Five Scottish mountain biking trails to try out this Autumn

The wonderful views from the Cathkin Braes Track. Picture: John Devlin
The wonderful views from the Cathkin Braes Track. Picture: John Devlin
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FREQUENTLY named as one of the best countries in the world for mountain biking, and not just for terrain and scenery but also for infrastructure, Scotland has a plethora of excellent MTB trails.

The country, which was one of the first to embrace the sport, created trails in the Highlands in the 1980s and held the first World Championships at Rothiemurchus near Aviemore in 1989.

In the past decade or so Scotland has led the UK in a huge growth of interest in the sport, which combines tricky terrain, awesome views and cardiovascular fitness, and now there are trails popping up all over the country in places like Dumfries, Glencoe and the Highlands and Islands. Autumn can be one of the best times of the year to get out and enjoy Scotland’s scenery, especially with the transformation of the seasons, and with the weather not yet turning it is also a great time to get out and hit the trails.

If you’re a beginner be aware that though there are now hundreds of routes to enjoy it’s important to know your level and be safe rather than overextending your reach.

Thankfully, the Forestry Commission Scotland - which has massively supported mountain biking over the years - has created a useful guide to understanding the grading system for each track and it can be found here.

THE TRAILS

A biker makes their way up to the downhill trails at Glencoe. Picture: Pixabay

A biker makes their way up to the downhill trails at Glencoe. Picture: Pixabay

It was hard to narrow the trails down to just a top five as the sheer volume of options means there are so many places in Scotland that offer great tracks. We’ve chosen the five listed to give the best range of trails possible.

READ MORE: Scotland’s best mountain biking trails

The Borders

Beginning in the borders and the excellent 7stanes centres that offer some of Scotland’s best selections of trails, including our pick, the hugely popular Glentress, near Peebles. Mountain biking site MBR describes Glentress as the jewel in the crown of the 7Stanes MTB trail project.

The stunning views at Glentress. Picture: Flickr

The stunning views at Glentress. Picture: Flickr

The £8.5m Peel visitor centre, which opened there in 2011, boasts a bike shop, changing rooms and a café, and offers all of the equipment you’ll need for hire. The trails themselves range from green for easy, blue for moderate and red for difficult, those who fancy a bit more of a challenge can try out the slightly more advanced black (severe) routes.

The centre also boasts a skills area to practise and perfect your technique, which is also suitable for children,

We recommend checking out the blue route which is described as a hidden gem and offers a fun challenge to both intermediate riders and experienced veterans alike with its excellently named Berm, Baby, Berm and Betty Blue sections.

The islands

Heading west to the islands is rewarding not only for the stunning scenery it offers but also the trails you find with none finer than Sliglachan on the Isle of Skye, the area made famous by Skye-born Danny Macaskill’s video in 2014.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to take on anything as risky as Danny’s ride on the ridge, in fact there’s a wonderful single track nearby that will mean you can enjoy an exciting ride and some of the most striking scenery around.

This wild route is generally for more experienced riders and begins at the Sligachan Hotel before taking you round a selection of the island’s most picturesque scenery and a mix of terrain which is perfect for those looking for a trip that’s more challenging than your average trail.

Look out for the Black Cuillin and Loch Scavaig while enjoying the ride and be prepared to feel closer to Scotland’s rugged landscapes, and its wildlife, than most of the other suggestions on this list, definitely one of the best routes for taking your time around and soaking in the scenery which offers something new every time you visit.

READ MORE: Mountain biking in Scotland: Six beginner’s routes to get you started

Near Glasgow

Looking for something a little more modern and perfect for escaping the urban confines of Glasgow (and Edinburgh) then The Cathkin Braes Mountain Bike Trails are a great place to try out. Built to host the mountain bike competitions during the Commonwealth Games, the tracks are located in Glasgow’s Southside, and offer a fantastic purpose-built cross-country mountain bike course.

The trails were created in collaboration with internationally renowned mountain bike course designers and make the most of the wooded terrain and steep slopes by providing a challenging course for riders alongside spectacular views of Glasgow and the surrounding area.

The mixture of woods and open fields give some great variation when using the trails and there’s plenty of wildlife to enjoy too, while checking out each of the trails. The green trail is perfect for beginners or those looking for a decent warm up, while the blue and red tracks (which run on the same route, with the blue bypassing some of the more challenging features) are perfect for more experienced riders.

The Highlands

Head to one of the most picturesque places in Scotland for something other than walking or skiing and enjoy the trails around Glencoe, described by dmbins.com as having “some of the best downhill and cross country trails in the country”.

The Resort offers tracks to suit all abilities of rider, from the cross country tracks on the valley floor and the West Highland Way to the chairlift accessed downhill black, red and blue tracks.

Enjoy the view, looking out over Rannoch Moor and towards the Buachaille Etive Mor as you are carried to the top by the chairlift before deciding to take on the adrenaline fuelled burst of downhill speed that is the black trail or the slightly more sedate paced ‘weasel track’ and the newer red and blue graded trail which hurtles downwards crossing muddy paths, jumps and small streams.

The Resort offers (Kona) bikes for hire including downhill bikes and body armour should you wish to take on the punchier downhill trails.

Laggan, one of the easier to access centres, has a range of great trails at its WolfTrax complex for all level of riders in the idyllic setting of the Laggan Forest, on the edge of the Cairngorm National Park.

Offering one of the most technical single track outings in the Highlands, the centre has a green trail, perfect for families and novices, and two of the most popular red tracks in the country, the upper and lower, each offering their own unique challenges.

Then there’s the black trail and its exhilarating ‘Back, Sack & Crack Attack’ - a triple rock slab - and ‘The Devil’s Chessboard’ - a rocky staircase - features that will push even the best riders to the limit.

The Laggan Wolftrax Centre, run by Laggan Forest Trust, offers everything you need for a fun day out, from a place to eat and get changed, right through to bike hire and trail advice.

READ MORE: Scotland leading the field in mountain biking innovation

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