A guide to mountain biking at Glentress

Mountain biker Alan Hunter rides high on the 7stanes bike trails at Glentress Forest

Mountain biker Alan Hunter rides high on the 7stanes bike trails at Glentress Forest

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The Tweed Valley Forest Park offers the whole gamut outdoor adventures, including some of the most exhilarating mountain bike trails in the country.

In Glentress Forest, you can find the world famous 7stanes mountain biking centre – the ideal place to step up your skills.

One handed, rodeo style, a mountain biker flies through the air at Glentress, Scottish borders. Picture: Graham Riddell

One handed, rodeo style, a mountain biker flies through the air at Glentress, Scottish borders. Picture: Graham Riddell

All the trails at 7stanes are purpose-built for mountain biking, with different routes for experts and beginners. There are over fifty miles of trails to explore, as well as a freeride park.

At the Glentress Peel Visitor Centre, there are all the facilities you could possibly need, including a café, bike hire, information about local wildlife, and changing facilities. Keen birdwatchers can look out for ospreys in the specially-built “bee hive”, and there are a number of knowledgeable volunteers who are happy to answer any questions.

If you are looking for a place to stay, there are plenty of top-notch hotels in the nearby market town of Peebles. Here we list our favourites, alongside the best places to eat near Glentress.

HOW TO GET THERE

Glentress is just 2.4 km east of Peebles on the A72. The main car park at Glentress Peel is off the entrance drive to the right, next to The Gateway. More trails start from the Buzzard’s Nest car park, higher in the forest. You can also catch a bus to Glentress Peel, as buses to Melrose pass the entrance to the forest.

BIKE HIRE

Alpine Bikes, Glentress

(Unit 2 Glentress Peel, Glentress Forest, Eshiels, Peebles, EH45 8NB, 01721 724 522)

There are 150 bikes for hire at Alpine, including top-end demo models, full suspension trail bikes, hard-tails, kids’ bikes and tagalongs. There are also specialised clothes and accessories for sale here, from brands such as Endura, Bontranger and Shimano.

If your bike has had a rough time of it, you can take advantage of their repair and servicing facilities. The well-trained staff can offer helpful advice on the 7stanes trails, from the routes they follow to the current conditions.

TRAILS

Green Route

This is the easiest trail at 7stanes Glentress – perfect for beginners with basic bike skills. You don’t even need a specialised mountain bike – pretty much any bike will do. The trail is relatively flat and wide, and is split into an Upper section and a Lower section.

The Lower Green Route starts and finishes at the Glentress Peel Visitor Centre. It has gentle gradients, making it a good introduction to novice mountain bikers. It is 3.5 km in length, and passes through the forest’s ancient trees.

The Upper Green Route offers incredible views of Peebles and the Tweed Valley. This 4.5 km route begins from the Buzzard’s Nest Car Park. It is recommended that you drive your bikes up the hill rather than cycling.

Blue Route

This trail is for riders who already have basic off-roading skills, and can be enjoyed as a step up from the green route, or by more experienced riders. There are some single-track sections – narrow trails of varying width – with small root and rock obstacles.

The Blue Route is also a good choice for mixed ability groups. Any kind of mountain bike is suitable for this route.

There are two loops on this route, each 8 km long. The lower loop can be taken on its own, as part of a longer ride with the upper loop added on. The route begins at Glentress Peel, and carries on up to the Buzzard’s Nest, where you can decide if you want to go down to the lower loop or continue on to include the upper loop.

Red Route

The Red Route is much more difficult than the previous trails, and is suitably only for proficient mountain bikers. In order to make the most of this world-famous route, you need to have good off-roading skills and fitness, as well as a good quality mountain bike.

The trail is 18 km in length, and includes a series of technical climbs, fast descents, jumps and berms. The trail begins at Glentress Peel, but the highlight of the trail is “Spooky Wood” - a 1.5 km single-track descent with sweeping bermed bends.

Black Route

This is the most challenging route at 7stanes Glentress, and is only suitable for expert mountain bikers with high levels of fitness. A good quality off-roading bike is essential, as riders need to negotiate large and unavoidable obstacles.

The trail is 29 km long, with extreme climbs and descents. As this route is physically demanding, make sure you are fully prepared before attempting it.

Glentress Freeride Park

This is the perfect place to train yourself up and learn new skills. It is right next to the Buzzard’s Nest Car Park, making it a convenient place to practise. There are different areas designed with different levels of ability in mind, and onsite information panels to help you make the most of the park.

EQUIPMENT

Whichever trails you decide to do, you will need a helmet and gloves to make sure you are safe and comfortable. It may also be worth getting some extra protective clothing, as mountain biking comes with inherent risks and requires care to be taken.

For the Red and Black routes, you will need a quality off-road mountain bike, but most types of mountain bike will be sufficient for the blue and green routes. Make sure you only do trails that match your proficiency level.

