mbr's Trail of the Year

World Cup downhill or walker's trail? You decide...

World Cup downhill or walker’s trail? You decide…

Kinlochleven – Ciaran Path.

There is a graveyard at the foot of Blackwater Dam, high above Kinlochleven. It is the final resting place for many of the navvies who built the dam; those who succumbed to the primitive conditions and unimaginably hard Scottish winters.

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When the heavy Highland cloud descends and you look out over the bleak and inky expanse of the Blackwater reservoir, few places can match it for a sense of foreboding. It is worth taking a moment, up there, to imagine the daily toil and the relentless misery before you set off down the hill.

Why? Because few trails polarise opinion like the Ciaran Path. For some it is the essence of a wild, natural trail. For the rest, it is a day in hell. And while it is unquestionably tough, it is a walk in the park compared the navvies’ brutal existence.

As featured in MBR’s 20 best mountain bike UK trails, click here to view

We crowned it Trail of the Year in 2009, and for Mick it lived up to this billing; “after seeing Andy Mac’s brilliant Big Picture from Kinlochleven, and hearing all about the Ciaran Path in the office, I knew I’d have get myself up there, and this year I finally did. I rode the technical, challenging and scenic Highlands descent on one of the nicest days imaginable, with blazing sun and blue skies making for extra grippy rocks to hurtle down.”