On Your Bike: Edinburgh Cycling Holidays

By: Anna Millar

October 10, 2013

Edinburugh Cycling Holidays | The Mabie Mountain biking centre

As the most successful Olympic cyclist of all time, Edinburgh-born Sir Chris Hoy was one of the standout stars of the London Olympics. And much like the man himself, Scotland has long shown its mettle for two-wheeled adventure – whether it’s a perilous free-wheel down the side of a mountain or a more relaxed jaunt through one of the area’s forests and glens. Here are a few of our favourite Edinburgh cycling trails for some sporting inspiration…

Two wheel thrills

Just an hour or two from Edinburgh, the Scottish Borders and Dumfries & Galloway have morphed into the ultimate hub for biking enthusiasts, with dynamic new forest runs and extraordinary lochside trails providing the jaw-dropping setting for some of the UK’s most dare-devilish rides.

If you’re a biker with tyres to burn, chances are Scotland’s collection of 7stanes Mountain Bike Trails have what you’re looking for – including all the equipment you’ll need, from state of the art bike hire to guidance on the best routes. Better still, you don’t need to be a Bradley Wiggins pro to explore the terrain and try things at your own pace.

Edinburgh Cycling Holidays | The Downhill Course, the Nevis Range

A competitor makes a jump on the lower forest section of the downhill course during the Mountain Bike World Cup at the Nevis Range, near Fort William © VisitScotland

Each of the centres has its own USP, but adrenaline junkies should enjoy the Black Crags at Kirroughtree Forrest, in Galloway, with its hair-raising steep chute to finish. Those with nerves (and thighs) of steel can head to the similarly thrilling Dalbeattie site: the green and blue routes are great for the uninitiated, and the black trails, namely The Slab, Terrible Twins and Volunteer Ridge, keep the hardcore cyclists occupied.

Edinburugh Cycling Holidays | The Isle of Arran from The Ballast Bank

Sunset over The Isle of Arran from The Ballast Bank, Troon, Ayrshire © VisitScotland

Far and away our favourite though, is Glentress. Just a 45-minute drive from Edinburgh, and built up around the Tweed Valley, this multi-skill space is run by ex-world cup racers. Opened officially in 2002, locals had been using the surrounding forest paths for years, and now thanks to some serious work it attracts over 200,000 visitors a year. Whether you want the beginners green route or the 18-mile physical assault course that is the bonkers – and very steep – black V trail, Glentress has a great, welcoming feel. Regulars like to keep it a secret, but look out too for the night rides: where halogen bike lights create an awesome effect as you zip through the forest after dark.

Edinburgh Cycling Holidays

A mountain biker on the Red Trail at the section known as Moyle Magic at the Dalbeattie 7Stanes Mounatin Bike Trails, Dalbeattie, Dumfries and Galloway © VisitScotland

Though the Borders excel, Edinburgh visitors with a spot of wanderlust should think about hopping a ferry over to one of the islands. Skye arguably boasts one of the UK’s most demanding trails, at Glen Sligachan; it’s a tough going single track but offers the most beautiful views of the Cuillin mountains you’re ever likely to see. Similarly glorious – and far more gentle and family friendly – is the 10km route around Brodick Castle in Arran.

Edinburugh Cycling Holidays | The Downhill Course at the Glentrees Forest

Two mountain bikers cycle on the downhill course at the purpose built mountain biking centre in Glentrees Forest, in the Tweed Valley Forest Park, near Peebles © VisitScotland

Alternatively, if you want to stay in close proximity to Edinburgh’s city centre, there are a heap of easy-going routes right on your doorstep, including an 11 mile cycle to the Forth Rail Bridge and Dalmeny Estate, and a leisurely bike ride up to the city’s glorious Pentland Hills, with the 4 Reservoir Loop – which starts just a few miles out of the city – highly recommended.

Header photo: A mountain biker above The Butterhole Climb on the Phoenix Tail, a red graded route, at the Mabie Mountain Biking Centre, Mabie Forest, near Dumfires © VisitScotland

Written by Anna Millar

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Have you attempted any of these Edinburgh cycling trails? Which was your favourite? 

Anna Millar

Anna is a Glasgow born and Edinburgh based freelance writer and editor specialising in arts and travel. When she’s not exploring the Highlands and Islands or reviewing Scotland’s festival scene, she’s likely to be found propping up the bar at one of New York’s finest watering holes or exploring Europe’s untapped corners.

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