this morning 

The 'blizzard' forecast for Scotland could precipitate severe weather warnings for the festive period. Pictured, the sunrise in North London this morning

The ‘blizzard’ forecast for Scotland could precipitate severe weather warnings for the festive period. Pictured, the sunrise in North London this morning

The skies glow orange and red over the capital's landmarks this morning

The skies glow orange and red over the capital’s landmarks this morning

The London Eye was bathed in a pool of orange on Wednesday morning as the run rose over the capital

The London Eye was bathed in a pool of orange on Wednesday morning as the run rose over the capital

A spectacular sunset could be seen over London on Wednesday morning

A spectacular sunset could be seen over London on Wednesday morning

This graphic from the Met Office shows cold air moving in from the north, but milder air heading in from the south-west

This graphic from the Met Office shows cold air moving in from the north, but milder air heading in from the south-west

Helen Caughey, deputy chief meteorologist at the Met Office, said: ‘With colder air meeting milder air over the UK, the specific details of the forecast for Christmas Day are still a little uncertain.

‘Milder air moves north-east over much of the country by the middle of the week, with spells of rain for most at times, which will turn to snow over higher ground in northern Scotland initially.

‘The boundary between the milder and colder air is then forecast to sink south later on Christmas Eve and through Christmas Day, introducing colder, clearer conditions for some.

‘However exactly where this boundary gets to is hard to pin down at the moment, and is key as to where can expect any snow over Christmas.’

Bookmaker William Hill made Edinburgh and Leeds 4-9 favourites for a white Christmas in 2021, adding that all 13 major UK airports are now at their lowest level in over a decade.

The collective book on a white Christmas is 11-4 or shorter, which the company said is considerably lower than the widespread White Christmas in 2010, when there was snow on the ground at 83 per cent of stations – the highest amount ever recorded – but snow or sleet also fell at 19 per cent of stations.

William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams said: ‘As ironic as this may sound, we’re now seeing forecasters slowly warming to the idea of a white Christmas.

‘There has been a quiet confidence about the prospect, behind closed doors, for some time, but many have been unwilling to stake their reputation on it.

‘As soon as we ticked into the crucial five-day window of being able to forecast snow, those calling snow on the big day got a bit louder and as a consequence punters have been indulging in a festive flurry flutter with renewed confidence.’

The company said all that is needed to technically declare a white Christmas is the observation of a single snowflake falling in the 24 hours of December 25, at one of 13 major UK airports.

There have been white Christmases in four of the past six years, but they involved only a small number of locations.

William Hill added that since 1960, there have been only four occasions when at least 40 per cent of UK weather stations have reported snow on the ground at 9am on December 25 – those being 1981, 1995, 2009 and 2010.


Can you spot Mount Everest? NASA astronaut shares stunning image of the massive mountain range while orbiting 250 miles above the surface aboard the ISS

  • NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei snapped a stunning image of Mount Everest while aboard the International Space Station 
  • Vande Hei shared the image on Twitter, asking his followers if they can find Mount Everest in the photo 
  • Many Twitter users shared their guesses in the comments of the image, with several right answers and others who did not even attempt to try due to it being nearly impossible 

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Mount Everest stands 29,032 feet high, making it nearly impossible to miss on Earth – but the massive mountain is hard spot 250 miles above the surface.

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei snapped a stunning image of Mount Everest while aboard the International Space Station (ISS) that was soaring some 250 miles above Earth’s surface.

‘My New Year’s resolution is to get outside as much as possible,’ Vande Hei tweeted.

‘Well, after I land that is. Can you find Mt. Everest in this photo?’

Many Twitter users shared their guesses in the comments of the image, with several right answers and others who did not even attempt to try due to it being nearly impossible.

Scroll down for video 

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei snapped a stunning image of Mount Everest while aboard the International Space Station (ISS) that was soaring some 250 miles above Earth's surface

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei snapped a stunning image of Mount Everest while aboard the International Space Station (ISS) that was soaring some 250 miles above Earth’s surface

Mount Everest stretches across the China and Nepal borders and was first climbed by humans in 1953.

The image shared by Vande Hei shows the massive Himalayas covered in snow and webbing across the landscape.

From aboard the ISS, the Himalayas looks like tree roots spreading out from the ground.