PLACES TO EAT

Glentress Peel Café

(Glentress Peel, Peebles EH45 8NB, 0300 067 6900)

After a challenging bike ride on one of the 7stanes trails, the Glentress Peel Café is the perfect place for a rejuvenating cup of tea or coffee. The café is run by the Peebles Hydro Hotel, and is built with local timber. There are fantastic views of the countryside all around.

In terms of food, there is everything from hot meals to snacks and ice creams. All the delicious cakes are baked at The Park Bakery on Peebles High Street.

The Park Restaurant

(2 Innerleithen Rd, Peebles EH45 8BA, 01764 651550)

At the Park Hotel’s wood-panelled restaurant, Borders beef is the main attraction. Here, you can sample a sublime cote de boeuf, served with crispy smoked sea salt onions.

If beef is not your bag, why not taste the grilled sole, accompanied by shrimp and parsley butter. Even the snacks are fantastic, especially the home-made pork scratchings with apple jam.

Osso Restaurant

(Innerleithen Road, Peebles EH45 8BA, 01721 724477)

Whatever the time of day, Osso will be sure to have something delicious for you to try. The extensive menu of sweet things includes classics such as scones with jam and cream, as well a truly indulgent chocolate fudge cake.

The daytime menu has a range of light dishes – such as Eggs Benedict – as well as big, hearty lunches – like the wonderful smoked bacon steak with polenta and black pudding.

In the evening, you can indulge in a variety of expertly prepared dishes, including the market fish of the day, and the St Brides Farm chicken with truffle mash.

Jim Jacks Fish and Chips

(14 Northgate, Peebles EH45 8RS, 01721 721497)

For fresh, well-cooked fish and chips cooked to order, look no further than Jim Jacks.

This Scottish classic is the star of the show here, but there are also other options, such as haggis, chicken, and Scotch pie. For younger guests, there is a special mini menu with smaller portion sizes.

Coltmans Delicatessen and Kitchen

(71-73 High St, Peebles EH45 8AN, 01721 720405)

Coltmans prides itself on “local, seasonal, fresh produce, cooked simply, without fuss”. It is housed in one of Peebles’ most historic buildings, which was built in 1711, and gives guests a splendid view of the River Tweed.

Dishes of note include the fantastic Hanger steak, served with glazed shallots and tomato chutney, and the loin of cod, accompanied by mussels and saffron broth.

PLACES TO STAY

Glentress Forest Lodges

(Linnburn Farm, Peebles, EH45 8NB, 01721 721007)

There are opportunities for both camping and glamping at Glentress. Here, there are sites for tents and motor homes, as well as several timber wigwams. These little lodges can sleep three people in comfort, and five people if needed.

There are excellent shower and toilet facilities, and a communal kitchen for self-catering. Bikes can be stored and cleaned in the garage, and there are always BBQ supplies available.

Macdonald Cardrona Hotel

(Cardrona, Peebles EH45 8NE, 0344 879 9024)

This contemporary country hotel has been awarded four AA stars for its accommodation and its facilities. It is situated on the banks of the River Tweed, in stunning rural location.

As well as a restaurant and two bars, the hotel has an 18-hole championship golf course. The spa and leisure club is a perfect place to unwind and get fit.

Peebles Hydro

(Innerleithen Rd, Peebles EH45 8LX, 01764 651846)

The newly refurbished pool and gym are the main draw for guests at Peebles Hydro, but that’s not all that’s on offer. All the bedrooms now have new mattresses, linen, pillows and duvets, ensuring that guests have the best possible sleep during their stay.

As well as the standard rooms, there are also feature rooms with panoramic views, and signature rooms with comfy seating areas. The restaurant is the best place to try local Borders produce, and the Gin Palace stocks gins from all over the world. And why not pop into the spa for a beauty treatment or a relaxing massage after a long day of mountain biking?

Barony Castle Hotel

(Old Manse Road, Peebles EH45 8QW, 01721 730395)

The classic and family rooms at the Barony Castle Hotel are comfortable and well-equipped, but the Privilege rooms are even better, complete with Nespresso machines, mini fridges, and bathrobes. The junior suites have a lounge area in which to relax, while the stylish Dean View suite has its own private jacuzzi.

The restaurant is run by Executive Chef William Thomson, and has won a “Taste Our Best” Award from Visit Scotland for its top-notch cuisine. You can also chill out in the Blue Dug Bar, perhaps with a classic Scottish whisky. There is also a pool, a gym and a spa for you to enjoy during your stay.

Tontine Hotel

(High Street, Peebles EH45 8AJ, 01721 788159)

All of the Tontine Hotel’s 36 bedrooms have new Hypnos beds, en suite bathrooms, flat screen TVs and wifi. Bikes can be stored securely in the hotel’s garage.

The Adam Room offers an elegant fine dining experience, while the Bistro is more relaxed and contemporary. Classic cocktails are the name of the game in the Tweeddale Shoot Bar, while the Callants Lounge specialises in afternoon tea.

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