By Malcolm O Reilly
Published: Oct 19, 2018More by Malcolm
Massive open environments, long winding trails, incredible mountainous views and a true sense of remoteness – Torridon is host to some of the most amazing outdoor locations in Scotland. Torridon possesses so much varied terrain and thus offers a ridiculously enjoyable mountain biking experience.
- Mountain biking in Torridon is part of one of our MTB adventure holidays which also visits Harris and Skye. This holiday is graded 9 (out of 10) in terms of difficulty. A video on our mountain bike grading can be found here.
Mountain biking in Torridon is an absolute must for experienced bikers looking for the ultimate challenge where you will have the chance to battle rugged terrain where some of the rocks are as old as 500 million years!
Below, we have compiled a number of our best photographs that have been captured during our Torridon mountain biking adventures for you to relish and see this remarkably beautiful place of wilderness.
Wilderness Guide and mountain biking enthusiast Malcolm O’ Reilly provides some of his expert knowledge and experience of battling the iconic Torridon landscape on two wheels.
In UK terms, Torridon mountain biking is legendary. Testing singletrack amidst some of the UK’s most spectacular mountain scenery – what’s not to like? It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted though. Most of the best descents involve a serious bit of legwork to reach and, once you’re committed, a mistake or equipment failure could be very costly. At best you may have a big repair bill and a very long walk down and at worst you’re seriously injured up on a mountain, in bad weather and with no phone reception … And a broken bike.
If you’re the type of person who is now drooling and reaching for your full-finger gloves and knee pads, then you might also appreciate a little geology background (maybe). Although the Torridonian sandstone is inherently grippy and forms nice slabs and blocks, it does also get polished (because it’s a comparatively soft rock). Add in some moisture and it can also be a little slippy and muddy. But because of the way sandstone fractures, you also get a good dose of sharp edges too – so beware pinch flats. The other dominant rock is quartzite, which is a very different beast. Although there are not vast amounts of it on the trails, when you do find it, it’s like riding technical, consequential singletrack made of broken pottery, with a few drawing pins mixed in for good measure! OK, so maybe I exaggerate a bit, but the point is that quartzite is much harder, sharper and lighter in colour than the sandstone. If a pinch flat hasn’t got you by this point, then a nasty tyre gash might. But this all adds to the fun, right?
1. Descent to Annat from above Loch an Eoin
Enjoy some thrilling downhill biking starting from the picturesque village of Annat and finishing at the beautiful reflective waters of Loch an Eoin.
One of the key routes that everyone gets giddy about is the Annat Descent. The first section alongside the loch starts relatively easy, on fast, windy singletrack with great views. Don’t get too relaxed here, though, ‘cos there’s the odd cheeky gully that might test your line and rhythm. Once you hit the sandstone bedrock after the loch, though, it’s peachy – grippy and wide, with loads of variation. The last half, however, is definitely not a time to think ‘beer’s round the corner’. Well, it is, but you’ve still got 300m vertical to lose in less than 3km and the nice slabs of Torridonian sandstone soon give way to jagged blocks and rocky ruts, with monster bracken and walkers’ gates to finish!
2. Coire Lair Drop
Experience an adrenaline-fuelled ride in an area known for its stunning waterfalls and beautiful Scottish Pine trees.
Mountain Bike Grading Explained
Check out our video below for more information on how our mountain biking trips are graded for difficulty. Skip to 2.25 for details on trips graded 7 – 9 and marvel at the astonishing Torridon scenery in motion.
Wilderness Scotland Mountain Bike Grading Explained from Wilderness Scotland on Vimeo.
3. Torridon Fun Park
Be enthralled as you traverse through long rocky bike trails whilst surrounded by the stunning lush green grass of Torridon. ‘Fun’ is an understatement.
4. Losing Altitude Fast
Highest elevation: 585 meters. Lowest elevation: 204 meters. The name says it all – if you want an exhilarating and fast descent, choose this route.
5. Beinn Damph Trail…Road to Road
For those looking for the ultimate challenge. The Beinn Damph Trail is a difficult ride with a steep climb but has a hugely rewarding descent for all your troubles.
Right, let’s get one thing straight, first. There are quite a few variations of how to ride the big Torridon trails. There’s long and short options, more road, less road, circular and point-to-point, but at some stage, you will almost certainly end up carrying or riding up something that someone else swears is better ridden down. This classic, however, is definitely not one of those. Ride it anticlockwise and you get the wicked, rocky descent and gorgeous pine forest singletrack to finish. Yes, it’s a bit eroded and yes, there is a proper (unrideable) river crossing, but the sheer buzz of picking a line through the at-times-bonkers Torridonian rubble and hitting cheeky little drops amongst gnarled Scots pine trees more than makes up for it. And the up? Well, it’s just cruisy estate road, becoming more and more overgrown-swamp-pantomime, then gradual singletrack climb, overlooking great mountain scenery. Perfect.
6. A896 Climb
Some bikers have described this as “the holy grail” – perhaps, even, the most difficult climb in the whole of Britain.
- Check out our Top 5 Mountain Biking Technique Tips that will help you conquer a mountain with a bike.
7. Full Beinn Damph Descent
This is part of the Beinn Damph trail but is built for those that are more interested in the downhill portion of the complete route.
- Read about two epic mountain bike rides in the Torridon region: The Beinn Damph Circuit and the Torridon Loop in our 5 Best Wild Mountain Bike Rides in Scotland
One final thought that may be worth reflecting on, is that the Torridon trails were originally built (by hand) during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its probably not a surprise to learn that mountain biking wasn’t high on the design spec for the paths then – these paths were constructed to service the rich deer hunting estates (‘forests’) here. As such, the paths were designed to allow hunters to efficiently travel on foot or horseback through the landscape and then to bring their horses down safely – often carrying clients or heavy deer carcasses. This network of trails has been described as ‘one of the finest networks of stone paths to be found on an estate in the highlands.’ And maybe this is why they have become such a draw for bikers. They gain height quickly but aren’t excessively steep, which means both ups and downs are that bit more enjoyable and flowy. They follow the lie of the land, rather than resorting to daft switchbacks. And once you get high, they traverse for good distances, with wide views and a solid surface. So, as you enjoy them, stay safe, say a little thanks to the much-loved Duncan Darroch, the laird who began them over a century ago and do your best to treat the trails well.
Want to experience the thrill of a mountain biking holiday in Scotland?
To find out more about our range of Scottish mountain biking holidays (including our adventure in Torridon) just visit here.
- If mountain biking is not quite in your interest area, but you would still like to visit Torridon then our High Points of Torridon and Wester Ross walking/hiking adventure could be for you!