But if you look toward the middle of the image, you will spot Mount Everest.

Vande Hei arrived at the ISS in April, traveling with two Russian cosmonauts, Oleg Novitskly and Pyotr Dubrov.

Vande Hei shared the image on Twitter, asking his followers if they can find Mount Everest in the photo

Vande Hei shared the image on Twitter, asking his followers if they can find Mount Everest in the photo

From aboard the ISS, the Himalayas looks like tree roots spreading out from the ground. But if you look toward the middle of the image, you will spot Mount Everest

From aboard the ISS, the Himalayas looks like tree roots spreading out from the ground. But if you look toward the middle of the image, you will spot Mount Everest

Mount Everest stretches across the China and Nepal borders and was first climbed by humans in 1953

Mount Everest stretches across the China and Nepal borders and was first climbed by humans in 1953

The trio launched aboard a Soyuz MS-18 rocket on April 9 and Vande Hei joined Expedition 65.

Many astronauts have spent time on the ship snapping amazing images of Earth, one specifically was the European Space Agency’s Thomas Pesquet.

During his second mission on the ISS, which ran from April 2021 to November 2021, Pesquet took nearly 250,000 photos of the Earth, the ISS and surrounding cosmos.

Vande Hei (left) arrived at the ISS in April, traveling with two Russian cosmonauts, Oleg Novitskly (middle) and Pyotr Dubrov (right)

Vande Hei (left) arrived at the ISS in April, traveling with two Russian cosmonauts, Oleg Novitskly (middle) and Pyotr Dubrov (right)

In an interview with NASA on November 15, Pesquet says that he took a lot more photos this time around than his first time in space. He says he captured over 245,000 photos during his trip, and the process to go through them is particularly daunting.

‘I think there are too many pictures. I have taken quite a few, but even more so this time than the first time, for my first mission,’ he said. ‘I still have to go back and look which is going to be a lot of work for me so I don’t know if I am able to get to that soon.’

He adds that providing this much information was also personally important to him.

‘Also there is a personal aspect. I grew up a fan of space flight and I was starved of information when I was younger,’ Pesquet said.

Many astronauts have spent time on the ship snapping amazing images of Earth, one specifically was the European Space Agency's Thomas Pesquet (pictured)

Many astronauts have spent time on the ship snapping amazing images of Earth, one specifically was the European Space Agency’s Thomas Pesquet (pictured)

During his second mission on the ISS, which ran from April 2021 to November 2021, Pesquet took nearly 250,000 photos of the Earth, the ISS and surrounding cosmos. Pictured is Earth's 'sodium layer' (orange) made up of neutral atoms of sodium within the upper layers of the atmosphere, that originate from the burning up of meteors

During his second mission on the ISS, which ran from April 2021 to November 2021, Pesquet took nearly 250,000 photos of the Earth, the ISS and surrounding cosmos. Pictured is Earth’s ‘sodium layer’ (orange) made up of neutral atoms of sodium within the upper layers of the atmosphere, that originate from the burning up of meteors

‘There was not much to see, the occasional book or magazine. Nowadays, we live in a fantastic time where you can watch things on the internet and follow the missions as closely as possible. I really enjoy sharing it with everybody.’

‘I think there is a responsibility to share this point of view because you see the fragility of the Earth.

‘All the astronauts who come back to Earth are going to tell you that here it seems limitless and infinite, but when you see the Earth from space, it’s very finite with limited resources. So there is a responsibility to share that viewpoint so that people understand the situation we are in.’

EXPLAINED: THE $100 BILLION INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION SITS 250 MILES ABOVE THE EARTH

The International Space Station (ISS) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory that orbits 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

It has been permanently staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000. 

Crews have come mainly from the US and Russia, but the Japanese space agency JAXA and European space agency ESA have also sent astronauts. 

The International Space Station has been continuously occupied for more than 20 years and has been expended with multiple new modules added and upgrades to systems

The International Space Station has been continuously occupied for more than 20 years and has been expended with multiple new modules added and upgrades to systems 

Research conducted aboard the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions present in low Earth orbit, such as low-gravity or oxygen.

ISS studies have investigated human research, space medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy and meteorology.

