5 of the Best Wild Mountain Bike Rides in Scotland
Posted on Apr 19, 2015 by Ross Dempster
Scotland has an abundance of world class mountain biking.
Wilderness Guide, Ross shares his favourite places to ride in the Highlands. 5 of the Best Wild Mountain Bike Rides in Scotland.
The rolling hills, forests and winding glens lends itself perfectly to exploring it by bike. The beautifully developed trail centres sprouting up all over the country can offer a physical test and a proper examination of your technical skills but for me there is something special about going to the more remote “back country”.
From an early age I remember packing a rucksack and jumping onto my bike to explore my native Pentland Hills. The scenery, challenging terrain, river crossings and even the mishaps (from punctured tyres to becoming temporarily “misplaced”) all becoming essential ingredients to the adventure mixing pot. The following 5 wild rides are my current favourites and I have even included a couple of Apres Velo suggestions where you can warm and rehydrate!
For more specific route maps and riding instructions I recommend purchasing this book.
Torridon in the North West Highlands is a place of epic proportions. The mountains rise fjord like from the Sea Lochs and Sea Eagles soar above the crags and peaks carved out of some of the oldest rock in the world.
The Torridon loop abides by this sense of grandness, it is a full day’s ride taking you into the region’s back country, a nice mix of landrover tracks and single track gives a beautiful variation to the day.
Epic Torridonean Sandstone slabs grip your tyres (even in the rain) so you can push your bike to its limits and ever rising technical climbs will test the skill of even the most avid of cross country riders.
To enjoy this circuit you will want to have a good level of fitness, it is 30 miles off road and climbs around 900 metres so not a good choice if you have been out of the saddle for an extended period! It starts and finishes roughly at the Torridon Inn which is always a good spot to relive the days adventure. Find out some Fascinating Facts about the Torridon and Applecross area.
The Beinn Damph Circuit
It is no coincidence that I have included 2 mountain bike rides both within the Torridon region of Scotland, I could quite happily spend every day exploring the trails winding in and out of the many peaks.
The Beinn Damph circuit it not quite as large a undertaking as the Torridon Loop but it still offers a stiff test of both a physical and technical nature. The ride circumnavigates Beinn Damph and has some wonderful singletrack to keep you occupied, but the real treat comes at the end.
Once you reach the final col the views down to Loch Torridon will take you breath away. Once you realise that there is singletrack all the way down to the shore side you will be as giddy as a school boy! Loose in places but spectacularly technical, fast and scenic, the downhill is the icing on cake. See above for refreshments.
Even the most experienced mountain biker can experience a flash of nerves, a tiny wobble and a moment of doubt. Read Videographer Rupert’s 5 MTB tips for a smoother and a more relaxed ride.
- We hit this trail on our Harris, Skye and Torridon tour which is for more advanced riders.
The Ultimate MTB Articles
Tour De Ben Nevis
After a big day out? This ride will test your endurance skills whilst soaking up some of the nicest cycling Lochaber has to offer.
At just under 45 miles and about 1500 metres of ascent you will be lucky to get any change from 7 hours riding and by the end you will be happy to get off your bike! It does not have hugely technical descents but the downhill to Loch Leven is fun until you realise you have to climb up the other side of the valley, but what you miss it technical riding you gain in scenery, endurance and the feeling of adventure.
Throw in a couple of river crossings (think twice about this route if it has been raining lots) and you have another great Scottish day out! Afterwards the Achintee bar at the foot of Ben Nevis is worth the extra ride!
Thinking about making big days into multi-days? Here is some useful info on BikePacking – biking and camping in one!
Glen Tilt Tour
Highland Perthshire has a plethora of MTB trails hidden amongst its forests and as I have lived in the region for the last 7 years I feel like I know most of them (I have probably only scratched the surface).
The Glen Tilt Tour feels different though, with minimal forests and plenty of open hillside this cycle offers something that a lot of the other trails in the area does not. First you get to cycle next to the river Tilt, a wonderful river to kayak if adrenaline is your thing, and taking in the views of the rapids and pools will keep you occupied as the trail ascends into the hills.
The route rides around the massive Beinn A Ghlo, one of the most inaccessible Munro’s in Scotland, and lasts about 39 miles. Your legs will take a hammering as well with 1600 metres of ascent but the sense of wilderness you get on the far side of the mountain makes it worth it. The return leg of the journey back to the carpark takes in some great singletrack and as you burn through the heather you will realise that the journey was worth it! The Athol Arms Hotel is always cosy for afters!
Heading to the Cairngorms? Check out these Top 7 Mountain Bike Routes in the Cairngorms.
All those who have seen Danny MacKaskill ride over the Cuillin Ridge will probably realise that it is not for them… however the Glen Sligachan ride will put you in the midst of the scenery and offer great wilderness mountain biking without risking a thousand meter fall.
It starts and finishes at the Sligachan Hotel (which is handy) unless you box clever and run a car shuttle to miss out the last bit of road. Don’t let the relatively modest 29 miles fool you, there is a 100 metres of climbing to be done and some rough terrain to navigate before you get to enjoy the Hotel!
The scenery can rival any in the world, the Cuillin Ridge, Loch Scavaig and a plethora of wildlife will keep you entertained for the 6 hours you will be out and about. As with all these rides don’t feel like you have to race round the route, the beautiful thing about adventuring into the backcountry on a bike is that you can always afford to stop, take a minute and enjoy the place that your bike has carried you to. Click here for more info on Skye.
Fancy getting on your bike in the Outer Hebrides? Read Mountain Biking in the Outer Hebrides – Hidden Gems.
Guided Mountain Biking Tours in Scotland
If you’re keen to hit up some of the cracking mountain biking trails in Scotland but not sure but not sure how to sniff out the best of them, then consider a guided group mountain biking tour from Wilderness Scotland. Our tours have been created with years and years and layers and layers of knowledge and expertise to craft a truly mind-blowing experience that’ll inspire you to ride your bike a lot more.
Don’t take our word for it, read the reviews of the travellers who have ridden with us over the years.
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