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Best Mountain Bike Trails

Posted on Sep 25, 2012 by Robin McKelvie

What Makes Scotland’s Mountain Bike Trails Great?

I’ve been lucky as a travel writer to ride mountain bike trails on five continents, but hand on heart the finest biking in the world for me is right here in Scotland. Don’t just take my word for it. An International Mountain Bike Association ‘People’s Poll’ has hailed Scotland as the world’s number one MTB destination and as soon as you point two wheels in this direction it is easy to see why.

An increasing number of bikers are heading to Scotland these days. Indeed since 2002 Fort William has been holding rounds of the Mountain Bike World Cup and in 2007 it hosted the first three-discipline spectacular of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup series. Scotland’s reputation seems on an inexorable rise and Fort William also successfully staged the UCI World Championships in 2007.

Scotland could have been sculpted with mountain bike trails in mind. The country overflows with epic mountains, rugged moors and rolling hills, with plenty of wilderness out there for everyone. There are rough old drovers’ trails to explore and virginal hillsides to check out, as well as the new breed of dedicated mountain bike centres that have sprung up over the last decade or so.

Mountain Bike Trail Centres

The most impressive initiative has been the brilliant 7Stanes (www.7stanesmountainbiking.com) project. This has seen the Forestry Commission Scotland take an enlightened attitude to MTB all across southern Scotland. Bikers have been actively encouraged and mountain bike trails marked in the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway at seven centres.

The finest of the 7 Stanes for me is Glentress. Here’s why:

  • The slick £8.5m Peel visitor centre boasts a bike shop, changing rooms and a café.
  • I don’t even bother bringing any of my gear here as you can hire it all on arrival.
  • Glentress, like most of the centres, have green (easy), blue (moderate), red (difficult) and black (severe) routes, as well as a skills park.
  • I’m a big fan of Glentress’ red trails, but last year they added a few superb blue sections.
  • The new Blue Velvet and Berm Baby Berm sections really get your heart racing without having to worry about the technical challenges awaiting around the next corner.
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Exploring Wild Trails

It is outside the trail centres that, for many mountain bikers, the fun really starts. The rest of the world is left behind as you bang off down remote trails where you seldom see any other riders. A great way to enjoy the wilds without having to worry about navigating and transfers is on one of Wilderness Scotland’s guided mountain bike trips.

I’ve been out with Wilderness Scotland on a couple of biking holidays and they really know their stuff. The highlight of their programme for me is their world-class week-long Coast to Coast adventure. It is easy to see why Outside Magazine named this thrilling epic one of their Trips of the Year. It is the UK’s ultimate mountain bike ride, traversing the entire breadth of Scotland from the North Sea across 375km of stunning scenery in search of the Atlantic Ocean surf. En route is an epic wildscape of mountain and glen where eagles soar and deer roam wild, the sort of landscapes that help Scotland for me deserve to be renowned as the world’s number one mountain destination.

About the author

Robin McKelvie

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