The US space agency, NASA, spends about $3 billion (£2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, with the remaining funding coming from international partners, including Europe, Russia and Japan.

So far 244 individuals from 19 countries have visited the station, and among them eight private citizens who spent up to $50 million for their visit.

There is an ongoing debate about the future of the station beyond 2025, when it is thought some of the original structure will reach ‘end of life’.

Russia, a major partner in the station, plans to launch its own orbital platform around then, with Axiom Space, a private firm, planning to send its own modules for purely commercial use to the station at the same time. 

NASA, ESA, JAXA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) are working together to build a space station in orbit around the moon, and Russia and China are working on a similar project, that would also include a base on the surface. 

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Not every cabin in the wood is the stuff of horror films, as a beautiful new coffee table book reveals.  

How To Get Away: Cabins, Cottages, Dachas and the Design of Retreat, by Laura May Todd and published by Lannoo, sheds light on the world’s most spectacular ‘escapes’, from cabins in the woods to chic coastal cottages.

The escapist spaces that feature in the book include an artistic property built into a mountain in Lebanon, a 1960s haven on New York’s Fire Island, and an off-the-grid retreat just outside Marrakech, Morocco. Todd interviews the owners and designers behind each property, guiding readers on a tour through these unique homes.

The author says ‘there is room for flights of fancy’ in designing a retreat, offering the chance ‘to explore less conventional ways of living that wouldn’t fly in the day-to-day’.

She writes: ‘Whether your idea of retreat is a mud-walled hut in the desert or, like me, a simple cabin in the forest, each designer, artist or homeowner has something in common: once planted, the desire to escape is, put simply, inescapable.’

Scroll down for a glimpse inside some of the breathtaking homes illustrated in the compendium… 

INVERNESS, CALIFORNIA: Pictured is a forest cabin built 'from scratch’ in the 1980s by woodworker and sculptor Ido Yoshimoto. ‘Following in the footsteps of his godfather, the renowned sculptor JB Blunk, and artist father, Rick Yoshimoto, he has settled in a wild stretch of land at the end of a long dirt road within a verdant natural reserve,’ Todd writes. Yoshimoto tells the author: ‘When I took over, the building was uninhabited for many years and the forest had encroached onto the property'

INVERNESS, CALIFORNIA: Pictured is a forest cabin built ‘from scratch’ in the 1980s by woodworker and sculptor Ido Yoshimoto. ‘Following in the footsteps of his godfather, the renowned sculptor JB Blunk, and artist father, Rick Yoshimoto, he has settled in a wild stretch of land at the end of a long dirt road within a verdant natural reserve,’ Todd writes. Yoshimoto tells the author: ‘When I took over, the building was uninhabited for many years and the forest had encroached onto the property’

INVERNESS, CALIFORNIA:  According to Todd, Yoshimoto’s ‘original construction project saw him slowly building up the home entirely by himself, fashioning the shelves, lights, tables and stools for the humble cabin in his nearby workshop’. The artist tells her: ‘My goal was to create something comfortable and liveable while applying my aesthetic and using the materials available, most of which were reused and reclaimed scraps from my art studio.’ The book reveals that almost everything in the home is 'built-in' to save on space

INVERNESS, CALIFORNIA:  According to Todd, Yoshimoto’s ‘original construction project saw him slowly building up the home entirely by himself, fashioning the shelves, lights, tables and stools for the humble cabin in his nearby workshop’. The artist tells her: ‘My goal was to create something comfortable and liveable while applying my aesthetic and using the materials available, most of which were reused and reclaimed scraps from my art studio.’ The book reveals that almost everything in the home is ‘built-in’ to save on space 

INVERNESS, CALIFORNIA: Another room in Yoshimoto's stunning home. Todd writes: ‘In furnishing the home, Yoshimoto turned to his community to source the domestic tools that would populate his day-to-day life.’ The artist tells the author that every plate, cup and bowl in the home is made by an artist he knows, or was discovered during his travels

SHELTER ISLAND, NEW YORK: The charming Shelter Island cottage owned by real estate entrepreneur Nick Gavin and his young family. Describing the location, Todd says: ‘A slightly slower and less ashy alternative to the nearby Hamptons, the bucolic charms of the island are what convinced Nick to purchase a simple cedar-shingled one-room cottage a short walk from the beach'

