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Lee Craigie, outdoor ambassador and adventurer, wins top mountain award

Organisers of The Fort William Mountain Festival are delighted to announce that Lee Craigie, mountain bike adventurer and cross-country mountain bike racer, nomadic storyteller, author, outdoor therapist, award-winning film maker, campaigner for active travel, and champion for women in the outdoors, is the 17th recipient of the Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture, sponsored by JAHAMA Highland Estates

Born in Glasgow to a sporting family, Lee Craigie has always had a passion for exploration and adventure in the outdoors and for promoting its physical and mental health benefits. It was the driving force behind her outdoor education degree and a three-year Post Graduate Training in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy. 

Lee Craigie – Credit Dave MacLeod

In her early career, Lee worked as a technical mountaineering guide in the USA and Australia, as an outdoor instructor and group facilitator for Colorado Outward Bound, as an outreach worker for Fairbridge Edinburgh, and as a freelance outdoor instructor for Local Education Authority centres, and for Ratho, Venture Trust, Radical Outdoors, and Venture Scotland. 

While working for the Highland Council’s pupil support service in 2007, Lee Craigie founded Cycletherapy. She delivered cycle training to marginalised young people in the Scottish Highlands until 2010. Since then, Cycletherapy has continued to work effectively one-to-one with young people excluded from school using mountain bike riding and mechanics to reengage them with education or training.  

Having begun mountain biking to relieve the pressures of secondary school, Lee went on to become a successful cross-country mountain bike racer.  In 2009 she won both the Scottish Series and Scottish Championship titles.  Between 2010 and 2014 she turned professional, winning the British Mountain Bike Championship in 2013.  Her successful racing career continued as a member of Team GB at World and European Championships and Team Scotland at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.  

Lee recognised the secret to her sporting success lay in her love of exploring big mountains by bike, always fascinated by the places we can all take ourselves to emotionally and physically by pushing our perceived limits in wild places.   It led her to set up The Adventure Syndicate in 2016. The not-for-profit organisation is a collective of female adventurers of all ages who work collaboratively to help one another in pursuit of a common outcome: to enable more people to experience the mental, physical, and environmental benefits of adventuring, exploring the outdoors, connecting to nature, and moving sustainably for the good of their health and happiness and that of the environment.  

Lee Craigie with the Adventure Syndicate trip – Credit Maciek Tomiczek

The organisation also arranges gatherings of women and girls, focused on outdoor adventure and exploration, to increase their self-belief and confidence and enable them to acknowledge their capabilities and potential. 

Lee Craigie (centre) on an Adventure Syndicate trip – Credit Maciek Tomiczek

Between 2019 and 2022 Lee took on the role of Scotland’s first Active Nation Commissioner. As an official representative of walking, cycling and physical activity across the nation Lee supported the promotion of a new infrastructure to encourage more people to become more physically active.  

Building on this three-year posting Lee was appointed as Scotland’s Ambassador for Active Travel, an independent of Government engagement role from 2022 to 2023. Championing diverse and inclusive participation in active travel and active travel decision-making, she offered a strong, trusted, and impartial voice to broaden and deepen the public conversation. This led to her being awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in 2021. 

Reflecting on winning the Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture, Lee Craigie said: “As if mountains themselves have not given me enough over the years, I was deeply honoured to learn I was the recipient of the coveted Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture from Fort William Mountain Festival in 2024. 

“Wild places have always offered me perspective, gratitude, and calm. Their consistency and timelessness continue to ground me in this fast-paced and ever-changing world, and I am passionate about ensuring more people can connect with them and access them in respectful ways. In doing so, we connect with ourselves, our past and our collective future and it’s events like FWMF that ensure more and more people from diverse backgrounds have these opportunities.

“Thank you so much for recognising my efforts and I hope to see some of you on a hillside one day soon.” 

Tom Uppington, Managing Director, Alvance British Aluminium, sponsor of the Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture, commented: “As the regular sponsors of this prestigious award for Excellence in Mountain Culture, we are absolutely thrilled that Lee Craigie has been recognised for her inspirational work and tireless devotion to encouraging the public to access walking, cycling and physical activity across Scotland.   

