Why Scotland is such a good Mountainbike destination
Consider what are the criteria that you place on a destination you might be seeking when you consider going further afield with your bike. The additional time, cost, and hassle of a Longer Journey means you expect a bit more from your destination that you do from your local woods for instance.
These are the top 10 reasons, I believe make Scotland that destination.
1 - freedom
The access laws in Scotland allow responsible access to bikers wherever they choose. There's no escape from the fact that this now opens the doors to making your own adventures, your own journeys. It gives rise to the ability to write the map of the journey as you go too, allowing challenging rides to be planned with flexibility.
2 - The variety of trails
The Highland network of drovers trails link pastures which form part of the history of Scotland. These trails, due to the migratory nature of cattle farming Scots of old provide us with the means to travel within the mountains on trail surfaces in remote places that otherwise just wouldn't be there. This network extends right across Scotland offering opportunities for significant journeying and with stalkers paths and footpaths give rise to an amazing array of trails of all standards and technicalities right across the country.
3 - the scenery and its variety
There is no doubt though that the Ancient Scottish Mountains provide the most spectacular and amazing scenery, and notably with a huge variety as you travel from place to place, meaning that multi-point journeys or 'road trips' can leave riders having experiencing a multitude of riding types in spectacular scenery over the space of just a few days.
4 - access to travel
These varied landscapes are all relatively accessible.
With the international links to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness airports, it's really pretty easy to fly into Scotland and land pretty close to some awesome riding.
The Central Belt gives easy access within an hour or so to a great deal of excellent riding, and within 2-3 hours driving of any of Scotland's Major Airports you can have the full Highland experience of steep, remote mountain trail.
Once on land the road and rail networks combine to get you pretty much everywhere on a scheduled service.
5 - an international reputation
Scotland is proud to have a round of the World Cup in Fort William, to be on the EWS circuit for two years in the Tweed Valley, to be one leg on the WEMBA tour, to have hosted one of the Bluegrass Enduro stages in Glen Coe for several years, and the Red Bull Fox Hunt. The quality of the trails, both man-made and natural is remarkable. We've got two lift assisted Downhill Venues so far in Glen Coe and Fort William and it's not just the trail itself that's important, but the scenery that they journey through makes these trails even more delightful, whether you're looking for a trail for the family for a day, or a hard as nails multi-day trip in the highlands, the quality is all there in abundance.
6 - reputation and welcome
Scotland has a very good reputation internationally, and in particularly for the welcome and good nature of Scots. The fact that people can travel here and know they will be welcomed is hugely relaxing, especially for international travellers. The media portrayal of the average Scot being a ginger haired, kilt wearing, slightly off colour speaking, jovial, welcoming, down-to-earth, no-nonsense practical fellow may be annoyingly (or infuriatingly) stereotypical, but it's also a positive in the minds of many of those who may be considering Scotland as a destination: it's long earned, but not hard earned - it's just how people are! (ish)
7 - the quality of the trails
The terrain, variety, history, location, and lengths of the trails in Scotland lead into a network of quality trails. We have a network of trails that are not just potentially good lines on a map - they are great rides - with firm surfaces and water drainage providing us with firm, dry and good rolling paths accessing the mountains, on every surface from Loam to rock.
8 - challenge
Having said what I have about accessibility and size – there is still a great deal of challenge from big mountain journeys, peaks and passes, and especially from the weather. A successful few days biking in Scotland offers an opportunity to pit your experience against the conditions and to perhaps satisfy you that you are a real adventurer having waded through swollen burns traversed rocky mountains, raced through forests and breached high mountain passes, perhaps all in one day.
9 - mapping
If we consider trail centres, the footpath network, and also the signposting and mapping quality of the Ordnance Survey, then we have a large area in which you can easily explore, is easy to navigate about, and gives a good surface through spectacular scenery – is this not a pretty good definition of mountain bike heaven?
10 - Accommodation
Travellers can pick and choose to their budget or atmosphere, and if availed of the 'knowledge' of bothies can add multi-day journeys staying in bothies to the itinerary – opening the possibility of a satisfying adventure for those more interested in the journeying than the razz perhaps.
There is a healthy hostel network as well as B&B's and all levels of hotel available throughout the highlands as well as campsites too.
The Highlands have some culinary delights and some genuine surprises to be had - whatever you're looking for can be found somewhere to add that final element to the trip you put all that effort into making.
So these were my top 10 – many have written more, and certainly more eloquently on this matter, but to me these are the stand out reasons why not only should (or is) Scotland (be) considered an international bike destination. So whether you're planning your next adventure, or travelling here anyway and looking for something to add to your trip, I hope you'll consider the above, and stay, sling a leg over and enjoy some of what we have to offer.
Real World Guiding
Whatever your plans, then we can help make sure it's as successful as possible. We can offer planning, transport, guiding advice and support for your trip. We can even pick you up and return you from your airport or hotel - just make an enquiry from the Guiding pages to find out more.
Real World Guiding - for bespoke days and trips across Scotland, expedition support and logistics
Skye and Torridon Photo Gallery - Images from last years' RWR 2 venue trip to the North West
VIDEO - Skye and Torridon Highlights - see for yourself the challenges and rewards this area offers
VIDEO - Autumn Bothy Biking in Torridon - an early morning challenging ride in spectacular scenery
VIDEO - Riding the West Highland Way - Scotland's best known long distance path
VIDEO - Riding through Glen Kinglass - Linking Rannoch Moor with the Sea