True Highlands Blog
The Highlands is truly one of the best biking destinations in the world with an enormous number of opportunities to explore, to push yourself or to just amble along with the family. Here are our top suggestions in each of our areas, for accessible and more challenging rides.
Caithness NE Sutherland, Orkney & Shetland
Altnabreac is one of the most remote train stations in the country and is a request stop on the way to John o’ Groats. It is not connected by tarmac to the road network but a series of land rover paths and tracks lead from here in either direction. After getting off the train you are faced with a brilliant, long but not technical ride to get back to civilization. Many of the most interesting historic sites in Orkney are relatively close together so can be seen in a day by bike. The most famous loop takes in Skara Brae, Maeshowe and the Ring of Brodgar.
Moray is blessed with a large number of signed long distance paths that are suitable for family cycling such as the Dava Way, The Speyside Way and the Moray Coast Trail. All are well signposted, traffic free and brilliant for dipping in and out of, or just doing a bit at a time. For more accomplished mountain bikers there are also two great trail centres, The Moray Monster Trails at Fochabers and the newly completed Glenlivet Trails at Tomintoul.
Wester Ross & Outer Hebrides
Launched earlier on this year by Marc Beaumont the Hebridean Cycle Way has already proved to be a huge success. The route is completely on road but the small amount of traffic makes it suitable for those just growing in confidence. For those wanting a bit of an off-road challenge then the old postie road from Reinigeadal on Harris is one of the most sought after day trips for visiting mountain bikers, it’s a tough and technical day out but well worth the effort.
Inverness & Nairn
The Ness Islands and the Caledonian Canal are easily accessible from the centre of Inverness and make a fantastic family ride. There are no hills or traffic and you can make different sized loops back to your starting point depending on how fit you are feeling. A longer ride would be to follow the Sustrans cycle route out of the city, this goes along quiet roads where there is still some traffic and will take you to Clava Cairns and Culloden Battlefield.
Skye & Lochalsh
Calum’s Road is one of the most famous bits of tarmac in the country with a fascinating story behind it, no trip to Raasay would be complete without visiting. Danny Macaskill made the Cuillin Ridge famous with his amazing mountain bike film but for those of us who would rather something a little less death defying then the route to Sligachan just below the ridge is scenic as well as being challenging.
Mid and East Sutherland
The Highland Wildcat Trail at Golspie is the most northerly trail centre in the UK with over 18 km of technical singletrack winding its way around Ben Bhraggie. Road cyclists are also well served in this area with scenic and almost traffic free roads. Tourist traffic has mainly been drawn to the North Coast 500 route meaning all the other surrounding roads are pleasantly quiet.
Black Isle, Mid & Easter Ross
Learnie Red Rock Trails on the Black Isle are the premier bike day out in the area. Black runs for experts as well as Blue trails for beginners mean there is something for everyone. For an easier day out then you can hire an electric bike and explore the “Dolphin Mile” out to Chanonry Point from Fortrose and Rosemarkie.
Ardnamurchan & Mull
From Glengorm Castle on the north coast of Mull it is possible to cycle down Loch Frisa almost all the way to Salen without going on the road. A great way to get away from it all without getting too far away from civilization. The Isle of Ulva has no tarmac roads but loads to see if you have a mountain bike. The terrain is fairly easy going with plenty of paths leading all-round the island and to nearby Gometra.
Ardnamurchan is full of singletrack roads which have spectacular scenery and cycling is a superb way of seeing it.
Fort William & Lochaber
The Downhill World Cup is one of the highlights of the year in Fort William. The course is known as one of the fastest and most challenging on the world circuit but is open for anyone to ride outside of competition. For those apprehensive about the difficulty of the course there are a number of other easier options for a day out mountain biking such as the renowned Witch’s Trails.
The Forest Trust at Abriachan have developed a series of mountain biking trails to suit all abilities. The emphasis here is on family fun and building the confidence and experience of younger riders. The Great Glen Way also goes through here and makes an excellent multi day biking adventure from Inverness all the way to Fort William.
Aviemore & the Cairngorms
Laggan Wolftrax is a purpose built trail centre that boasts everything from a family friendly green route to what has been described as the most technical piece of single track in Scotland. Bike hire is available on site. The Cairngorms have a huge selection of easily accessible mountain bike routes, one of the most famous is the Burma Road, a 40km loop that starts and finishes in Aviemore.
Argyll, Arran, Jura & Islay
Islay is just the right size to explore by bike, the roads are quiet and there is an increasing number of dedicated paths that link up the main attractions such as distilleries. The 5 Ferries Challenge is a brilliant fun way to explore Arran, Kintyre and the Firth of Clyde. The logistics are as difficult as the cycling but you can do the route over a number of days and starting and finishing at any point.
North West Sutherland
The Beallach na Ba is Britain’s biggest road climb and has been a magnet for cyclists for years. Starting from near sea-level it rises 626m in 9.1km of uphill – reaching 20% at its steepest gradient, quite a challenge. Applecross also has no shortage of mountain bike routes, one of the most interesting being the old Coffin Road from Kenmore.
Bute has an annual festival of cycling known as the Rothesay Weekend that features the notorious Serpentine Hill Climb, a 2-up time trail event around the island, a 10-mile time trial and a road race. It’s a fantastic gathering of the Scottish bike clans and highlights the many biking attractions on the island. Only Iona residents can take their vehicles to the island, this means that it is a common sight to see fleets of bikes travelling between the main attractions. The island is small enough that everything is convenient and you can even hire electric bikes to make it a bit easier.Tags: coffin road, cycle highlands, cycling in scotland, family friendly cycling, glenlivet trails, hebridean cycle way, highland cycle tracks, mountain biking in scotland, sustrans