School holidays are nearly upon us once again. But what family fun do you have planned for yourself and the kids? The options for family days out in Scotland are virtually limitless, but one of the best ways to have fun with the kids, is on two wheels along some family-friendly mountain bike trails.
We’ve put together some suggestions (with the help of Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland) of urban and rural mountain biking trails for families that shouldn’t be missed.
5 COUNTRYSIDE TRAILS
1. 7STANES GLENTRESS, SCOTTISH BORDERS
Thanks to its large variety of routes for all abilities, 7stanes Glentress near Peebles, is the UK’s premiere mountain bike trail centre. It also has a fantastic bike shop, modern café, toilets and showers and even self-catering accommodation and a camping ground at the foot of the trails, so you can really make a day or weekend of it!
There are two easy (green) routes for families here – great mountain biking trails for beginners. The lower green route starts from the café and bike shop, and after an initial forest road climb, stop off with the kids at the small ponds and discover native animal sculptures, interpretation panels and hopefully wildlife! Back on the bikes, the route then climbs in a loop before dropping back down to the ponds via some nice singletrack.
If you’re driving, you can head straight to the Buzzards Nest car park further up from the main Glentress Peel centre, where the upper green begins. The 1.25 mile (2 km) singletrack trail is gentle and fun and there’s also a skills area off the route where you can hone your trail technique.
2. 7STANES AE FOREST, DUMFRIES & GALLOWAY
Ae Forest is better known for its downhill trails and a great, though difficult (red) graded trail. But the easy (green) trail starting at the café and bike shop is a real gem and a great option for those with young children or new to mountain biking.
The green trail at this 7stanes centre is a flat singletrack, with some undulating sections and is reasonably wide, following the riverside up to a beautiful crossing before descending down the opposite bank along boardwalk and other features. Look out for an old plane, which the kids can explore, about halfway along the trail.
3. LOCH MORLICH, AVIEMORE
Rothiemurchus Forest and Estate, in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, is one of the most beautiful places in Scotland and contains much of the last remnants of the ancient Caledonian Forest and loads of wildlife.
The Old Logging Way is a great trail with beautiful views to the surrounding mountains and there are several cafés along the route for refuelling. There’s even an award-winning beach (with watersports centre) for the kids to play on – if it’s a hot day, why not bring your swimming gear?
The trail begins in Aviemore and climbs gradually along a dedicated walk and cycleway towards Glenmore. It can get busy with other users, so remember to Do The Ride Thing and respect others. Stop off at Glenmore for a pit-stop and refreshments, before heading around the loch, including a visit to the beach. The descent is easy with beautiful views across Loch Morlich and beyond, before heading back to Aviemore.
4. TENTSMUIR FOREST, KINGDOM OF FIFE
Enjoy a brilliant bike ’n’ beach day at Tentsmuir Forest and National Nature Reserve, situated just north of St Andrews.
The well-marked trails around the forest are wide and flat and can be enjoyed by everyone, no matter what biking experience you have. The main trail follows the coast until it reaches a disused ‘ice house’ where you can learn how fisherman in years past, landed their catch at the beach and preserved it. Follow the route to a small lochan where you’ll spot all sorts of birds – an ideal way to break the ride up for the kids.
The main car park has a great open picnic/barbeque area and it’s a short walk through gentle dunes which open up to a stunning beach with fine views out to the North Sea. Seals regularly bask on the beach too.
There are many other cycle routes available throughout Fife – we highly recommend the new trails at Lochore Meadows.
5. NEVIS RANGE, FORT WILLIAM
Nevis Range near Fort William is rightly renowned for hosting arguably the best event in the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup calendar when professionals test their skills on the 1.7 mile (3km) black-graded downhill course on Aonach Mor.
But did you know that Nevis Range also has fantastic trails and other activities for families?
