We had the privilege of speaking with British Para-Cycling Team member Karen Darke who is not only a Paralympic gold medallist, but athlete, adventurer and author. She kindly took a moment out of her busy schedule to talk with us about life as a Paralympian and her current project Quest 79 before her talk at the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling.
like to do that. From then I started to do more competitions and I thought I would just see how it goes. As there is a limited number of para-cycling races and British cycling where at some of them I ended up taking myself to a world cup in Spain in 2010 and got 2 bronze medals. It was definitely less competitive in those days as there was a lot less woman doing it compared to now. So that’s how it began and then I ended up getting invited on to the squad as a guest in 2010 and then been on it ever since."
You are not just a Paralympic gold medallist but also an adventurer and author with an MBE. It sounds like you have an extraordinary life and have a keen interest in adventure this must lead you to some incredible places. Where is your favourite place that you have visited?
"So, my interest in adventure has come from always loving the outdoors. I broke my back in a rock-climbing accident and I always loved being on mountains and being outside. Before I had started racing, I used to spend all my time with friends in Scotland riding, canoeing or just camping and being outside so that has always been my passion. Professional cycling has taken away from that in some ways, in a way it adds to it because on a daily basis I get to be outside to train and especially now that I am in Majorca in the winter I get to go on days out in the mountains. Before you would try to squeeze it in before or after work or on the weekends. So, in lots of ways, I get to be outside more than before but usually races are not often in pretty places, you often find them on an industrial estate in Italy or somewhere else, so you don’t really get to see that much. You're in a hotel and then you go to the racecourse and then the racecourse is round a housing estate so yeah when your there you are there to work and not to see the sites. It is like a job, if you’re not training you are resting and if not your racing so it's not the same. I have been to some great places but choose a favourite place, well that is not easy. I do really love the Hebrides, I love Scotland and Majorca I guess they are the places I have made my home so they are one of my favourite places but I also like visiting an amazing city or just finding amazing places to cycling, this year I was in Ethiopia and it was a mind-blowingly place but it’s just too hard to pin one down. I generally like places that don’t have too much pollution or traffic."
How did you get involved with the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling?
"I was just contacted by the organisers who asked if I would be interested in doing a talk. Ken Talbot who I did the land speed record with last year was also doing one so we thought it would be good to do something together."
Can you tell us about your current project, Quest 79?
"I have been working on Quest 79 over the past 3 years which I suppose is my way of saying I don’t know if I want to or I would be able to do another para-Olympics but I knew I wanted to try and still have a life of adventure and travel with it. I wanted to encourage other people to give back a bit so I wanted to do a big ride on all 7 continents, and I hoped that it would encourage other people to do their own Quest 79. I won the 79th medal in Rio and discovered that 79 is also the number for gold in the periodic table which I hadn’t realised shamefully, as I used to be a chemist and had learned this while studying for my degree. I have to do them at certain times of the year when races or certain styles of training are not as important, this when a lot of cyclists take time off the bike but I just like it so I have been taking these long rides instead that are more like journeys so you are not thrashing your body as much but they have been pretty tough, the average distance we do each day is about 70 or 80 Kilometre’s. That’s not difficult if its flat or if you have good weather but it is still quite difficult if you are doing this every day. Also, I have been doing some of these with friends and we have had to obviously fend for ourselves and camp along the way so that side makes it difficult at times. I have kind of made this project about finding your inner gold and do something new that you normally would do so. It has been really cool there’s been people doing a variety of different things, my dad cycled 79 miles for 79 years the other day and there is a wee boy from Skye who decided to climb 79 peaks in 79 weeks, so he raised a load of money for an African kids charity."
Does travelling with your disability make it difficult?
"It’s mainly the amount of kit I need which make it difficult, camping is kind of easier as you know what you need to bring with you but generally access is a problem. Depending on where you are accessibility varies hugely as you can imagine. Last year my trips were across Australia and it was outback Australia so there is not a lot going in regard to access. But it's not too bad as obviously, it’s a developed country but then in India when you are in a Himalayan village the accessibility is even less available as you can imagine."
