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Scotland is such a mecca for off-road cycling now that if you’ve any interest at all in cycling you really ought to add Scotland to your bucket list. There’s plenty of information out on the web about various different areas and there are options for everyone and all abilities, especially with the increase in the popularity of electric bikes.

The advantage of cycling here in the Cairngorms is that there is such a variety of routes that you can literally take anyone out and about for any length of time.

As with all sports the routes and reports you hear about the most are made by true afficionados. You might never hear about the wee pootles you can do with the kids, or the gentle paths winding through the forests; or the sights you can include on your ride. The sheer choice of off-road track here means that you can cycle for miles without seeing a car or if you want, there are miles of quiet lanes to explore on the road bike.

Cycling in the Cairngorms

  1. Family cycling – natural trails: options include – Rothiemurchus Estate, Glenmore Forest, Speyside Way (perhaps linked with the Strathspey Steam Railway). If you’re on Strava or MTBtrails, you can probably find routes other people have ridden with some advice and details.
  2. Family cycling – the trail centres: options include: Glenlivet, Laggan Wolftrax, Learnie Red Rocks, Moray Monster Trails. The closest centre to us at the moment is Glenlivet. They have a long blue run and an even longer red run. The main disadvantage at the moment to riding at Glenlivet is that the cafe/shop is not currently operating. It was fine for us on our last visit as we didn’t have any major incidents but it was a whole lot quieter than it used to be.

Family cycling in Glenmore Forest

Half-day rides and adventures

There are so many options here from the front door and slightly further away, that our main recommendation would be to make sure you allow plenty of time to try out different choices. Maybe start with one of the trail centres to get your eye in, test your skill level, book a guide perhaps to increase your confidence.

From Boat you can try a big ride like the Burma Road, or cycle through to Nethybridge and get the steam train back (or the other way round). You can continue on to Grantown.

Don’t be afraid to explore and make sure you have a map! We have trail maps at Fraoch Lodge and there’s an excellent hire stop in the village: Ride

If you only get to Nethy, stop in at Nethy House to refuel.

If you get to Grantown, try the High Street Merchant (they’re licensed if you fancy a beer and right next door to Two Thirsty Men micro brewery).

Tying in the riding with more adventure

For the more adventurous – bikepacking adventures in the Cairngorms

This is what I see the most publicity and vibe about here in the Cairngorms at the moment, but that could just be my media bubble filtering through only articles it thinks will interest me. Bikepacking is not new. People have been doing it for years – touring with their bikes. It now has a sexy new name and new gear making better use of the bike frame for carrying equipment to make it easier for you and more streamlined.

The sheer size of the Cairngorms lend themselves to multi-day adventures – on foot or by bike, or even on horseback. Check out some of these adventures recorded on YouTube.

 

 

Recommended resources for mountain biking in the Cairngorms

Trail maps – excellent detailed maps for different routes around the Cairngorms including identified hazards and recommended directions for riding the route

Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland – they have developed a guide to all the trail centres in Scotland where you can virtually ride the tracks. There’s also a lot of advice about different trails.

The best mountain bike trails in Scotland (as recommended in Singletrack)

 

Burma Road: Natural MTB Trails in the Cairngorms

The Burma Road route is a fantastic way to see spectacular views of the Cairngorms and the picturesque countryside of the National Park. Graded hard and requiring a high fitness level to complete, this 26-mile cycling route is achievable in four to five hours.

Trekking over a mixture of tarmac, dirt, grass and rocky tracks makes sections of the trail challenging. And with a three mile extremely steep climb the initial part of the route can come across as particularly challenging. But, overall it is worth the initial exertion.

Map of the Burma Road route.

Map of the Burma Road Route.

Distance:

26 miles/41km

Approx. calorie count:

1800 kcal

Time:

allow around 4 or 5 hours cycling time.

Ascent:

2123ft/647m

 

Scot Mountain Holidays route

The official start point of the cycle begins in Aviemore, an enjoyable and relatively easy 6-mile ride from Fraoch Lodge across the countryside. Once reaching Aviemore it’s as simple as following the main road through town, crossing the A9 and following a single tarmac road to the Scripture Union Centre at Alltnacriche. Having followed the route through a forest gate this is where things begin to get difficult.

The Burma Road views

Views from the Burma Road Classic

The climb

The climb is very steep and walking is often quicker then riding at a gradient of this level. Certainly, you wouldn’t be alone in getting off your bike and pushing. The climb stretching over 3-miles levels out at points, but you will likely spend the uphill section hopping on and off your bike. Make sure to turn around regularly during the ascent as the view is well worth the exertion.

Once you have reached the top, the path down is quick and steep. The route in this section is made up of gravel and loose stones caused from water erosion. This will limit your speed, and you will need a fair amount of control and concentration to get down safely. The end of the descent can be celebrated once you reach a wide bridge. This also signifies the countryside section of the route having crossed the bridge.

The Burma Road Classic route

During the Burma Road classic

The countryside

From here it’s as simple as following the path alongside the left hand of the river. The path is overall a wide and good one. But, you will find small patches of boggy ground, grassy paths and several gates to go through. After a very enjoyable ride through the countryside the very end of the path is marked by a T intersection. Take the track leading right and you’ll pass over a bridge, up a small hill and you’ll find yourself back on tarmac.

The last stretch

Mostly downhill and with limited traffic the road to Carrbridge is one of the easiest sections of the day. About halfway along you’ll see a sign on the left hand side of the road to Sluggan bridge. This impressive structure is well worth the short 1-mile detour.

Sluggan Bridge

The Sluggan Bridge

After continuing on and reaching Carrbridge, make sure you stop for the iconic pictures of the bridge. And perhaps even a well-deserved pint at the local pub.

Burma Road

The 18th century packhorse bridge of Carrbridge

Boat of Garten is only 5 miles further from Carrbridge and it’s as simple as following the ‘7’ bike route back to base.

Map of the Burma Road route.

Map of the Burma Road Route.

 

External links:

More pictures and description of the route from Dave Banks

Share and compare the route

The route reviewed in The Herald newspaper

The Burma Raod in the Inverness Courier

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