The new Cats Eyes (easy) and Blue Adder (moderate) trails are two of the best singletrack descents for those new to mountain biking. Both are accessed via a blue-graded climb. For those wanting the thrill of a downhill but not the muscle-burn of the climb you can book uplift at the resort. There’s also the fantastic 4.5 mile (7 km) Broomstick Blue route, which heads into Leanachan Forest on the banks of the River Lundy.
A visit to Nevis Range is not complete until you take a gondola ride up the mountain and experience amazing views across Lochaber, the Outdoor Capital of the UK, from the Snowgoose Centre. Alternatively, enjoy an amazing high ropes course on-site and in winter, ski or snowboard to your heart’s content!
5 URBAN TRAILS
1. CUNINGAR LOOP, GLASGOW
Kids will love this woodland park in the east end of Glasgow, with the balance bike loop and over 1.5 miles (2.5 km) of easily accessible paths. Cuningar Loop, managed by Forestry Commission Scotland, sits on the banks of the River Clyde and is always open, free to enter and has an on-site café.
There’s bike tracks suitable for young children just starting out and adults improving their bike skills, alongside the balance bike loop and for older kids a pump track and two skills building loops.
2. INVERNESS BIKE PARK
Inverness Bike Park is an amazing new facility, which will leave anyone, from balance bikers to experienced pro riders, with a smile on their face.
Situated on the banks of the River Ness in Whin Park, near the city centre, you’ll also find a boating pond, large outdoor children’s play area, a miniature railway and the Inverness Skate Park here too. So, pretty much the ideal location for an action-packed family day out!
Nearby there are the Inverness Botanic Gardens and the Inverness Leisure Centre
with climbing wall, changing facilities, toilets and a café.
3. CATHKIN BRAES, GLASGOW
Famous for being built and featured on-screen as part of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, the Cathkin Braes mountain bike trail is packed with fun features including drops, jumps, rock gardens, berms, a dual-slalom section and several kilometres of winding singletrack.
This may sound challenging, but the trail has moderate (blue) graded ride arounds for all features, meaning that anyone who has ridden a mountain bike even just a bit, can go riding here.
The park will be used again for the European Championships in 2018, with an extension of the trails and a new pump track and skills course – even more for all levels of bikers to enjoy!
If you’re looking for further fun activities to enjoy with the kids in Glasgow, take a look at these other urban adventures.
4. CALLENDAR ESTATE, FALKIRK
Falkirk in the heart of Scotland’s Central Belt is rightly famous for major attractions including The Falkirk Wheel, the Kelpies by Andy Scott (and Helix Park) and Callendar House and Estate.
But delve deeper into Callendar Estate and you’ll find a fine network of singletrack mountain bike trails alongside the walking and horse riding routes.
There are easy-going trails for younger or less experienced bikers and for the more skilled rider the Bike Park and new red-graded trails offer great adventure. The trails are hard wearing, so perfect for year-round biking and join seamlessly with the Helix Park path network. On-site there’s free parking, a restaurant and bike shop.
5. CAMPERDOWN PARK AND TEMPLETON WOODS, DUNDEE
A great option for a family break in Dundee is mountain biking in the vast Camperdown Country Park and adjacent Templeton Woods. Both can be accessed via the Dundee Green Circular route – a largely off-road cycle route which circumnavigates the city.
Camperdown has good trails, including a testing climb, and there’s plenty of other things here for families to enjoy, including a great wildlife centre, pitch ’n’ putt golf and good adventure play area.
Heading over the main road (care required) to Templeton Woods, you’ll find a fine range of trails including the Templeton Tangle – a fun moderate (blue) graded skills loop which can be enjoyed by everyone from rad riders to little rippers on balance bikes.
There are also some lovely flat trails along and through Riverside Park on Dundee’s rapidly developing Waterfront. If you’re looking for further family attractions in the city, head for Dundee Science Centre, the RRS Discovery, the brilliant Olympia swimming pools and some outstanding parks and green spaces.