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
"Well when you pin it down the hardest challenge is obviously becoming paralysed, my trip to Greenland was another hard one as if you are paralysed you can't regulate your body temperature and we skied across it for a month and it was -30 or colder. I was so scared of many things, there was crazy challenges to figure out but in the end, it went really well. Apart from that training to win a gold medal was also up there, I guess there are different types of challenges there are those you choose and some that just happen to you and you just need to deal with them. The ones that happen to you are probably harder in a different way because they are unexpected and quite often not nice things as the ones you choose are things you really want to do, it's just a rollercoaster."
What have you got in the pipeline have you any interesting plans for the future?
"I think people must think that I must have some kind of bucket list but I just like to do interesting things with people that I care about, things just kind of emerge, like Quest 79 my friend Christine and her husband came to India and Christina had not cycled since she was a kid. She had seen me ride in Rio and that she is going to get herself a bike. At the start she couldn’t even get up the hill in Inverness and then she came with me India and loved every minute of it. So yeah nothing on the horizon specifically but I still have quite a lot to go with Quest 79. I have the European ride this Autumn which is Britain to Spain and then I did say I would try to get myself to the next Olympic games in Tokyo, but we shall see."
We are extremely proud to be working with the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling
again as their accommodation partner for this year’s festival which ends on the 16th June.
To celebrate our partnership, we are offering attendees a discounted booking rate of 15%. If you are attending this year’s festival and still require accommodation then click here for further details: https://bit.ly/EFOCHH
Click here to learn more about the festival: www.edfoc.org.uk
June is a busy month for Edinburgh with a variety of festivals and events taking place across the city.
Here is our top 5 Edinburgh events this June.
No.1 The Royal Highland Show
The Royal Highland show is well known for being one of Scotland's most iconic events. It showcasing the very best of farming food and rural life. A great day out for everyone of all ages, get up close to the country's top quality livestock, taste exceptional food & drink and experience rural living at its most vibrant.
When: 20-23 June
Where: Royal Highland Centre
No.2 Edinburgh International Film Festival
The Edinburgh International Film Festival is the world's longest continually-running film festival. The Festival has been a champion of emerging British talent throughout its history, presenting world premieres of formative films by Bill Forsyth, Danny Boyle and Stephen Frears, among many others.
When: 19-30 June
Where: Various venues across Edinburgh
No.3 Edinburgh Festival of Cycling
The Edinburgh Festival of Cycling celebrate all aspects of cycling in and around the City of Edinburgh. The Festival provides a variety of talks from cycling professionals as well as family friendly events. We are extremely proud to be sponsoring this year's event and have the honor of being the main sponsor for Karen Darke's talk which about her current project, Quest 79, where she will be riding the 7 continents and fundraising for the Spinal Injuries Association. Karen Darke is a full-time athlete with the British Paracycling Team, winning a silver medal in the London 2012 Paralympics and became Paralympic Champion in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
To celebrate our partnership, we are offer attendees a discounted booking rate of 15%
Click here for further details: https://bit.ly/EFOCHH
When: 6-16 June
Where: Various venues across Edinburgh
No. 4 Juniper Festival
With top producers allowing you to try before you buy, as well as gin talks, cocktails, food stalls and handmade fashions and crafts on sale, the Juniper Festival celebrates all things related to gin. You can expect more of the same beautifully crafted gins from Scotland and the rest of the world, educational masterclasses, interactive experiences, and expertly made cocktails and delicious street food.
When: 31st May - 2nd June
Where: Summerhall, Edinburgh
No.5 Leith Jazz & Blues Festival
The Leith Jazz & Blues Festival provides over 50 free gigs across three days showcasing a variety of the finest Jazz and blues acts.
When: 7-9 June
Where: Various venues in Leith, Edinburgh
If you are looking to visit Edinburgh this June then remember
to book directly with us on our website to get the best rates!
We are extremely proud to announce that the Haymarket Hub Hotel will be working with the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling again as their accommodation partner for this year’s festival which runs from the 6th to 16th June. To celebrate our partnership, we have decided to offer attendees of the festival a discounted booking rate of 15%.
Click here for further details
The festival celebrates all aspects of cycling in and around the City of Edinburgh, including travel, leisure, adventure, transport, sport and personal development. Recognising cycling’s importance for encouraging social inclusion and economic development reducing ill health and pollution and for making places. The festival aims to challenge people’s perception of what cycling is and to put Edinburgh on the map as an international cycling destination.
Click here to learn more about the festival
What's the Fuss all about then?