INVERNESS, CALIFORNIA (LEFT): Another room in Yoshimoto’s stunning home. Todd writes: ‘In furnishing the home, Yoshimoto turned to his community to source the domestic tools that would populate his day-to-day life.’ The artist tells the author that every plate, cup and bowl in the home is made by an artist he knows, or was discovered during his travels. SHELTER ISLAND, NEW YORK (RIGHT): The charming Shelter Island cottage owned by real estate entrepreneur Nick Gavin and his young family. Describing the location, Todd says: ‘A slightly slower and less ashy alternative to the nearby Hamptons, the bucolic charms of the island are what convinced Nick to purchase a simple cedar-shingled one-room cottage a short walk from the beach’

SHELTER ISLAND, NEW YORK: Another glimpse inside the island retreat. Todd says the choice of furnishings in the property 'mesh well with the home’s quietly unpretentious aura'

SHELTER ISLAND, NEW YORK: Another glimpse inside the island retreat. Todd says the choice of furnishings in the property ‘mesh well with the home’s quietly unpretentious aura’ 

SHELTER ISLAND, NEW YORK: A bathroom in the cottage, which was originally built in the 1940s. 'At first, Gavin was content to keep the space as-is, but a marriage and a baby later he knew some extra room would be required,' Todd reveals. According to the book, the homeowner recruited Brooklyn-based design firm Workstead to modernise the building. 'What they came to him with was a second structure, built in the same style as the original, that could house an all-new primary bedroom and bathroom suite,' Todd says. Workstead designed a glass passageway to connect the original property to the new structure

SHELTER ISLAND, NEW YORK:  A final picture of the Shelter Island home. According to Todd, the family 'left the common areas as simple and uncluttered as they found them, choosing furniture, such as a Pierre Chapo dining table (pictured)'

SHELTER ISLAND, NEW YORK: On the left is a bathroom in the cottage, which was originally built in the 1940s. ‘At first, Gavin was content to keep the space as-is, but a marriage and a baby later he knew some extra room would be required,’ Todd reveals. According to the book, the homeowner recruited Brooklyn-based design firm Workstead to modernise the building. ‘What they came to him with was a second structure, built in the same style as the original, that could house an all-new primary bedroom and bathroom suite,’ Todd says. Workstead designed a glass passageway to connect the original property to the new structure. According to Todd, the family ‘left the common areas as simple and uncluttered as they found them, choosing furniture, such as a Pierre Chapo dining table (pictured on the right)’

BHAMDOUN, LAMARTINE VALLEY, LEBANON: Todd describes this beautiful property as ‘a stone guesthouse hidden within a mountain’. She says: ‘Hidden in the rugged peaks overlooking Lebanon’s Lamartine Valley, a vast and remote region straddling the main road to Damascus where Phoenician tombs and ancient rock formations have sat undisturbed for millennia, is this monolithic stone guest house designed by Beirut’s Carl Gerges Architects’

BHAMDOUN, LAMARTINE VALLEY, LEBANON: Todd describes this beautiful property as ‘a stone guesthouse hidden within a mountain’. She says: ‘Hidden in the rugged peaks overlooking Lebanon’s Lamartine Valley, a vast and remote region straddling the main road to Damascus where Phoenician tombs and ancient rock formations have sat undisturbed for millennia, is this monolithic stone guest house designed by Beirut’s Carl Gerges Architects’

BHAMDOUN, LAMARTINE VALLEY, LEBANON: The olive-green walls, pictured, are finished in ‘Tadelakt’, a form of waterproof plaster first used in Morocco over two millennia ago, Todd explains. According to the book, the mountain retreat - which is set in an area famed for its vineyards - ‘has an imposing facade that gives way to a bright and inviting sanctuary’. The author writes: ‘Warm natural materials such as reclaimed timber ceiling beams, organically shaped wooden furniture and textiles in the form of thickly woven Berber rugs provide a gentle foil to the harsh surroundings, which are integrated into the design in the form of natural stone interior walls – rendering the structure almost indistinguishable from its landscape’

