As avid riders will be well aware, Scotland’s mountain biking scene has exploded in the last 10 years. With its plethora of trails and landscapes; its dedicated centres and its careful maintenance of the environment, there’s never been a better time to jump in a hire car and hit the curvaceous roads of the highlands – which is an adventure in itself!
“The Scots have gone positively bonkers!” wrote the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) upon awarding Scotland the Global Superstar title in 2005 and 2006. The Forestry Commission– an organisation that’s been actively pushing Scottish mountain biking- recently increased trails and facilities in and around Scotland’s best natural and cultural areas. What’s more, each trail centre offers its own unique side of Scotland, from the rocky roads of the 7stanes to the mythical lore of the Witch’s trail. Scotland caters to every skillset.
The only trouble is choosing which trail to ride!
Go With the Pros
If you’re struggling to decide which is for you, why not follow the tire tracks of the professional riders? The Nevis Ski Range area in the Scottish Highlands holds an adrenaline-packed weekend of world-class Downhill and 4-Cross competitive action whilst The Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup is one in a series of nine international competitions.
However, be warned. The Fort William Downhill is a “full-on, flat-out, no-compromise charge down the face of Aonach Mor” – the 9th highest mountain in the UK. This one is not for the beginner. Riders need physical strength, quick reflexes, superb bike control and an unnatural fearlessness in the face of a free-fall. Basically, this 2.8km course is black graded through and through.
If the latter sounds a little too hard-core for your sensibilities, then don’t fret. 7stanes, situated in the south of Scotland, offer seven mountain biking centres that start from the bottom up. With your bikes strapped firmly to the boot of your car, check out the centres at Dumfries and Galloway.
In the village of Ae you can enjoy a gentle downhill slope that caters especially for families whilst Dalbeattie is known for its infamous black graded Slab. Oh, and keep your eyes pealed for the legendary stone sculptures. ‘Stane’ is the Scottish word for stone and at each 7stanes location, you’ll find a monument reflecting a local myth. A great spot for a tea break.
High on the Lands
For some, the Scottish Highlands are simply too alluring to overlook. If you fall into this category, head to Laggan Wolftrax. Offering 35km of the most up-to-date track in the country, Laggan Wolftrax will take you on a journey through the Strathmashie Forest, an outstandingly beautiful example of lush highland wilderness. Plus, Wolftrax has a green-graded beginners’ trail, a manmade bike park, a fast red-graded route and, of course, a black-graded trail that’s apparently the most technical of its type in Scotland – although they all claim that accolade.
A word of caution, in many rural highland areas, roads are unlit, single-tracks through vast, uninhabited mountain ranges and they will most likely be dominated by sheep. Therefore, it’s important to always keep your wits about you – when driving and riding. However, if you remain alert and keep your bike in good shape, you’re guaranteed to have an accelerating experience that will leave you gasping for another go.