Whether you're looking to lower your environmental footprint, or are just fed up of driving to go ride your bike, then these Scottish riding destinations are for you.
There’s something ironic in the fact that we mountain bikers often have to hop in the car to go ride our bikes, particularly if we don’t have trails conveniently located near where we live. But is it possible to go ride some top-notch locations without driving? Happily the answer is yes. In addition to a number of train-accessible mountain bike trails across the UK, you can head for some prime riding in Scotland by rail…and even bus.
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There is a caveat; you’ll need to reserve a bike space on some of these services. This is free, but actually doing it is surprisingly awkward since you’ll need to contact the train company that runs the service. This means giving them a call, popping into your local station, or, weirdly, getting in touch via Twitter.
One of the all-time classic trail centres, Glentress in the Tweed Valley has plenty to offer riders of all levels and persuasions, from the roller-coaster fun of the blue to gnarly and steep enduro tracks, as well as an extensive skills area, bike shop and cafe.
And that’s just one spot in a valley that has so much riding it’s hosted several rounds of the Enduro World Series and will be the venue for both the Cross Country and MTB Marathon 2023 World Championship races. There’s the downhill tracks with uplift at Innerleithen, and plenty of natural riding up and down the length of the valley.
There is in fact plenty to see you through a week of riding at least, and plenty of bike-friendly accommodation on hand. The Tweed Valley Ride Guide by Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS) has plenty of recommendations for places to eat, sleep, ride and repeat.
How to get here: Edinburgh Waverley is the major intercity station, with regular services to and from all across the UK. Nip across the road to the nearby bus station, and you can take your bike on the bus all the way to Glentress; the X62 service run by Borders Buses
Situated in the centre of a wide, pine-forested valley in the Cairngorm mountains, Aviemore is a resort town that has plenty to offer mountain bikers. From long heather-lined cross-country trails to steeper technical tracks to big days out on the mountain, every type of rider should come away tired and happy.
While the town was originally built for and may be better known for winter sports, cycling and mountain biking tourism is an increasing focus, and plenty of business are now catering to the knobby tyre crowd. The town has all the amenities you could hope for, including a bike shop and great food. We stayed at the Ravenscraig Guest House, one of the bike-friendly accommodation places listed in the DMBinS Aviemore Ride Guide, which is centrally located and has secure bike storage, a bike wash, bike stand and basic maintenance equipment, and a laundry and drying room.
How to get here: Regular train services run to Aviemore from Glasgow and Inverness, and the train station sits at one end of the main street through town. Trails are accessible from the town itself.
The Outdoor Capital of the UK surely requires little introduction, since the World Cup track at Nevis Range has been a fixture on the UCI MTB World Cup calendar since 2003. Accessible by pedalling are an increasing number of trails from the berm-tastic Blue Adder to the black graded Cackle.
But for the real draw, hop on the Nevis Range Gondola, breath in those epic views (weather dependent) then shoot off down one of the three tracks that run from the top station of the lift at 650m all the way down. There’s the World Cup track if you like it rocky, loose and hard, or the black-graded Top Chief which blends smoother rock sections and boardwalk.
The newest addition is Blue Doon, a big mountain flow trail that makes riding up high more accessible for newer riders. Endless berms flow you down a manageable gradient with views of waterfalls, mountains and lochs. There are even picnic tables along the route to have a breather and a snack at.
And Fort William will also be making an appearance at the 2023 Cycling World Championships, as it will be hosting the Downhill World Champs.
How to get here: Trains run directly from Glasgow, and it’s a simple interchange from services from Edinburgh and the west coast. You can also get the Caledonian Sleeper service overnight from London. This train has some of the best on-board bike storage, with bespoke space for six bikes hung securely on hooks.
From the station, there’s a mostly segregated cycleway all the way from the station to the Nevis Range lift station, cafe, and access to the lower trail network. DMBinS Fort William and Lochaber Ride Guide has more info on transport options.