Is this the best mountain bike trail in Scotland?

 

Think of a wild Scottish landscape combined with world-class mountain bike trails and you will likely conjure a romantic image of Glen Coe, the vast wilderness of Torridon, the infamous Fort William or the foreboding Cuillin on Skye.

‘I can’t wait to head up to the north-west of Scotland with my bike’ I say to Aneela.

‘Ah but you should go to the east’, she replies. ‘Nobody thinks to go east but the riding is amazing…’ Her gaze trails off with her thoughts to a far-flung place and I’m left feeling curious.

There’s very little that Aneela, Andy and their team of guides don’t know about mountain biking in Scotland so when they impart some free personal advice you make sure you file it at the forefront of your memory, ready to reference at the soonest opportunity for dreaming up your next escape.

A majestic landscape of rugged mountains, pristine rivers and enchanted forests; what’s so special about the north east of Scotland anyway?

From its source in the Cairngorm Mountains, the River Dee flows east towards Aberdeen, through a stunning landscape of impressive peaks, lush forests and heathery moorland. An area that captured the hearts of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, ‘Royal Deeside’ is home to Balmoral Castle and the Birkhall Estate. It has been a popular holiday destination with the Royal Family for numerous generations.

You’re probably thinking ‘but mountain biking isn’t a very regal sport…’ This is true but the Royal presence has arguably helped to preserve the tranquillity of this remote corner of Scotland. If you’re looking for an authentic Scottish getaway without the swathes of tourists, then you’ve come to the right place.

The area is steeped in history that extends far beyond the royal connection. Macbeth was defeated at Lumphanan and it is believed that the first Highland Games took place in Braemar. The ancient Pictish standing stones, kirkyards (churchyards) dating back over a thousand years and tales of ghosts, witches and curses, all add to this magical Scottish experience.

The Cairngorms National Park also protects a diverse range of wildlife. As Andy and Aneela’s carefully considered routes swoop through this unspoilt landscape you might even catch a glimpse of a wildcat, capercaillie or golden eagle.

To the north, the River Spey delivers pristine water to the distilleries of some of the finest Scotch whiskies. In fact, over half of Scotland’s distilleries are located in Speyside (the Whisky Triangle) so there’s plenty of choice for a well-earned post-ride dram!

The important bit – what about the riding?

The Mountain Royale mountain bike tour promises to tick a lot of boxes; heathery singletrack, long and steep descents from the UK’s highest summits, granite slabs and rollercoaster trails through ancient forests. There’s even a secret ribbon of perfect singletrack that is only reached from an old drove road.

Of course Andy and Aneela don’t want to give too much away. However, if this year’s recce photos are anything to go by I can’t wait to check it out for myself!

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