By Anita Draycott
Mountain biking is hugely popular in Scotland and the country is home to some of the best cycling ranges and trails in the UK.
7stanes, Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders
The 7stanes are eight world-class mountain biking centres spanning seven locations in the south of the country from the Scottish Borders to Dumfries & Galloway. ‘Stane’ is the Scots word for stone and at each 7stanes centre, there is a stone sculpture that reflects a local myth or legend.
In Dumfries & Galloway, experience the trails at Dalbeattie, Glentrool, and Ae. Rise to the challenge of the Black Crags route at Kirroughtree where you’ll be amazed by the huge slabs and ridges of exposed granite. The Purple Trail Lochbank loop at Mabie is ideal for riders with less technical ability and you can choose to race round as fast as you can or soak up the stunning views at a more leisurely pace.
For those looking for some real tests, the red-graded Hardrock trail at the Dalbeattie centre has some challenging black-graded sections - ominously named The Slab, Terrible Twins and Volunteer Ridge. Ae lies just twenty minutes from the motorway but you wouldn’t believe it when you cycle along peaceful trails and reach a whole other world.
Close to Dumfries itself, the bike trails around Drumlanrig Castle are an easily accessible place to get out in the scenic woodlands typical of this part of the world.
Over to the east in the Scottish Borders, take in the views from the loftier points of Glentress, where there are more than 75kms of trails to explore. Nearby in the picturesque Tweed Valley, there is another trail centre at Innerleithen Freeride Park or take on the short, fast routes at Newcastleton, which straddles the border between Scotland and England. Scale the heights of Minch Moor at the top of the trails for a stunning view of the valley.
Skye - named as having the best single track trail in Britain by Mountain Bike Rider magazine. Visitors up for the challenge can meet it at Glen Sligachan, tackling this twisting and demanding trail with magnificent views of the famous Cuillin mountain range. Another amazing single track route can be found among the Quiraing, also on the Isle of Skye, which are spectacular ancient rock formations on the Trotternish Peninsula.
The Outer Hebrides has no shortage of excellent mountain biking options, including on Harris, which has some great trail sections and quiet roads ideal for biking. Cyclists can enjoy the Loch Ladasdail Circuit, heading up the loch and also along the shores of the epic Loch Seaforth then venture among the mountains of North Harris and experience the thrill of the descent into Glen Meavaig.
Fort William is home to the only downhill World Cup track in the UK, the internationally acclaimed Nevis Range Mountain Experience, which is true haven for mountain bikers. Here you can discover gentle flat forest trails for beginners and extreme, adrenaline pumping downhill courses and epic all day cross country tracks for the experienced and skilled rider.
The Moray Monster Trails have over 30km of single track mountain bike routes, grade from green to orange and a free ride section with routes to suit all abilities. You will also find lots of technical features to test your skills.
There is also Abriachan community owned forest with a jump park and 14kms of mountain biking trails - known as the kelpies trail - after the famous mythical water horse. This is primarily a family friendly mountain biking centre but there is the option to tackle over 4km of red trails.
To the far north of Scotland, Sutherland has some of the country’s hidden mountain biking gems. With stunning views over the Kyle of Sutherland, the inner Dornoch Firth and Bonar Bridge, the Kyle of Sutherland Mountain Bike Trails offer 17km of trails for a range of skill levels. There are blue, red and black graded trails combining in-forest riding, technical features and forest roads.
Dundee & Angus
The Sidlaw Hills, which lie north of Dundee, feature high-quality, natural single tracks and regularly host national cross-country events. In the city of Dundee itself, there are even trails to follow through its many green spaces.
The Law Loop circles Dundee’s most distinctive landmark an extinct volcano, standing 572 ft above the city. Beginners can follow a circular route around the base of the hill. For those looking for more of a challenge, a tougher route is also available with steep climbs and grassy slopes.
To the north of Angus and into the Glens, there are an increasing number of red and blue-graded routes to venture. The Glen Markie, Glen Isla & The Cateran Trail is just one of many intermediate rides with a steady climb on forest roads. There are optional difficult sections on old cross country ski trails with great views - when it’s not snowing!
There are also great trails in the lower regions of Angus. The Arbroath, Arbirlot, Ethie Woods & The Coast is a mostly flat intermediate route taking in the small villages found along the way as well as woods and part of the Angus Coastal Path.