BHAMDOUN, LAMARTINE VALLEY, LEBANON: The olive-green walls, pictured, are finished in ‘Tadelakt’, a form of waterproof plaster first used in Morocco over two millennia ago, Todd explains. According to the book, the mountain retreat – which is set in an area famed for its vineyards – ‘has an imposing facade that gives way to a bright and inviting sanctuary’. The author writes: ‘Warm natural materials such as reclaimed timber ceiling beams, organically shaped wooden furniture and textiles in the form of thickly woven Berber rugs provide a gentle foil to the harsh surroundings, which are integrated into the design in the form of natural stone interior walls – rendering the structure almost indistinguishable from its landscape’

BHAMDOUN, LAMARTINE VALLEY, LEBANON:  A third picture of the stylish Lebanon property. The book reveals Carl Gerges Architects turned to traditional North African building techniques when designing the primary bedroom and bathroom in the home. Todd adds: ’But the real secret weapon in this home’s arsenal of features perfectly envisioned for entertaining is the underground tunnel that leads to a cavernous wine cellar, holding barrel upon barrel of locally harvested wine’

FIRE ISLAND, NEW YORK: This beautiful property was designed by the US architect Horace Gifford. It's owned by James and Hara Perkins, who have a ‘mutual love for modernist architecture'. The book reveals: ‘When they took possession of the property in early 2020, just before the first pandemic lockdowns, it had been in the same family since it was first built in the 1960s. They spent the early months of quarantine renovating the space themselves, stripping back the layers of time to restore it to its original glory’

BHAMDOUN, LAMARTINE VALLEY, LEBANON (LEFT): A third picture of the stylish Lebanon property. The book reveals that Carl Gerges Architects turned to traditional North African building techniques when designing the primary bedroom and bathroom in the home. Todd adds: ’But the real secret weapon in this home’s arsenal of features perfectly envisioned for entertaining is the underground tunnel that leads to a cavernous wine cellar, holding barrel upon barrel of locally harvested wine.’ FIRE ISLAND, NEW YORK (RIGHT): This beautiful property was designed by the US architect Horace Gifford. It’s owned by James and Hara Perkins, who have a ‘mutual love for modernist architecture’. The book reveals: ‘When they took possession of the property in early 2020, just before the first pandemic lockdowns, it had been in the same family since it was first built in the 1960s. They spent the early months of quarantine renovating the space themselves, stripping back the layers of time to restore it to its original glory’

FIRE ISLAND, NEW YORK: The living area in the island retreat. Todd says of the design: ’The Perkins’ house boasts a number of striking features – including a sunken living room with built-in sofas and floating fireplace; floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the ocean and a wraparound deck; curved walls and clever multifunctional bedrooms that can be divided or opened up at will – all lined with natural cedar planks constructed by legendary local carpenter Joe Chasis’

FIRE ISLAND, NEW YORK: The living area in the island retreat. Todd says of the design: ’The Perkins’ house boasts a number of striking features – including a sunken living room with built-in sofas and floating fireplace; floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the ocean and a wraparound deck; curved walls and clever multifunctional bedrooms that can be divided or opened up at will – all lined with natural cedar planks constructed by legendary local carpenter Joe Chasis’

FIRE ISLAND, NEW YORK:  Describing renovating the historic property, James Perkins tells Todd: ‘I think of the house as a vintage Porsche or a watch that has this beautiful patina you don’t want to touch, so doing these projects alone we had to be very careful not to damage any of the beautifully handmade rooms’

FIRE ISLAND, NEW YORK:  Another carefully curated room in the Fire Island property - the bathroom

FIRE ISLAND, NEW YORK: Describing renovating the historic property, James Perkins tells Todd: ‘I think of the house as a vintage Porsche or a watch that has this beautiful patina you don’t want to touch, so doing these projects alone we had to be very careful not to damage any of the beautifully handmade rooms.’ Pictured on the right is another carefully curated room in the Fire Island property – the bathroom

MARRAKECH PREFECTURE, MOROCCO: Todd sums up this spectacular property as ‘an off-the-grid escape in the Moroccan hinterlands’. It’s owned by Karl Fournier and Olivier Marty, who first met as students while studying architecture in Paris. ‘What was once a farmhouse owned by a Sahrawi family, a people native to this region of North Africa, had fallen into disrepair by the time Fournier and Marty were introduced to the former owners through a mutual friend,’ Todd explains. The couple acquired a 99-year lease for the ‘adobe-walled structure’ and then set about restoring the property