“JAHAMA Highland Estates [part of Alvance British Aluminium, based in Lochaber] greatly values the hugely significant impact of Lee’s dedication to ensuring marginalised young people from across the Scottish Highlands have access to high-quality cycle training, and her work with the Adventure Syndicate which inspires adolescent girls to be physically active. Our company roots can be traced back to cycle manufacturing and being based here in the Outdoor Capital of the UK, Lee’s selfless contribution to inspiring the next generation of future cyclists, resonates strongly with our company values of family, change and sustainability.” 


Notes to Editors: 

More about Lee Craigie

Lee Craigie is an award-winning filmmaker having documented her experience riding the length of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, from Banff to New Mexico, 2,745 miles of ultra-endurance bikepacking. Lee also presented and co-produced three series of Life Cycle – conversations from the seat of a bike. For this series she jumped on her bike going in search of well-known Scottish figures, experts, and even family, to give her a few lessons on how to live a richer, more rewarding, happier, and healthier life.

As an author, Lee Craigie’s first book has just been published. In Other Ways to Win, she tells her story of discovering the freedom of cycling while at school, of her journey to becoming a national mountain bike champion and her life after racing on cycling adventures around the world and encouraging other women through her work with the Adventure Syndicate.

Lee is also the founder of the Velocity Café and Bicycle Workshop. This social enterprise includes a vegetarian café, a bicycle workshop and a range of projects to promote health, well-being and sustainability, in Inverness, and founder and director of the Cargo Bike Movement, a charity set up informally during Covid, bringing together cargo bikes and volunteers to respond to food insecurity experienced by many across the city of Edinburgh.

Lee Craigie – Usefulnlinks: 

The Adventure Syndicate – Useful links:

Adventure Syndicate Website –

Instagram –

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The Fort William Mountain Festival 2023 – Useful links:

Scottish Mountain Culture Awards –

Website for up-to-date programme information and tickets –

Instagram – @mountainfestival –

Facebook – @mountainfestival –

YouTube – @fortwilliammountainfestival704 ––Q

The prestigious Scottish Awards for Excellence in Mountain Culture recognise the achievements and accomplishments of inspiring individuals and their outstanding contributions to Scotland’s outdoor culture, encompassing sport, theatre, art, photography, film and literature.  The award was set up in 2008 by the Highland Mountain Culture Association Ltd, organisers of the Fort William Mountain Festival.  The 2023 Award is sponsored by JAHAMA Highland Estates. The Youth Award, established in 2015, is sponsored by UHI North, West and Hebrides (School of Adventure Studies). 

Previous Recipients of The Scottish Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture are: 2023 – David ‘Heavy’ Whalley MBE BEM2022 – Karen Darke2021 – Dave Morris 2020 – Colin Prior2019 – Noel Williams2018 – Cameron McNeish2017 – Dr Hamish Brown MBE2016 – Mick Tighe2015 – Robin Campbell 2014 – Andy Nisbet 2013 – Myrtle Simpson DL 2012 – Dr Adam Watson 2011 – Ian ‘Spike’ Sykes MBE2010 – Jimmy Marshall 2009 – Richard Else 2008 – Dr Hamish MacInnes OBE BEM

Previous Recipients of The Scottish Youth Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture are:2023 – Stephanie McKenna2022 – Kirsty Muir2021 – Mikayla Parton2020 – Tim Miller2019 – Rob Cochrane 2018 – Shauna Coxsey 2017 – Robert Mackenzie2016 – Natalie Berry 2015 – Zeki Basan

The Fort William Mountain Festival 2024 runs from Thursday 15 to Sunday 18 February 2024. Most events take place at The Nevis Centre, An Aird, Fort William PH33 6AN, as well as some satellite venues in and around the bustling Highland town of Fort William, at the heart of the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’. 

Satellite venues include The Highland Cinema and Three Wise Monkeys indoor climbing centre.  

The Festival Launch Night will take place at the Nevis Centre. Venues for Explore events can be found on the website.

The Fort William Mountain Festival is made possible thanks to the support of our sponsors: Outdoor Capital of the UK, Ellis BrighamPatagoniaNevis Landscape Partnership, Jahama Highland EstatesJohn Muir TrustUHI North, West and Hebrides,Burns Pet FoodGin BothyGeoRopeStramashHighland Council, and many local friends and supporters.

Festival tickets can sell out in advance, particularly for the popular nights. Please book early.

The festival attracts approaching 1500 people over the four days and takes place each February in and around the town of Fort William at the heart of the Outdoor Capital of the UK.

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