The jewel in the crown of Scotland's 7Stanes MTB trail project
- Green skills area: 1.5km/singletrack 90%
- Green route: 4.5km/singletrack 60%
- Blue lower loop: 8km/singletrack 80%
- Blue upper loop: 8km/singletrack 60%
- Red route: 19km/singletrack 75%
- Black route: 30km/singletrack 80%
- Orange freeride park
Glentress was one of the first trail centres in Scotland, and, thanks to over 80km of purpose-made trails, it’s the number one visitor attraction in the Scottish Borders. In fact, together with its 7Stanes neighbour, Innerleithen, Glentress has made the Tweed Valley something of a spiritual home to UK mountain biking. Some of the man-made trails date back almost 15 years now, but, thanks to great design and maintenance, as well as continual evolution, the award-winning trail network just keeps on getting busier.
This success comes by delivering what the riders want — an excellent variety of trails suitable for beginners right up to experts, and all-weather surfaces that always run fast, even if it’s chucking it down. It doesn’t hurt either that, as part of the recent £8.5m investment in the Peel site, there’s a glitzy new cafe and bike shop, complete with bike wash stations and shower facilities. This ability to get your kit clean and dry after a big day out is a handy bonus and a nice cherry on top of the already tasty Glentress pie.
With over 400m of elevation to play with, there’s a huge variety of terrain to go at. At lower levels a densely wooded, tight and twisty feel dominates, but heading out on the full 19km black route there’s open countryside and a stunning panoramic viewpoint looking over the Tweed Valley from Green Hill. Flowing, swooping, man-made trails have always been Glentress’s calling card, but more recently they’ve been boosted by a fantastic selection of hand-cut, more natural trails. The local Trailfairies volunteer group is to thank for these rooty and technical creations, with names like Pie Run and Mushroom Pie, all of which link nicely into the mainstream trail network.
The family-friendly green routes offer proper mountain biking on purpose-made tracks and are perfect for building basic mtb skills. Speeds are kept low on the gentle descents, and the trail builders have swerved any lung-busting climbs that might deter younger children or those new to the sport. There are two start points to choose from — one from the Peel car park (a 4.5km loop) and one at the Buzzard’s Nest (a 3.5km loop). The greens are a useful place to find your flow, and are handily located next to the skills area, which itself has recently been renovated. This skills area is part of the Glentress approach to bringing riders on gently, featuring examples of obstacles and terrains to expect from the trail grading before you set off on a colour-coded route.
The blue route pushes out further into the 100-year-old forest and is a hidden gem that’s often ignored by more advanced riders. Local mountain bike ranger Andy Wardman explains: “The blue has some of the best riding of any of the trails. It’s great for a novice, but equally good for experienced riders who can practise carrying speed through berms and corners while having fun on the small tabletops and jumps. One of my favourite rides combines the best of the blue and red routes — ride up the red and up and down Spooky Wood and Super G, before cutting across to join the blue for Blue Velvet and down to the section called Berm Baby Berm. You can then carry on down the blue to the finish.”
The blue route covers 16km in total with 75 per cent on singletrack, but those feeling less spritely can double back down Electric Blue from Buzzard’s Nest and shorten the loop to 8km while still milking some great sections.
This is the one; the reason they flock in their thousands to Glentress. There’s just something about the combination of elements that makes the red here such a classic loop and a tried-and-tested favourite. Parts of the trail are 15 years old this summer, and it has been constantly tweaked and improved to keep getting better. Expect some stiff, technical and physically demanding climbs, rewarded by fast, swooping descents littered with berms, jumps and tons of flow.
The red route now misses out the considerable chunks of old fire road slog in the opening kilometres and instead snakes up the new Dougie Bank and Cardie Hill climbs. This sweet, contouring singletrack makes for a far gentler height gain in the shadows of some magnificent Douglas Fir trees. Eventually breaking out into the light after passing through dense forest, great views of the Tweed Valley open up before you skirt the freeride park with its options of a few laps of the (advanced level) jumps and berms if you’re feeling energetic.
The next parts of trail offer some steep-in-places singletrack on loose and rocky surfaces and give you a taster of what’s ahead. It’s then a case of onwards and upwards, muscling sharp climbs that will test the fittest riders up to the infamous Spooky Wood — arguably the signature section of the whole Glentress complex. This 1.5km singletrack ticks off 35 jumps and tabletops as it threads through 12 180-degree berms and is a pure adrenaline rush. And, just when you thought it was over, cross the road to continue the descent down the rough and jagged berms of the Super G section.
Appearing after a short linking section, Hit Squad Hill is the next Glentress steep, rocky and twisting classic. Built back in 1998, many regard this as one of the best bits of trail in the UK. One challenge here is to try running the whole section without turning a pedal. From here on in, there’s a choice: head for home on Pie Run, one of the Trailfairies’ rooty, nadgery, natural trails, or continue up the hill to take in The Matrix with its pumpy, mogul-style features.
Magic Mushroom is, as the name suggests, a mind-bending, rooty plummet into the valley before climbing out for the final Falla Brae descent — essentially flat-out singletrack (with black-graded options) that leads back down to the old Hub car park. It’s a short pedal back round to the Peel centre for a much-need coffee and cake.
Glentress’s black route offers a truly epic ride, with a healthy dose of serious climbing and energy-sapping terrain in its 29km circuit. The route shares the same start as the red before branching off to take in some boneshaking, rooty and rocky surfaces on its way to gaining over 600m of elevation at Dunslair Heights. The black route has some classic technical sections like The Bitch and Wormhole, plus a real sense of isolation if you take it to the very summit, but it is easy to access the best bits from other trails and, at times, it feels like the climbing outweighs the descending when we’ve ridden the full loop.
With so much to offer, it’s easy to see why Glentress is so popular. It’s in a lovely part of the country, and the fact that there’s a sister centre down the road at Innerleithen with its own top-notch red route and tons of technical DH terrain makes a visit even more compelling.
How to find it
Postcode is EN45 8NB. Closest town is Peebles — 3.5km to the west.
Glentress Peel cafe is licensed, and has an excellent food selection. Alpine Bikes is a fully stocked, huge store with over 150 bikes for hire, and there are also showers, toilets and a bike wash area.
All-day parking £5.
Watch out for
Glentress works well year round — it’s well sheltered and drained and trails are regularly maintained. A short-travel full-suspension bike would be our weapon of choice.