MARRAKECH PREFECTURE, MOROCCO: Todd sums up this spectacular property as ‘an off-the-grid escape in the Moroccan hinterlands’. It’s owned by Karl Fournier and Olivier Marty, who first met as students while studying architecture in Paris. ‘What was once a farmhouse owned by a Sahrawi family, a people native to this region of North Africa, had fallen into disrepair by the time Fournier and Marty were introduced to the former owners through a mutual friend,’ Todd explains. The couple acquired a 99-year lease for the ‘adobe-walled structure’ and then set about restoring the property

MARRAKECH PREFECTURE, MOROCCO: According to the book, the couple were intent on ‘keeping many of the vernacular architectural elements intact’ in the building. Todd says the ‘heart of the house’ is a ‘large courtyard with four bedrooms, the hammam, the kitchen and the winter lounge’

MARRAKECH PREFECTURE, MOROCCO:  Fournier and Marty  tell Todd: 'We designed some things like the beds inspired by Moroccan "koursi", which are small stools made of laurel wood and straw. Others have been found locally, like the chests of drawers and the desks'

MARRAKECH PREFECTURE, MOROCCO (LEFT AND RIGHT): According to the book, the couple were intent on ‘keeping many of the vernacular architectural elements intact’ in the building. Todd says that the ‘heart of the house’ is a ‘large courtyard with four bedrooms, the hammam, the kitchen and the winter lounge.’ Fournier and Marty tell Todd: ‘We designed some things like the beds inspired by Moroccan “koursi”, which are small stools made of laurel wood and straw. Others have been found locally, like the chests of drawers and the desks’


‘If you look at the tree, you hit the tree,’ remarked our guide, sagely.

We were on electric mountain bikes in the dramatic Cairngorms. In one of the bike’s boost modes, it was easy to overcook the motor-assisted pedalling and thereby thump into inanimate objects too insolently permanent to get out of our way.

That was the reason why our cycling sage – Chris Gibbs, head guide of mountain bike holidays company H+I Adventures – had advised us to wear knee and elbow guards as well as noggin protection.

Jude climbing in the Cairngorms. The heather was home to millions of wee biting beasties leading Carlton to joke that this was Glen Midgie

Jude climbing in the Cairngorms. The heather was home to millions of wee biting beasties leading Carlton to joke that this was Glen Midgie

Jude riding in Glen Feshie on an EP8-equipped Merida e-mountain bike

Jude riding in Glen Feshie on an EP8-equipped Merida e-mountain bike

WHAT IS AN EP8 UNIT? 

EP8 is Shimano’s electric bike drive unit, a 2.6kg motor in the bottom bracket area, behind the front chainwheel. It’s ‘pedal assist’ so you have to keep pedalling for the battery-powered boost. In other words, e-bikes aren’t motorbikes where you use a throttle and don’t have to pedal. Like almost all electric bikes in the UK and EU, an EP8-equipped e-bike gives assistance up to 25kph or about 15mph. 

Speed isn’t everything, though, and what the EP8 provides is incredible torque (85 newton meters of torque in fact) so you can tackle steep hills with ease. The motor is incorporated into the frame of the bike as is a battery, although that’s also removable for ease of charging.

There are third-party motors that can turn standard bikes into e-bikes, but the EP8 system is something bike companies design their bikes around rather than something that can be attached to your own bike. 

EP8 is what’s known as a ‘mid-motor’ system in that the drive unit is sort of in the middle of the bike frame. Another e-bike system is for the motor to be in the hub of the rear wheel. Most European e-bikes now use mid-motors because they’re more efficient and it’s better to have weight in the centre of the bike rather than at the back wheel. 

Metaphorically wrapped in helicopter-parent-style bubble wrap, we felt like kids again. Well, I did anyway, which is why I had the impish urge to jump ahead on a water splash to soak my wife with my spinning back wheel.

‘Oh, thank you!’ Jude yelled sarcastically.

‘I’m sopping now!’

‘Ha, ha, you just got tidal waved,’ laughed Chris.

‘You’re gonna have to be faster next time to get him back,’ he suggested.

‘He wanted me to squeal; he did it on purpose,’ replied Jude, knowing that I wanted lively sound effects for the podcast I was recording.

