After the storm wreckage caused by the brutal winter storms of 2021/22, the Tarland Trails in Aberdeenshire have been reborn, with nearly 17km of singletrack, jump lines and flow trails.
The winter of 2021/2022 was brutal. Over the course of four months a total of seven huge storms hit mainland Britain, causing widespread destruction, with perhaps nowhere harder hit than Aberdeenshire. Trees were levelled in their thousands and the county lost much of its trail network. That’s bad for riders of course, but the aftermath for the local area and the businesses that rely on a steady flow of mountain bikers was much worse.
From the wreckage though, green shoots began to emerge in the shape of the Tarland 2 Trails. The Scottish government committed £350k towards finishing the new project, which in turn encouraged Scottish Cycling’s National Lottery fund to invest a further £300k, adding to existing community funding efforts. Fast forward a year and those shoots have grown into one almighty forest of trees, in the shape of the Tarland 2 Trails that now boast 17km of singletrack.
Like so much in life, the devil is in the details: Tarland Trails really started in 2015, the brainchild of Chris Redmond, they brought a compact collection of trails to a small but community focused town in the Scottish countryside. Fast forward eight years, and Chris spearheaded a sequel, an ambitious project to add a purpose built trail centre to the map in Aberdeenshire, Tarland 2 Trails.
The plan had always been to build a build bigger then, but the storms really focused attention on building trails more resilient to extreme weather, explains Will Clarke from North East Adventure Tourism, which helped bring many of the parties together for funding.
“We’ve got lots of rocky, gnarly, rooty and steep trails here, natural and enduro tracks, but for years we wanted something to complement that,” he says. “The trails have been evolving over the years and we wanted to improve on the offer Scotland already gives.”
Chris Redmond agrees: “We wanted to build something Aberdeenshire hasn’t had before, its first trail centre. Building the community of riders further and inspiring others.”
Tarland has both national and local importance then, helping Aberdeenshire become more resilient, and bringing the faster, modern bike-park trails to Scotland.
The Tarland 2 trails are split on and around the Pittenderich Hill, Drummy Woods, in Aberdeenshire. And what a hill it is, the summit is over 500m high, and it offers some of the most visually stunning scenery you could experience on this fair isle. Around the centre you are treated to the spectacle of the Howe of Cromar, Mount Keen and Lochangar and views out further across the distant Cairngorms.
Big hills mean lots of pedalling of course, and from top to bottom Tarland Trails stretch up across 340m of hillside from the car park. Straight out of the car park the pedal up runs alongside the blue descent, Snakes, and is appropriately named Ladders. It gives you a glimpse of what is on offer ahead of you as you spy the carved berms snaking down the hill. The switchback climb sets the tone, it lets you settle your legs before continuing up through the woods and further up the hillside.
Tarland is smart though, the ascents and descents are split into delicious bite sized treats, meaning if you don’t feel you’ve got a 340m climb to the summit in you there are three options on the ascent to duck off and join into the descents at varying points. It sets a tone for a wonderful day of laps.
But you don’t come to a trail centre to marvel at the climbs, we are here to check out the descents. And Tarland Trails 2 has crammed in just shy of 17km, split between jump and flow trails. The jump trails serve up a blue, and black line. And the flow trails deliver a collection of blue and red trails.
The trail builders, CRC, have crafted some jump lines with a clever focus on fun and progression. The blue jump line Crowd Surfing is named after the crowd funding effort that raised the funds for its development. With open flowing berms, tables and kickers it’s a rip roaringly good fun trail, akin to the famous Crank it Up in Whistler. The tables are well built and often have two lips allowing you to develop even within one trail. Fools Gold, the black jump line, gives you a chance to test your airtime but with no sneaky gap jumps and everything rollable. Both are linked with their own pedal up allowing easy laps and endless hours of sessioning.
Nestled on the same hillside as the jump trails is a Red flow line, Call me Chris runs into Chris Cross. Half way down Call me Chris you are treated to a run of back to back berms that are guaranteed to extract an uncontrolled yelp of joy and leave you wondering whether you are in a bike park in the Alps. The Instagram nickname of Tarzine seems appropriate. Rock gardens pepper, a nod to the Scottish granite familiar locally, urging you to pop and jump your way through and ending with an optional Whale Tail and a log roll with a kicker.
The show stealing trail is the red flow descent that runs from just below the summit of Pressendye Hill. It can be broken down into four individual sections and sessions at your whim or linked together to form a 3.2km descent. The pedal up to the start is a little more taxing with a looser, slightly rockier climb but you are rewarded with the best views in the centre. The opening trail High Pressure is a nod to the weather system that the trail would be best ridden in. Carved into the open hillside, it sweeps down through fast berms that are so well supported you are able to savour the views on your descent. Shorter rockier sections give variety and interest but again are built well and roll cleanly, taking off just enough speed without stalling your descent.
Following the same building style as the red descents, the blue flow descents can be ridden as five individual sections or again combined for another lengthy descent. Scalextric is a trail that encourages you to find the right line and make the most of it, quickly dropping out onto the open hillside and again views as far as the eye can see. Flowing twists and turns, that run gorgeously fast. A slightly pedally centre when ridden as a single run is finished off with an insanely swoopy set of berms to the car park. It’s playful throughout, with rollers that can be doubled and tripled should you wish.
You can turn up and ride the Tarland Trails as a beginner wanting to keep two wheels on the but don’t be fooled that this centre will only suit those newer to riding. Keep your eyes open and the trail builders CRC have left lots of options of interpretation and combinations and interesting lines.
Versatility and choice sum up Tarland 2, and impressive feet in a compact site. Considered designs for the pedal up, segmented descents and trails that beg you to ride them to your ability mean it will offer so much to riders.
In an area of Scotland that’s dominated by technical, rugged and natural trails the fast, fun, and flowy trails are a cracking addition to an area packed with great riding. We challenge you to spend a day here and not come away with the biggest grin attached to your face.
Tarland Trails 2 Pittenderich, Tarland, Smallburn AB34 4TB
Car Parking – £5 all day, season pass available
Tarland Camping and Caravanning Site
Tarland Tea Room
Tarland Pubs x 2