This isn’t just a game – this is serious stuff. There’s a deep history that involves much, much, more than the 15 players on the pitch. Scotland’s national rugby team ignites patriotic passions that know no equal. Currently ranked 6th in the world and with some impressive scalps already under their belt this year, a seat to watch Scotland at the Autumn Rugby Internationals is the hottest ticket in town. With these matches counting towards World Rugby ranking, the fans will be out in force to urge their heroes on to even greater things. Next year’s World Cup in Japan will be truly unique in many respects and just qualifying to compete there won’t satisfy the legions for whom Scottish rugby success is the very definition of Scottish pride.
Image credit to www.ruck.co.uk
Murrayfield Stadium is the home of Scottish Rugby and is not only the largest stadium in Scotland but one of the largest in the U.K. with a capacity of 67,000. The singing of the national anthem has been supplanted by the patriotic harmony of “The Flower of Scotland” and the refrain “O flower of Scotland, when will we see your like again?” commemorating the history of Caledonian resistance against the English, stirs up the crowd into the famous ‘Murrayfield Roar’. It’s an unforgettable experience – you get the tingly feeling that the entire nation is standing and roaring as one.
What are the Autumn Rugby Internationals?
2018 has scheduled end of year rugby tests which are also called the Autumn Internationals. During the autumn months of October, November and December, mostly involving countries from the Northern Hemisphere hosting those from the Southern Hemisphere, there will be a number of Rugby Union test matches in the Scottish capital. Murrayfield will be hosting matches on three consecutive weekends in November: Scotland's opponents will be Fiji (10 Nov) kick off 2:30pm, South Africa (17 Nov) kick off 5:20pm and Argentina (24 Nov) kick off 2:30pm.
Can I get Tickets?
The Scottish rugby union has allocated a large number of seats for sale to the general public and it’s a huge stadium, so it is possible to purchase tickets without having to be a member of a rugby club or an affiliated organisation. A few tickets are still available for the Fiji and Argentina matches on the Scottish online ticket centre website, but the tickets for the match against South Africa were sold out shortly after going on sale in July.
Still Desperate for A Ticket?
If you’ve had no luck through the normal channels, then check out some of the online ticket exchanges. There are four major online ticket exchanges that operate in the UK and they are: Seatwave.com, GetMeIn.com, StubHub.co.uk and Viagogo.co.uk. All four online ticket exchanges sell tickets to the Autumn International rugby matches, and they all guarantee that the tickets will be genuine. That being said, while they are more legitimate than looking for a tout in the car park outside the stadium, you might end up paying a heavy premium.
How Much Will They Cost?
Where your seats are, dictates the cost of the ticket. Murrayfield ticketing seating plan separates tickets into 4 categories – Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum, depending on how close to the action you want to be and range from £38 for a Platinum ticket to £16 for one in the Bronze section for the Fiji match. The Fijians are big lads and you’ll still see them even if you are up “in the gods!” Should you be feeling particularly flush and your generosity is virtually boundless, you and some friends might fancy a private box for a little under £7000.
Where to Stay
Of course, there’s quite a few hotels near Murrayfield, but your “must have” list will already have excluded the overly expensive and the geographically impossible. Haymarket Hub Hotel is a no-compromise on comforts and amenities, with prices that give you more excuses to pay a little more for a better ticket. Best of all, it’s in walking distance from the stadium, so no car parking woes or public transportation squashing. Of course, if you want to hop on a tram, there’s one that goes from just outside the hotel every 10 minutes and will get you to the stadium station in 8 minutes.
It’s time to swap Silicon Valley for the bonny hills of Scotland. From startups to big tech stalwarts, Edinburgh and Scotland is changing the game when it comes to technology in Britain. With investment deals into the UK from American tech giants increasing by 250% + in the last 7 years, the United Kingdom in general is ripe for technology company growth, and Edinburgh is at the forefront.
With an estimated 75 new companies launching every hour in the UK (yep, that’s more than one a minute) all the talk of economic slumps and Brexit woes, there’s still plenty of start-up optimism. But with so many new companies comes increased competition and crowded market spaces. London might have been the historic hub of all things tech, but the status quo seems to be shifting and some of the nearly 3 billion pounds of investments that London enjoyed in 2017 has moved north to Scotland.
Work Life Balance in Edinburgh
A 2018 study by the Royal Mail found that when it comes to quality of life, Edinburgh is leading the way. From education to earning potential and from access to green spaces to community support, the Scottish capital was ranked highest and fought off fierce competition from alternatives like London, Bristol and Leeds.