‘It’s not a Scottish bike ride until you’ve got wet feet anyway,’ pointed out Chris, also sporting a radio mic.

‘By the time you’ve been through a few mountain streams, smashed your way through the pine trees for an exfoliation, it’s practically a spa treatment.’

We were in the majestic Glen Feshie on the third and final day of a private tour organised by bicycle components brand Shimano, which wanted me to trial its latest electric mountain bike assist system, EP8 (see boxout).

Electronics? In damp Scotland?

Despite the rain, jumping through water splashes, and Jude dunking her bike in a stream while I photographed every millimetre of her fall with burst mode on my iPhone, the bike batteries survived.

And even though we did some long valley rides – I was particularly fond of my joke about Glen Midgie – in the highest-draining power modes, we never even got close to fully depleting the battery levels.

I’m an experienced mountain biker; Jude’s a relative newbie. Relative in that she last mountain biked – and even then, gingerly – something like 20 years ago. She hasn’t done much MTBing since and certainly hasn’t been on one of these new-fangled, full-suspension eMTBs.

Because I’m a know-it-all old hand, I’m guilty of relying on the riding styles from my youth, so it was an education for me to watch Chris showing Jude how best to handle trail obstacles such as roots or fallen branches, and demonstrate the best bike stance for descending.

‘This is the time to make use of that dropper post,’ advised Chris, pointing to the electronic gadget that, with the press of a lever and a bum slam, compresses the saddle and its seatpost, so you sit lower on the bike and are therefore less likely to be jettisoned forwards.

‘Get the saddle out the way and just start descending nice and big and open,’ said Chris, exaggerating his stance over the bike while moving ahead.

‘Like a big gorilla!’ he laughed. 

Instructor Chris Gibbs riding across the Fhearnagen stream in Glen Feshie

Instructor Chris Gibbs riding across the Fhearnagen stream in Glen Feshie

Oops! Jude takes a tumble into the Fhearnagen stream. Carlton remarks that the batteries on her bike survived the dunking

Oops! Jude takes a tumble into the Fhearnagen stream. Carlton remarks that the batteries on her bike survived the dunking

Chris explains riding technique to Jude as they descend to the H+I Adventures HQ close to the Beauly Firth near Inverness

'Ride like a big gorilla!' said Chris

LEFT: Chris explains riding technique to Jude as they descend to the H+I Adventures HQ close to the Beauly Firth near Inverness. RIGHT: ‘Ride like a big gorilla!’ said Chris

Jude crossing the Coire Follais stream near Aviemore. The EP8 on the bikes the group rode are 'pedal assist' units that provide 'incredible torque'

Jude crossing the Coire Follais stream near Aviemore. The EP8 on the bikes the group rode are ‘pedal assist’ units that provide ‘incredible torque’

Jude and Chris riding into Glen Feshie. Chris leads tours on e-bikes as well as on non-electric bikes. He likes both, Carlton says

Jude and Chris riding into Glen Feshie. Chris leads tours on e-bikes as well as on non-electric bikes. He likes both, Carlton says

The handlebar-mounted screen on the EP8-equipped Merida e-mountain bike shows speed and is how the rider toggles between modes - eco, trail and Boost

The handlebar-mounted screen on the EP8-equipped Merida e-mountain bike shows speed and is how the rider toggles between modes – eco, trail and Boost

‘You’ve got loads of room for the bike to move underneath you, and you’ve got 160mm of suspension, so you don’t need to turn around every rock,’ he yelled, hitting a big rock and rolling over it with ease.

‘If you can keep loose in your arms and legs, the bike’s gonna soak it up for you,’ he promised.

‘So just nice and easy; down this line; here on the left.’

Prang! Jude smacked into a tree.

‘Sorry,’ she exclaimed, unhurt.

‘No, don’t apologise,’ Chris soothed.

‘The trick is looking far ahead. Look where you want to be because if you look at the tree, you’re going to hit the tree. If you look past the tree, you’re going to sail right past it.’

