My partner – G – and I have had a couple of mountain bike holidays in Scotland before, so it was a chance to revisit some favourite haunts as well try out some new destinations. Roadtrip, yeehah!
Initially we had planned to get as far north as Torridon, however the schedule became too tight to make those extra miles further north. So sadly we omitted it with the promise of heading there next time.
So, the route was:-
Glentress/Innerleithen – Laggan – Fort William – Brig O Turk – Ae – Home
Glentress/Innerleithen – arguably the most famous biking destination in the UK, and regularly voted Top Ten in the world. I personally prefer Glentress, so wasn’t too disappointed that the trails at Innerleithan were closed for a race. Glentress mountain bike centre has had an incredible facelift the last few years, from a small but friendly shack run by Emma Guy and Tracey Brunger to a huge operation with a large café, spotless toilets/showers and bike shop. It’s newer, swankier and larger but not for the better. Sometimes older, basic and smaller is preferable and in this case it certainly is. At the risk of sounding like a hippy, it seems to have lost its ‘soul’ somewhat.
However, the descent of Spooky Woods is still as much fun as I remembered from several years earlier, so much fun that we climbed up to do it again!
Glentress is a great place to visit, although it’s extremely busy. Next time we would be keen to try out some of the local trails or head to Innerleithen where the tracks are harder but much quieter.
Tip – head straight to the top (overflow) car park at Glentress, it’s quieter plus you miss the initial climb.
Laggan – I last rode at Laggan 8 years ago, and remember it very fondly (although I was too chicken to do ‘the rock’ then which left me frustrated). We got there early evening, parked up and took Rorie for a walk. Again this centre had changed significantly from a little portacabin to a purpose built building with shop, café, showers and an office, albeit on a much smaller scale than Glentress.
We ‘camped’ overnight and then woke up early to start the Red trail there. In my mind it is the best trail centre red-graded route in the UK. It is simply brilliant. We didn’t see a soul the whole way round, the views were incredible, the landscape was a sea of purple heather and the trail was tricky enough to be challenging, yet sooo much fun. And, yes, I finally conquered ‘the rock’!
The café served great homemade food and there were plenty of wild raspberries to pick for a tasty dessert around the footpaths (if only we had some ice-cream in our motorhome freezer – next time!).
Fort William – I initially thought this was going to be the highlight of the trip, however I was shattered so decided not to do a gondola uplift day instead choosing to do a scenic walk with Rorie. G had a great day testing himself on the red and the World Cup downhill routes.
We had planned to stay in Fort William for a couple of days but the midges were an absolute nightmare making us a prisoner in the motorhome. I have visited Fort William half a dozen times – always in the winter – and to me seemed a lovely town. However, this visit it looked run down and ordinary without the snow or darkness to give it a magical feel. Disappointed, we headed south.
Brig O Turk – Where? Exactly! However, we felt that we should do at least one natural ride on the trip. So after a quick café stop to do some free Wi-Fi searching we decided upon the Glen Finglas route from the MBR website with the promise of some fantastic descending.
It was a beautiful, blue-sky morning and we pedaled off purposefully (in a bid to escape the midges that were STILL surrounding Buddy). Firstly on a quiet country lane that soon turned into a double track, hugging the loch and then heading steep up hill. And the hill WAS steep, even G with his Hoy-esque thighs pushed one of the sections.
After riding gingerly passed huge cows that really couldn’t be bothered to move away from us towards the top, came the promised descending. It didn’t disappoint. It was fast!
The track was double track the whole way, so this route would disappoint the only-want-to-do-singletrack bikers, however if you want to try a route in a less visited part of Perthshire, a BIG climb, with a long, long descent and gorgeous scenery to boot then it is a great half day ride away from the craziness of a 7-stanes centre.
Ae was brief as we had to cull our holiday short. However a quick blast around the final descent gave us a taste of what we had done before and had thoroughly enjoyed, we headed slowly and slightly saddened back down south to Wales.
Scotland has long held a special place in my heart and I have holidayed there pretty much every year of my adult life – ironically rarely in the summer time. The midges really are a problem, however staying in a motorhome made it bearable and the biking gave us plenty of positive distractions.