London residents might earn more on average, but the higher cost of living makes Edinburgh a very appealing alternative for new businesses and start-ups looking to enjoy a better work life balance and still benefit from the best investment opportunities.
Edinburgh’s infrastructure adds to the appeal, with great connectivity, excellent hotels like the business-ready Haymarket Hub and convenient public transport. But the closeness of both historical landmarks, and stunning natural diversity from mountains to lochs makes Edinburgh the place to be whether you’re here for a week or looking to relocate.
Photo credit to Paul Tomkins from www.visitscotland.com.
Great minds think Edinburgh
Edinburgh and Scotland is already well established on the technology scene with big names like SkyScanner, Rockstar North and Mashable calling it home. The city is a burgeoning scene for app developers and robotics experts, AR and VR as well as ground-breaking new mobile technology, data analytics, cloud computing and self-driving technology. Some of the global leaders in these industries as well as exciting newcomers are not only increasing investment in the city and the industry but attracting top talent.
According to the developer community, Stack Overflow, Edinburgh was the UK’s fastest growing tech hub in 2017, with more than seven developers per 100 people in the work force. Edinburgh now has more than 20,000 developers working in the city. Combine that with three great universities, tech companies have one of the best pools of tech-talent in the country.
Discover for yourself what makes Edinburgh the best place for tech investing, tech creating and tech starting in the UK. Haymarket Hub Hotel, the first smartphone hotel in Scotland where you can enjoy free smartphones, Wi-Fi hotspots and workstations, mobile charging units and USB charging sockets in its lobby, is well located to get a sense of the city’s atmosphere as well as easy to get to and from the big tech companies in the city and further afield.
Feeling hangry? It’s time for brunch. Run out of holiday days but don’t fancy a staycation? Then it’s bleisure time. 2018 saw the rise and rise of business and leisure travel combined with the arrival of bleisure, there’s a new way of thinking about work trips and corporate travel.
What is bleisure?
Travel for business is no longer only a hamster-wheel approach of meet – sleep – repeat. Bleisure travel embraces the idea of adding some leisure days to the end of your business trip. For millennial travellers, bleisure is fast becoming the new normal, but with so many benefits to this re-thinking of business trips, it’s far from millennial exclusive.
Travel giant Expedia’s recent survey in North America found that on average, business travellers were adding 2.6 holiday days to business trips of 3.7 days. And, nearly 80% of business travellers included in the survey stayed in the same city for their business trip and their leisure stay. In essence, visitors heading for a Monday to Thursday work trip were taking the Friday through to Sunday as a holiday, and using it as an opportunity for down-time, alone-time or family-time.
Bleisure travel is also impacting how job-hunters in some sectors are choosing a prospective employer. If your work includes some, or a lot of travelling, the idea of being able to combine it with some global exploring and potentially to bring your family with, then that takes some of the boring out of business travel.
Image extracted from Visit Scotland Website. Credit Photograph Kenny Lam
Bleisure travel has potential benefits ranging from wellness to global awareness. Here’s some of the top bleisure benefits.
1.Bleisure benefits the employee. Not only does it make travelling away from home and family a little less painful, it allows the traveller the opportunity to actually experience the city. If business travel means flying in and meeting in a stuffy airport hotel conference room, think again. Hotel’s like Haymarket Hub Hotel encourage Edinburgh-exploring and provide comfortable rooms for a great night’s sleep. A bleisure trip lets you see the city highlights, like Edinburgh Castle and The Royal Mile, as well as enjoying a guilt free whisky tour or a day on the links where it’s not all about impressing your prospective client or schmoozing your boss. With a double room at the Haymarket Hub Hotel it’s easy to bring along your significant other for the weekend or book an extra standard twin and bring along the kids.
2.Bleisure benefits the business. Studies have shown that employees who take regular vacations have lower risk of heart disease, lower rates of depression, and decreased stress. For the business, that translates into happier employees who have fewer sick days and more energy for improved productivity. Plus, employee perks like paid vacation days or even including the vacation days as part of the business trip tend to be more loyal and happier.
3. Bleisure benefits the city. Extending a business trip into a holiday gives the city a chance to show their best side and not only to be judged by the quality of the Wi-Fi in the conference rooms and the speed of their airport shuttle pick up. Bleisure let’s a city like Edinburgh a chance to show off their cobbled streets and coffee shops.
