With cold, muddy and damp conditions in forests across Scotland this coming autumn, now’s the best time to saddle up and visit some of the country’s best mountain biking playgrounds
A fascinating mix of tricky terrain, awesome views and cardiovascular fitness - that’s why mountain biking appeals to so many people all over Scotland and beyond. Dumfries, Glencoe and the Highlands and Islands all offer mountain biking trails suited to different abilities and rider styles, with some of our favourites listed here.
Make sure to pick a trail that’s matched to both your ability and that of your mountain bike for a safe and enjoyable ride - Forestry Commission Scotland has a useful page on mountain biking trail guides for all trail junkies, new starters and families.
Those willing to leave the mainland will find their efforts well-rewarded at Sliglachan on the Isle of Skye, made famous by Skye-born Danny Macaskill’s video of the trail last year. Surrounded by the Cuillin Hills, this red-graded trail is one of the most difficult on offer and has an ascent of over 3,000ft. Mountain Bike Rider has previously voted the singletrack the best in Britain, making it a must-visit for hardcore off-roaders. For those seeking a more gentle day out, the pleasingly-named Bealach Brittle is not far from Sliglachan and gives riders lovely coastal views on the yellow trail. Set aside three hours for this waymarked route and maybe you’ll see the sea eagles that live on the coast.
Fort William is known internationally for hosting the UCI Mountain Biking World Cup and features the UK’s only downhill World Cup track, bringing tens of thousands of visitors to the area per year. Families and less-experienced riders have lots to do at the Nevis Range Mountain Experience, which even has a gondola that allows visitors to enjoy a comfortable ascent to the top of the mountain.
Trail centres have increased in popularity in the least few years as they provide a one-stop shop for mountain biking enthusiasts, with easily-accessible trails, car parking and catering facilities. The Dalbeattie Centre 13 miles from Dumfries isn’t too far from Glasgow or Edinburgh, but offers a variety of blue, green and red-graded trails that feel as if you’re well out into the wilds. One of its biggest attractions is The Slab: a 14m high granite block that proves a tough obstacle to negotitate on the notorious Hardrock Trail.
The west coast town of Kinlochleven hosts the Kinlochleven-Ciaran path, home to a challenging walker’s path that doubles as a cycle route. A graveyeard features at the foot of the town’s Blackwater Dam, populated by the navvies who gave their lives to construct it. The trail won Mountain Bike Rider’s coveted Trail of the Year award in 2009, and has been extensively documented since then so that riders know the scale of the challenge facing them.
For those living in the city, Dundee’s Law Loop is an excellent introduction to mountain biking which the whole family can enjoy. Featuring dirt tracks with varying inclines, cyclists who crest the summit by a spectacular view of the River Tay and the city itself.