Scotland is a fantastic place for mountain biking (MTB) – from the wild Highlands and Islands to the green lowlands and Borders, there’s quality riding everywhere!
Scotland has a wide variety of amazing mountain biking! And that’s probably got a lot to do with the sport’s massive growth in Scotland at the moment. Get some tips and advice for making the most of our world-class riding.
- Introduction to biking in Scotland
- Where to ride in Scotland
- What to wear
- What to pack for MTB in Scotland
- Riding tips
- FAQs on mountain biking in Scotland
Check out Arc Guiding’s MTB Coaching and Leading in Scotland.
Introduction to biking in Scotland
Scotland has a growing international reputation for mountain biking. It attracts thousands of people a year, from holidaying families to hardcore riders. All the different MTB disciplines are represented. There’s an active race scene, including stages of the Downhill World Cup and Enduro World Series (with local riders achieving top results). Highlands native Danny MacAskill has put Scotland on the map with his world-famous mountain biking stunts. There’s also plenty of quality bike shops and funding for MTB projects.
Many MTB riders are attracted to Scotland’s rugged, wild Highlands. But there are plenty of other locations to ride, that are closer to civilisation. Scotland offers miles of hand-cut singletrack, excellent trail centres, remote wilderness rides and family-friendly cycle paths in towns and villages. But you will need more than a spare tube, Trailforks and a bit of forest to make the most of Highland riding. Read on for expert advice!
Where to ride in Scotland
First : Ride responsibly!
In Scotland, we have access to far more land than in England and Wales. But these rights come with strict responsibilities, laid out in the Outdoor Access Code. That means respecting other trail users, avoiding damage and wildlife disturbance, not dropping litter, etc. As long as we follow these basic guidelines, we keep the right to ride some great trails.
Top mountain biking areas in Scotland
There are so many places to ride! In the Scottish Highlands, the Cairngorms National Park, Glen Affric, Torridon, Lochaber, Inverness and Golspie are all key mountain biking areas. In Aberdeenshire and Moray there are a number of excellent wee venues. The 7 Stanes in the Southern Scotland has a great reputation and Dunkeld in Perthshire is the setting for an awesome Enduro event. Then, of course, there’s the islands too! These are the main regions, but there are plenty of other corners with great routes.
A highlight of MTB riding in the Scottish Highlands is bagging a ‘Munro’ by bike. The 900 meter-plus summits that are rideable offer a mega challenge and a big sense of achievement. Detailed knowledge and experience of the route is handy, as mountain conditions can change very quickly. Technical riding in these very remote areas requires a different approach to shredding your local bikepark, but the views and buzz are often second to none.
Cycle path and bike park options
Highland riding isn’t all gnarly, wet trails. You can also find cycle paths and tracks in both rural and urban areas, which also provide a safer alternative to riding on main roads. Also, there’s a range of bike parks, pump tracks and trail centres which offer a different style of riding to the more unpredictable natural trails. Many have excellent hire fleets, either on-site or nearby, and some bikeparks provide uplift as well.
Exploring Scotland by MTB
Cycling is a great (and sustainable) way to discover wildlife, landscape and history. There are loads of options, from the wee Cougie Loop in Glen Affric, to several long distance routes. However, the 348-mile-long An Turus Mor MTB trail is designed around the concept of a long distance, non-technical MTB route. Then there’s all the islands too, each with various options for off-road cycling.
What to wear
Changeable weather can be a big challenge for mountain bikers in Scotland – and not just in the Highlands. So wear thin layers that you can add or remove depending on your temperature and the weather conditions. MTB trousers and long sleeves are recommended for alot of riding. Although a bit warmer, these offer some protection and keep the midges off, too! Check out What to wear for mountain biking.
Crash protection is a must. Kneepads and gloves are a great idea on faster trails. Obviously, a helmet is essential. However, aggressive trail riders on modern enduro bikes are increasingly wearing full face helmets. Convertible helmets are good for this – check out my review of one, the Bell Super DH.
What to pack for MTB in Scotland
Scottish trail riding can be rough on kit. Watch out for tough vegetation, sharp rocks and epic bogs! Although Scottish heather can be very pretty to look at, it doesn’t look so good wrapped around a bent rear mech. So, take enough food and fluids, be wary of ‘travelling light’, and think carefully about spares and tools.
Steep, muddy and rooty singletrack has led to many expensive crashes. And a ripped sidewall, broken dropper post or severed brake hose can mean choosing between a desperate ride back to the trailhead, or a long walk in the dark. Good bike setup helps a lot, but your MTB kit list should also include items to carry out basic trailside repairs.
Check out Arc Guiding’s outdoor gear reviews to help you find the best kit.
Scottish MTB singletrack
Scottish mountain biking is famous for its natural trails. These trail networks are supported by landowners and trail associations, with regular ‘dig days’ through the season. Built over years by local riders, hand-cut singletrack offers awesome riding in beautiful places. However, these routes can be tricky to find, or take some effort to get to. Phone apps and bike-mounted GPS will help you find the main trails, but some routes are either not published or not obvious!
Skills for mountain biking in Scotland
It’s smart to ride within your abilities. But building your MTB skills will also help you cope with a wider range of trails and weather.
Predicting Scotland’s weather is very tricky – especially in the Highlands. Get it right and you’ll have a dream ride. Get it wrong and you can face a suffer-fest on wheels. So check the forecast, take suitable gear and have an alternative plan.
Biking in Scotland leads you into remote places. Remember that long emergency response times, lack of shelter and bad phone signal could all turn a simple crash into an epic. So, look after your gadgets and have a backup plan!
Guided mountain biking in Scotland
Consider booking a guided MTB ride to make the most of your time in the Scottish Highlands. Guides love showing off not just the best riding, but also the best riding locations in Scotland. As a result, you will appreciate the riding even more and likely get a boost in your skills and confidence into the bargain.
The Scottish government is bringing lots of investment to mountain biking routes and facilities across the country (facilitated largely through DMBinS). Keep an eye on equipment developments and new trail projects to get the best out of your biking.
The Scottish Highlands really are a fantastic (and growing) MTB destination, with great facilities, a wide variety of riding and heaps of interest.
FAQs on mountain biking in Scotland
Trailforks is an online global database of mountainbiking routes.