Natural Mountain Bike Trails in the Highlands
Trail centres are not for us. We like to go our adventuring on mountain bike trails. The top choice for us is always to head out on the natural trails. Fortunately for us, we’re spoilt for choice here in the Cairngorms National Park. Below we’ve shared some of our recent explorations and suggestions.
Bear in mind that the route conditions will change depending on the weather conditions. The trails were not muddy when we rode them, but we did have to watch out for ruts in the snow.
We’ve also added in some suggestions for those fitter or with more free time than we had. The family suggestions below are just what we had time for in an afternoon before the sunset in January.
For those who want a race: Strathpuffer
The Strathpuffer is a gruelling 24 hour mountain biking challenge. There aren’t many which are more challenging than this. The race takes place in January at about the darkest time of year. It takes a tough person or team to complete the race, but if challenge motivates you, this could be the one for you.
A challenging one: The Burma Road in winter
The Burma road is a classic mountain biking challenge in the Cairngorms National park. It is a day ride which takes 4 – 5 hours to complete depending on your level of fitness and photo stops. The views are spectacular, a breathtaking reward for the breath-stealing climb!
NB Route adaptation since we rode the Burma road in summer conditions which avoids having to cross the busy A9.
Follow the Speyside Way from Boat of Garten, through into Aviemore. On the edge of Aviemore you’ll pick up the Aviemore orbital route, which follows alongside the main road through the village. Join the main road and ride out of Aviemore parallel to the A9. At La Taverna pizza restaurant, cross over to the right hand side of the road. Follow the path on that side of the road for about 200m until you see an underpass on your right hand side.
This will take you to the other side of the A9.
Bear left and follow the road left. Keep left when it turns back towards the A9, then pick up a wee track through the grass heading away from Aviemore (south) towards Lynwilg. The track will become single-track through the heather before joining up with the road past Lynwilg and the track up the hill which is the Burma Road.
Now follow directions as per our previous route.
For most independent riders:
These routes are all smaller and can be done in half a day but both have the ability to be extended for a more complete day out if you wish. We just beat darkness to ride them after lunch.
Riders included 1 x 10 year old and 2 inexperienced off-road riders
WARNING: river crossings involved
RECOMMENDATION: Wear waterproof socks!
1. Glenfeshie bothy
Map of our route: Ordnance survey route
2. Nethybridge – Abernethy loop
Map of our route: Ordanance survey route
definitely manageable by children aged 10 and over, possibly by younger kids too.
Other route possibilities:
Original Burma Road route (in summer conditions)
Reindeer centre to Potting Shed cafe (no longer open) You’d need to turn this route into a loop now as the Potting Shed cafe is no longer open. The owners have decided to retire. We live in hope that they may open up again in future, perhaps under new management as it was a lovely spot to stop with some of the best cakes in the area.