A team of six cyclists set off yesterday, September 11, to take on the iconic North Coast 500 in support of the charity set up in memory of Manchester Arena victim, Eilidh MacLeod with over £10,000 raised so far.

The team from across Scotland and England left Inverness and will spend the next seven days cycling the 500-mile Highland circuit to raise money for the Eilidh MacLeod Memorial Trust. This is the first time a team cycling event has been organised for the charity and all money raised will support the work of the charity created to ensure the 14-year-old’s musical legacy lives on.

The trust was established in memory of the young piper from the Isle of Barra who died in the 2017 Manchester Arena attack along with 21 others. In recognition of her ability as a musician and love of music, Eilidh’s Trust supports young musicians across Scotland to ensure her musical journey continues. 

As part of the cycle challenge, the riders will distribute £500 grants to several youth music groups along the route to support their teaching and help create music opportunities. The first grant issued was to the City of Inverness Youth Pipe Band with band members joining the cyclists to pipe them off on the challenge on Sunday morning from the city’s Torvean Caravan Park. 

Donations can be made to the Eilidh’s Trust North Coast 500 challenge via the group’s JustGiving page.

Over recent months the six cyclists have been training and preparing for the mammoth task in their home towns and cities. The team is made up of Andy White from Cheshire, Jane Nicolson from the Isle of Lewis, Paul Hughes from Edinburgh although originally from Kelso, Malcolm Thomson who is originally from Lanark but now lives in Shropshire, Steve Crosbie from Largs and Iagan MacNeil from Edinburgh and the Isle of Barra. The cyclists are supported Nicky and Scotty Young from Fife who will provide all the team’s roadside and campsite services. 

The 500 mile ride, which will start and finish in Inverness, was the brainchild of keen cyclist Andy White, who was a relation of Eilidh. He said: “We’re excited to be heading off on this seven-day challenge and it’s made all the easier knowing we have raised over £10,000 for youth music groups before our wheels start turning. Everyone has been incredibly generous in their support that will see Eilidh’s legacy flourish through other budding musicians. 

“The North Coast 500 is iconic and a route that we’ve all been looking forward to experiencing as we take in some of Scotland’s most stunning scenery. This will be the motivation we need as we average 70 hilly miles a day in the saddle and raise even more money in Eilidh’s name over the coming days.” 

Eilidh’s Trust trustee and fellow rider, Iagan MacNeil added: “We are thrilled at the level of support that has been shown to us so far. It has been beyond our expectations, but demonstrates the legacy Eilidh has created that ensures young musicians can benefit from the same opportunities open to her through her love of piping. Eilidh’s hand of friendship will continue to reach out this week as we award funding to several youth music groups along the North Coast 500 route, making sure young talent continues to thrive and develop across the Highlands. These groups will add to the 40+ groups we have been able to support so far across Scotland.

The cycle challenge has been made possible thanks to several businesses that have stepped up to support Eilidh’s Trust. These include Inverness’s North500 Motorhomes, Isle of Lewis skincare company Ishga, haulage firm Cooper Buckley of Crewe and rail industry contractor QTS.

Andy added: “Thanks to these businesses for coming forward to help us undertake this challenge. Their support and commitment means we can keep the costs of the event down and will allow Eilidh’s Trust to invest even more money in youth music. We are also indebted to Nicky and Scotty Young of Fife who have volunteered their time as our support team and will guarantee our wheels keep turning.”

Donations can be made to the Eilidh’s Trust North Coast 500 challenge via the group’s JustGiving page, and more information on Eilidh’s Trust can be found on their website here.