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Laggan - A new Era

With the new CRC built trails now open at Laggan Wolftrax, we wanted to share a look into the work that went into creating Scotland's newest trails and some mighty fine images from opening day. Many thanks to Scotty Laughland, Joe and Bo Barnes, Fergus Lamb, Lachlan Blair, Clark Sutherland and Anna Riddell who came along and made the images look fancy.

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Laggan Wolftrax has always been well known for its challenging, rocky trails, big views, classic descents and its fair to say that it has always been more appropriate for experienced riders.

The black is an absolute classic trail, and the two reds definitely have more than their fair share of rock features. The range of trails previously on offer were more accessible to more capable riders. Now, however, all that has changed!

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Image - Brodie Hood

Three years ago, the DMBinS Bike Plan for the Highlands looked at opportunities to improve mountain biking across the Highlands, including the provision of trails and facilities. It stated Laggan had ‘Great trails, but was lacking a family friendly blue route’, and recognised that active families are a very important part of the attraction of the Cairngorms for visitors.

As part of the Bike Plan, CRC trails were commissioned to carry out a concept trail design at Laggan - briefed to propose a new blue trail, with a district Laggan character, that allowed riders to progress onto red trails and include features for coaching.

An area of ground that was relatively accessible with good terrain was identified. During the design and scoping work, a rock feature was discovered that could potentially be used to form a viewpoint area, where riders could rest and make a decision on which route to ride (The Lair) – which allowed a vision of a new trail which would integrate with the existing trails and really revamp Laggan.

From this, Cristian Pizzaro from Laggan Forest Trust, supported by our Ruari, started discussions with key stakeholders to investigate suitable support for the trail development. These initial discussions were met with a general enthusiasm, and when site visits took place, this only increased as potential funders / supporters could visualise the trail in the landscape – and the brilliant views.

The two main challenges in making the trails a reality was agreeing ongoing management and funding.

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Image Brodie Hood

Management of the trails and a licence to build was supported by John Ireland, the Health and Safety Advisor for Forestry and Land Scotland, who being excited by the potential and hugely supportive, was able to propose a model on management that the organisation was comfortable with.

Funding from sportscotland's Cycling Facilities Fund came in relatively quickly which helped make the case to Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Cairngorms National Park Authority that the project was viable. To top off the funding contributions were made from Laggan Forest Trust and Badenoch and Strathspey Trail Association who stepped in with a very generous contribution, and an agreement they would have a part to play during the build.

With a licence to build, planning permission and funding in place, tendering took place with CRC trails being awarded the contract.

Laggan ariel shot

On the first day on site, CRC spotted an opportunity to alter the plans – they proposed reversing the flatter section of existing red descent, to create a new blue climb, allowing the build of a new blue AND a new red descent.

With the trail builders on site, the project quickly progressed. There were challenges in crossing areas of bedrock, but this also allowed opportunities to give the trails some unique Laggan character.

With the CRC build team all being pretty handy riders, testing was an important part of the process. We even managed to get Top Chief himself to come along as a guest tester and all kinds of fun prevailed! An awesome addition to the build team was Lindsay Carruthers. A Laggan legend having previously run the café and bike shop on site and built the nearby Enduro trails (Laggan Brown Trails).

The trails were opened during the October holidays to a huge buzz and an exceptionally busy opening day. Feedback from all riders has been awesome, and the layout of the trails means that as a rider it’s a more sociable experience with a nice buzz, as you climb you can watch red and blue riders descend on either side of the climbing trail, and the viewpoint (The Lair) is a great place to get a look at the trails and chat to other riders.

The trail names allocated give an idea of the character:

  • Give and Take refers to the old descent being reused as a climb, allowing new trails to be built.
  • Slaba-daba-doo blue trail is a Flintstones themed nod to the many rock features you'll roll over.
  • Bamm-Bamm is offspring of Slaba-daba-doo – a red graded taster – like a mini Airs rock.
  • The Pict is a more flowing section of the blue which can be accessed part way up the climb – with views onto the Pitcish fort on the hill opposite and is a great short lap for wee legs.
  • Spare Rib is an extension to the old Rib Rattler trail, with a distinct CRC feel mixing Laggan rock with big berms.

The great news is that the build hasn’t finished yet! ‘Blaeberry flapjack’ lower blue is still under construction, likely to open in spring 2024. This roller coaster of a final descent will give riders a really fun final descent and an alternative to the more jumpy red ‘Leaping Wolf’.

We are really proud to have been part of this project to bring a much loved Scottish trail centre up to date and provide another offer to a whole new range of riders visiting the Cairngorms.

Many thanks to Scotty Laughland, Joe and Bo Barnes, Fergus Lamb, Lachlan Blair, Clark Sutherland and Anna Riddell who came along and made the images look fancy.

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Image Brodie Hood

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Image Brodie Hood

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