By Jane Simpson
Gruelling: with a cap pulled down over her head, Pippa sweats in out with other competitors in the duathlon
As sister of the future queen, Pippa Middleton might be expected to enjoy the odd taste of the high life
But the 27-year-old appeared more royal than many of the Royals themselves, flying in to a charity race in a private helicopter.
In an arrival which would have been more suited to Prince Andrew – noted for clocking up air miles – she touched down at a duathlon in a £1,000-an-hour aircraft.
Grand entrance: Pippa Middleton, second right, and her friends leave the helicopter near the event's starting line before taking part in the 20-mile run and the 30-mile cycle race
The woman with the country’s most talked-about derriere was competing in the Highland Cross Challenge, running and cycling a gruelling 50 miles coast to coast through some of Scotland’s most spectacular scenery.
However, although she displayed genuine grit in completing the arduous race, eyebrows were raised by her VIP-style arrival at the start line in the hamlet of Morvich in Kintail, Wester Ross.
Miss Middleton, an overnight sensation after April’s Royal Wedding, had opted to avoid the two-and-a- half-hour car journey from Inverness, instead spending 25 minutes in the air with team mates Rosie Laing and Jake French, and a third unnamed male friend.
They boarded the helicopter, owned by PDG Helicopters, at Inverness airport ahead of the 11am start of the race, which is split into a 20-mile run and a 30-mile cycle. If they had paid the £1,000 hourly rate – the minimum booking – it would have worked out at £250 a head for the trip.
All smiles: Her Royal Hotness looked toned and relaxed as she competed in the Scottish Highlands... she barely even seemed to break a sweat
Sporty: Pippa smiles as she chats with spectators at the event. The sister of the Duchess of Cambridge has lost none of her athletic prowess since she won a sport scholarship to Marlborough College
However, a PDG executive, who was also competing in the race, flew himself to the start line, along with a group of guests.
The company said one of its helicopters had made two trips to the race – one with the boss and the other a private group. It refused to say which flight Miss Middleton was on.
Organisers of the Highland Cross Challenge said they did not pay anything towards the helicopter trip. Event treasurer John Fraser said: ‘Every penny we have goes towards good causes and we would not pay for something so extravagant.
Smile: Pippa said the race, a 50-mile coast-to-coast challenge, was 'tough'
‘It’s the first time Pippa has taken part in the race. She seemed in good spirits. One of her teammates has previously competed. They are very enthusiastic donators.’
Competitors have to commit to raising at least £300 but the trio – who went under the team name The Affric Sprats in recognition of the event’s halfway point, Glen Affric – have a target of £5,000.
All the money raised from the race, which had around 720 competitors, is distributed to organisations throughout the Highlands.
Miss Middleton, who looked tanned and fit, wore a silver baseball hat, black singlet and shorts, and silver and pink running shoes.
In the running: Wearing dark-coloured running clothes, trainers and a cap, the younger sister of the Duchess of Cambridge was a world away from the glamour she oozed at the Royal Wedding
Tired and muddy, she finished the gruelling event in Beauly, ten miles from Inverness on the east coast, at 4.08pm having taken a respectable five hours, eight minutes. She finished in the top 15 ladies out of 160 female competitors.
She said: ‘It was one of the toughest things I have done. I don’t know if I will do it again but I am really pleased to have finished.’
The record for the event is three hours and 13 minutes and has not been broken since 1993.
It is not the first time Miss Middleton, who won a sports scholarship to Marlborough College, has displayed her athletic prowess.
Earlier this year, she earned a medal after completing a triathlon at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
Just flown in... Pippa and her team mates landed by helicopter at the starting line before starting the mammoth race