Well, if you want remote biking, you don’t get much further from civilisation than this. A journey to the Golspie Highland Wildcat mountain biking trails takes you not only to northern Scotland, but past the highland capital of Inverness and beyond. If you fall off the end of Scotland and into the sea, then you’ve gone too far, but not by much.
Trust me, though, it’s worth the drive. I’ll spoil the suprise, there aren’t going to many negatives here – the Golspie Highland Wildcat trails are stunning and if you’re any kind of mountain biker then this should be on your to-do list, right at the top.
Just a few highlights to whet your appetite: the descent from the top of Ben Bhraggie claims to be the longest descent in the UK (1300ft to sea level). It also boasts one of the longest technical single track climbs in Britain.
Since it’s opening in 2006 the Highland Wildcat mountain bike trails have grown to 18Km long, but with a lot of bike accessible walking trails extending that far longer. The local builders have developed the facility with the support of Sutherland estate, with the admirable aim of encouraging public access over Ben Bhraggie and past the monument to the 1st Duke of Sutherland (basically a statue of a posh dude).
One warning before we go on, however. The trails are aimed at medium to advanced riders – there aren’t any green runs on the ‘proper’ trail, but you will find a decent Blue lower down. In fact, some of the sections will test the skill of even advanced bikers. But, then, that’s one of the reasons they’re so good.
How to get to Mountain Biking Heaven
To enjoy mountain biking in Golspie, head to Inverness and keep following the A9 north. You will hit Golspie after passing the Black Isle and can park up somewhere in the town. There are a few alternative start points, mind you. Have a look at the map below for a bit more info.
The Trails at Golspie
Although aimed at the medium to advanced group, you can get involved as a lower level rider. The trails are “stacked”, so that the more difficult routes can only be accessed by cycling up through the easier sections.
Families of mixed ability and novice riders may find it easier to start from the Big Burn car park just outside the village to the north. From here there is the option of going via Big Burn mixed woodlands towards Ben Bhraggie on a blue graded route or otherwise into Dunrobin Wood on an easy green route on low ground. This isn’t really part of the main route so it’s a nice little outing for the kids free from hurtling downhillers.
For inexperienced riders keen to reach the summit of “The Ben”, there is a double track all the way from the blue trail that leads off at the crossroads in the forest. The trails are way-marked and are signed to ensure that you are aware of the grade of trail chosen.
The more difficult features do mostly have easy escape routes so you can take the ‘chicken run’ if the full red or black is currently beyond you. Have no shame in that – there are some evil little sections on this trail!
The Blue Trail (6.5 KM)
The 6.6 km blue run is a non-technical mountain bike trail but does contain a fair amount of pedaling so it is advisable to take it on with a good level of fitness. It features a fair bit of sweeping wooded single track with natural features.
The blue trail starts off with a pleasant single track climb through woodland that joins you up with the red and black routes. More climbing then takes you out onto the open hillsides with stunning views out to sea.
There are some fairly low-key technical features such as a few rock steps but these can easily be avoided if you want to. You can then extend the ride to the top of the Ben by following the double track road, or you can keep following the blue to head down the way you came. It’s a fun descent but watch out for riders coming the opposite way.
This trail is great for novices or families who want some relatively easy, sociable cycling on gentle slopes.
The Red Trail
The red mountain bike trail is 6.7 km long and has a big smattering of challenging features. It can be ridden as the beginning and end of the black run or on it’s own as a good loop. It’s a ride full of sweeping, bermed single track mixed with jumps and natural obstacles. Some minor stone features along the way add interest and a warm-up for things to come.
The trail begins in earnest when the red and blue trails part company on the forest road with the red plunging downhill; and then the fun starts. The trail has a very smooth, fast surface and berms and jumps come one after another. For a cross-country trail, they’re on the big side.
There are plenty of roll-able drops too but, hit them fast, and you’ll find the air whistling beneath your wheels. The grand finale features Thor and Odin, two large table top jumps. The trail ends with some great natural riding.
The Black Trail (13.6 KM)
This is a mountain bike trail for the seriously fit. On the way up, the challenge is to climb the “Lactic Ladder” of rocks and step ups without dabbing. As your reward for reaching the monument you then have the longest downhill in the UK.
Fantastic views from the top are followed by rocky descents with jumps and big step-downs, then onto the red section with sweeping berms and jumps. There are quite a few places where caution is advised on the first run and it is certainly a downhill that gets better the more you ride it.
This is really for the experts, used to demanding routes and a lot of air. Saying that, you can take it a little slower and glide over most of the stuff, still getting most of the thrill and all of the views.
So, there you have it – the Golspie Highland Wildcat Trails. This is definitely one for every biker’s bucket list. If you need any more convincing then you can hear Colin going on about how much he loves the place in the ‘ Best Scottish Trails’ episode of the Podcast. Have a listen!
If you want a sneak peek, without having to drive 50 miles north of Inverness, then check out this video of a local rider riding the trail. Amazing stuff!