4. Bleisure benefits the bottom line. Both for the traveller and the business, bleisure can even result in cost saving. Pushing a return flight onto a Sunday can drop the overall price of a flight ticket (especially if it’s a long-haul journey) which then offsets the cost of an extra night in the hotel. The employee gets the benefit of a flight and room already paid for by work, so bringing their partner with them means they get a holiday and pay less for it.
Increased employee satisfaction, more time exploring the destination city and minimal cost increases offset by healthier and happier employees who spend less time away from family. Bleisure is best.
Hosting more than 3000 annual events, including the world’s largest arts festival, featuring more than 20,000 performers, and welcoming more than 4 million arts and culture lovers from around the world, Edinburgh is The Festival City. Now in its 71st year of festival hosting, Scotland’s capital knows how to throw a party.
Here’s our roundup of the best upcoming events and festivals from July through December 2018
13 – 22 Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival
Ten days of world-class jazz and blues makes this a great start to the festival season for music appreciators. Whether you love all-things jazz & blues, or your tastes are more niche, you’ll be able to choose from 170 gigs spanning everything from boogie-woogie to samba and from electric blues to delta blues. The festival is spread throughout the city from the iconic Assembly Hall to the intimate George Square Gardens
http://www.edinburghjazzfestival.com/ - Official Website
26 – 26 Aug Edinburgh Art Festival
Join more than a quarter of a million visitors to the biggest visual arts festival in the United Kingdom. The best of classic and contemporary, up and coming and established artworks and artists can be experienced at 40 exhibitions throughout Edinburgh’s leading art galleries and museums. Best of all, the event spans a month, and most exhibitions are free, so there are plenty of opportunities to get your artwork fix.
https://www.edinburghartfestival.com/ - Official Website
03 – 27 Edinburgh International Festival
The Edinburgh International Festival is globally unique. A festival of music, theatre and dance handpicked from the best of Scotland and around the world by the International Festival curators and hosted in the capital’s major performance venues over three spectacular weeks. Expect everything from music by Django Django to a modern-day retelling of The Beggar’s Opera.
https://www.eif.co.uk/ - Official Website
03 – 27 Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Running in tandem with the International Festival, the Fringe is the biggest of its kind in the world and offers a special take on the festival experience. The open-access ethos of the festival ensures a varied collection of performances and something for all tastes and all ages. Take your pick from cabaret to comedy, shows to storytelling. You’ll find events hosted in spaces throughout the city in the biggest theatres and the smallest bars.
https://www.edfringe.com/ - Official Website
03 – 25 The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Don’t let the name fool you, this military musical extravaganza has nothing to do with body inking. This year’s festival promises to be even more exceptional with a ‘The Sky’s the Limit’ theme and an embracing of Scotland’s Year of Young People. Iconic and a year on year sold-out event, this global collection of military bands is witnessed by 200,000 in person and 100 million more on TV. A special highlight, and not to be missed, is the Lone Piper.
https://www.edintattoo.co.uk/ - Official Site
30 – 01 Jan Edinburgh’s Hogmanay
Ringing in the New Year on an unprecedented scale with three days of partying throughout the city, this is the most spectacular New Year’s party on the planet. The festival is a regular feature in ‘worlds best events’ and ‘top things to do’ lists with good reason. Join the crowds in Princes Street Gardens for fireworks and live music, head to the streets for a torchlit procession and an impressive street party with the Edinburgh Castle as its backdrop. Complete the experience and leap into the new year and the chilly waters of the River Forth on New Year’s day.
https://www.edinburghshogmanay.com/ - Official Website
Edinburgh Festival Accommodation
With venues spread across the city and the city’s population increasing by two hundred thousand or more people during festival weeks, location is key for a stress-free Edinburgh festival experience. The Haymarket Hub Hotel is right in Edinburgh city centre and across from Haymarket Train Station. Contemporary and affordable with perks like free smartphones during your stay with free data, makes it a smart choice wherever you’re arriving from.
Discover Edinburgh in a different way and find out more about things to do off the beaten path. Read our guide to the greatest places to visit and hidden gems you can find in Edinburgh.
To discover all these hidden gems of Edinburgh, book your accommodation at one of the greatest places to stay in the city the Haymarket Hub Hotel with a perfect location just a stone´s throw away from the Old Town.