With its vast areas of forest and mountain, Argyll & The Isles is the perfect place for a mountain biking adventure. There are literally thousands of miles of trails and forest tracks amid stunning Scottish scenery to explore. You’ll find something for all levels, from technically tough trails to fun rides for all the family. Away from the trail centres you’re spoilt for choice with unmade forest roads, way-marked mixed-use trails and even the towpath of the Crinan Canal – the possibilities for mountain biking in Argyll are endless! So this winter, why not head to Argyll and blaze your own mountain biking trail?
1. The Fire Tower Trail winds through the forest near Lochgilphead. The route is a network of single track sections linked by forest roads, so you can make up your own route and do as much or as little as you like. Do it all and you’ll rack up 12 miles (19.5 km) of riding, with more than 4½ miles (7.4 km) of single track. The single track is red graded, with a couple of optional – and very challenging – black graded sections. With big climbs, thrilling descents and hairy drop-offs, this is a great place to test your bike-handling skills. You’ll also be treated to some awesome views of the islands of Jura, Scarba and the Gulf of Corryvreckan.
2. Argyll Forest Park stretches across much of Cowal, from Holy Loch at Dunoon to the jagged peaks of the Arrochar Alps, providing excellent cross-country mountain biking trails. There’s a whole network of trails from Ardgartan that make for a great day out. The 11km Glenshellish Loop is a good introduction to off-road cycling and you can enjoy splashing through a ford at the head of the glen! The 35km Loch Eck Loop is for those who fancy a challenge. This epic route (with suitably epic views) takes you through the forests fringing Loch Eck. The 32km Ardgartan Peninsula Circuit is another one for the fit and determined. This grand tour requires serious stamina, but you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of the Firth of Clyde and its surrounding mountains.
3. In recent years, Dunoon has become a magnet for savvy mountain bikers. Members of the Cowal Mountain Bike Club have been busy developing some awesome trails in Bishop’s Glen, a wooded, hilly area just behind Dunoon. Hop off the ferry at Dunoon (bikes go free on both Western Ferries and passenger-only Argyll Ferries) and you’ll be there in under 10 minutes. Plentiful flowing, natural single-track and some tricky technical descents to test your downhill skills, awaits. There are gentler options on offer too. The 20k Corlarach Loop starts at Bishop’s Glen and takes you through Corlarach Forest. It’s a great route for all the family along undulating forest track.
4. Head to Campbeltown in Kintyre to try the Wee Toon mountain bike trails. Campbeltown is overlooked by Beinn Ghuilean and it’s here that you’ll find some excellent routes. The 2.7km Blue Trail is an unsurfaced forest track, with easy climbs and descents which make it perfect for a family ride. Enjoy the great views of Davaar Island and Campbeltown. The Red Trail is more challenging, with a narrow track and technical sections. Climbs and descents will test your skills and lead into boardwalks, moderate steps, drop-offs and cambers. Walkers are welcome on these trails to, so do watch out. You can pick up a trail map from Aqualibrium Leisure Centre in Campbeltown. Another area of Kintyre worth exploring is Carradale. You can hire mountain bikes and pick up trail maps from Carradale Bikes and Buggies.
5. There are some excellent mountain biking trails in the forests of North Argyll near Oban. Fearnoch, a woodland near Taynuilt, is ideal and you’ll be treated to dramatic views to Ben Cruachan, Argyll’s highest mountain. Head deep into Glen Creran for an atmospheric woodland trail with waterfalls and wonderful views, as well as access to several long distance routes. Sutherland’s Grove has a host of enticing forest trails. Cycle into this lovely mixed woodland to find Glen Dubh reservoir and enjoy fantastic views over the Firth of Lorne and its islands.
You can also take your mountain bike along many of Argyll’s long distance routes. It’s possible to cycle around 90% of the Cowal Way, depending on your fitness levels and cycling abilities. And recent changes have established the Kintyre Way as a challenging route for mountain bike enthusiasts. Boardwalks and a stile replacement programme has made the route much more cycle-friendly.