A drone photograph of Bunchrew House hotel beside the Beauly Firth near Inverness, with the Kessock Bridge in the far distance

A drone photograph of Bunchrew House hotel beside the Beauly Firth near Inverness, with the Kessock Bridge in the far distance

'Bunchrew House is an ideal base for mountain biking in the hills above Inverness or for travelling into the Cairngorms,' writes Carlton

‘Bunchrew House is an ideal base for mountain biking in the hills above Inverness or for travelling into the Cairngorms,’ writes Carlton

'Bunchrew House was built in the 1600s by John Forbes. Fans of the historical TV series Outlander will be tickled that the house has both Fraser and Mackenzie clan connections,' says Carlton

‘Bunchrew House was built in the 1600s by John Forbes. Fans of the historical TV series Outlander will be tickled that the house has both Fraser and Mackenzie clan connections,’ says Carlton 

A few hours later, Jude’s technique – and, if truth be told, mine also – had improved immensely, and she was able to shimmy at speed down the sort of root-strewn steeps that would have thrown her on our first day.

And she could ride up them, too, aided by the motor, but still having to pedal.

Chris leads tours on e-bikes as well as on non-electric bikes. He likes both.

‘The moment that [electric mountain biking] clicked for me,’ remembered Chris, ‘was when I started down-powering. There would be climbs that I would physically never make on a regular bike; like, super technical or super steep, but a down-powered e-bike gave me just enough [power] that I was still working physically really hard, but suddenly, I was able to make things that I wouldn’t have done otherwise.’

The view from the bar of Bunchrew House's ancient cedar tree, planted in the 1700s

The view from the bar of Bunchrew House’s ancient cedar tree, planted in the 1700s

'The walls of the hotel - which has the feel of a country home - are adorned with original oil portraits of the families from both the Fraser-Mackenzie lines and the Forbes line,' reveals Carlton

‘The walls of the hotel – which has the feel of a country home – are adorned with original oil portraits of the families from both the Fraser-Mackenzie lines and the Forbes line,’ reveals Carlton

A sign explaining the history of the Bunchrew House's cedar tree

A sign explaining the history of the Bunchrew House’s cedar tree

Jude agreed. Better technique was now getting her down the hills, but with an eMTB, she was now also able to tackle steep, rocky climbs that she likely wouldn’t have been able to clear on a pedal-only mountain bike.

‘You still get a mountain bike feel,’ she agreed.

You don’t feel as though you’re riding a motorbike, then, I asked?

‘No!’ she replied, almost offended.

Our ride over, and with the rain starting to fall, we shuttled to our luxurious lodging, the historic Bunchrew House beside the Beauly Firth, just a few miles west of Inverness.

We’d already had our Highlands spa treatment – mud, mostly – so, after showering, we dressed for dinner, a silver-service affair in the old hotel’s oak-panelled dining room with large bay windows looking out to sea.

We dined on fine food as we talked with Chris about our riding that day, the sun dipping behind the Black Isle hills in the distance. Luxury.

  • To listen to Carlton’s podcast on the trip, click here. 

TRAVEL FACTS… AND MORE ON STUNNING BUNCHREW HOUSE

Jude drinks in the view from the Bunchrew House dining room

Jude drinks in the view from the Bunchrew House dining room

Bunchrew House is an ideal base for mountain biking in the hills above Inverness or for travelling into the Cairngorms. The hotel is also popular with those riding – or driving – the North Coast 500. Scotland’s answer to Route 66, the NC500 is a spectacular route that winds around the coast roads of the Northern Highlands.

Bunchrew is a Scottish mansion house with links to the Jacobite Risings. It was built in the 1600s by John Forbes. Fans of the historical TV series Outlander will be tickled that the house has both Fraser and Mackenzie clan connections. The walls of the hotel – which has the feel of a country home – are adorned with original oil portraits of the families from both the Fraser-Mackenzie lines and the Forbes line.

The HQ for H+I Adventures is a stone’s throw from Bunchrew House. Group trips start and end at this new-build HQ. The H+I used to stand for Highlands and Islands but reverted to initials only when the company began offering overseas MTB trips. H+I has three group trips in Scotland: the Highland Odyssey, which goes through the Cairngorms and then out to the West Coast and up into Torridon in the northwest.

There’s also a week-long trip in the Cairngorms, an east to west coast-to-coast traverse. A private three-day tour with an H+I guide and daily transport to the Cairngorms costs £1,550 per person, with a minimum of two people staying at Bunchrew House for two nights with breakfast and dinner included.